The following took place on Fat Tuesday, aka 5 February.
Paczki are a yearly tradition in this area, having to do with the large Polish community, and are sold at many bakeries up until Lent begins. Typically, paczki are supposed to be eaten on Fat Thursday, but most bakeries start making them on Fat Tuesday.
The difference between paczki and other filled doughnuts is that paczki are made with a richer dough, lard/butter, eggs, sugar, and sometimes milk. The trouble is finding a paczek that tastes differently than a typical filled doughnut. From last year I remember eating dry, so-so jelly-filled paczki.
The first paczki I ate were from Mrs. T's Bakery in Bremen, IN. At a race I was at, cookies from this bakery were at the food table and they were some of the better cookies I have eaten that I didn't make (peanut butter-oatmeal-M&M cookies -- very well flavored and chewy). The other time was at Macy's where they made the cakes for the induction of the Martha Stewart baking line. At first I wasn't going to eat the cake sample, but after finding out it was this bakery I did and it was wonderful. I had high hopes for their paczki.
Here you see half of a Bavarian cream or custart-filled paczek and half an apricot-filled paczek.
Like many I've tested, the crumb tasted dry (surprising for being made that day) and didn't taste any differently than a typical doughnut. I also didn't really care for the Bavarian cream or custard filling. A) If it was Bavarian cream, it wouldn't really explain why I thought it tasted okay on its own, but watery when eaten with the paczek. The only real difference between Bavarian cream and custard is that the former is thickened with gelatin and additional whipped cream is folded in at the end and the latter is thickened solely by the egg yolks. (Pastry cream (crème pâtissière), though it has egg yolks, is thickened with cornstarch or flour.) B) Whatever it was it lacked richness.
This cookie looks very pretty (despite the "I love you!" connotation...), well-decorated, and tasty. But I didn't really like it. The cookie itself was decent, soft and chewy, probably preserved due to being encased in frosting, but the frosting, which I thought was royal icing, tasted bake-shoppy and vanillin; it left a rather disgusting aftertaste in my mouth after only eating 1/4 of the cookie.
The next stop was Macri's Italian Bakery, which is the primary source for paczki in the area, selling about 10,000 total. They have their famous strawberry shortcake paczek, which I didn't buy nor did I take a picture of.
The back entrance. I don't know those people in the reflection.
Display case of their paczki
Coincidentally, with the backdrop of the counter and the box colors, it's the Italian flag!
The powdered are lemon-filled, the sugar-coated are prune-filled, the lone paczek on the right is raspberry, and the two in the front are cherry.
As I bit into the first paczek from Macri's, I knew this one was great. The crumb was softer (though still a tad dry) and seemed a bit richer than Mrs. T's paczek. The coating of sugar added a pleasant crunch and the filling was better than the other ones, which were basically jelly (and I've had better preserves than what these were filled with), and it was thick and slightly sweet. They didn't skimp on the filling, either. I'm guessing the prune filling wasn't pumped in because of how thick it was.
This cherry paczek, which I ate simply for the bready-mass, was nice and had a decent cherry taste. I'm pretty sure it was more on the sweet- than tart-side, but not sickly sweet.
I also ate half a lemon paczek, but I didn't think it was super, more like a jiggly lemon filling that looked suspect. Not that it was, but whatever. My favorite was the prune paczek. I love prunes!