PLAINS TOWNSHIP — Bakery Delite was a bustle of activity Tuesday morning as customers came in to buy traditional doughnuts and other pre-lent staples for Fat Tuesday.
On offer were pączki, a traditional Polish version, which the Plains bakery has been serving up for 38 years. They also offer fastnacht, a diamond-shaped German version of the fried dough with Pennsylvania Dutch origins. The bakery also offers king cakes, a round confection decorated with purple, green and yellow sugar topped with strands of sweet icing.
Bakers began their shift at 9 p.m. Monday to begin the process of making between 5,000 and 6,000 doughnuts, many of which that are then filled with one of the 20 fillings Bakery Delite offers.
While popularly called Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday is formally known as Shrove Tuesday from the word shrive, an archaic word relating to penance and absolution. The day’s nickname comes from the tradition of eating doughnuts and other rich, fatty foods the day before Lent, recalling the era when people tried to rid their cupboards of fats and sugars before the annual period of Christian fasting prior to Easter.
Pączki (pronounced something like POONCH-key) can be found in many communities with significant Polish heritage, including here in Northeastern Pennsylvania as well as in many parts of the Midwest.
Fastnacht, German for “fast night,” are most popular in parts of the state where the Amish and other Pennsylvania Dutch settled, including Lancaster County, the Harrisburg area and parts of the Lehigh Valley. They can vary in shape and size from region to region and family to family.
Interestingly, pączki were typically eaten in Poland on the Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday. In North America, Pączki Day mostly is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday, already popular for other traditions such as Fastnacht Day and Mardi Gras (which is — you guessed it — French for Fat Tuesday).