Welcome back to the Polish Pastry Experience—a behind-the-counter look into the traditional pastries that you can find in Greenpoint’s Polish bakeries.
How do you know what’s best? Should you try something new? Every Wednesday, we ask the bakers themselves to tell you.
This week, Café Rochelle recommends…their Pączki at $1 per Pączek (s.)
Pączki (pl.) are deep-fried pieces of dough, shaped like a slightly flattened softball, with a sweet filling and topped with a glaze or powered sugar. The sweet filling comes in many varieties, but most traditionally includes powidl (stewed plum jam) or wild rose hip jam. The dough is made with eggs, butter, flour, sugar, sometimes milk, and a small amount of spirytus (a grain alcohol) which, as it evaporates, prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough. Yum.
Pączki are enjoyed year-round in Poland, but are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday before Ash Wednesday (which marks the beginning of Lent). Since it is considered bad luck not to eat a pączek on Tłusty Czwartek, it’s estimated that around 100 million pączki are eaten by Polish people on this day alone (which explains the super-long lines outside your favorite bakeries in Greenpoint once a year).
Historically, pączki are one of the most traditional Polish desserts, and were mentioned by Polish poet, translator, and politician Mikołaj Rej (1505-1589) in his poetic work Żywot Człowieka Poczciwego, as well as in 1840 by Polish historian and diarist Jędrzej Kitowicz in his Description of Customs During the Reign of August III, which listed pączki alongside French pastries as the favorite desserts of Polish King Augustus III Sas (1696-1763).
Café Rochelle, which opened in Greenpoint approximately two years ago, begins baking their pączki on location each morning at 4 a.m. (and bakes all night before Tłusty Czwartek!). By 4pm, the pączki are almost all gone—so to get a pączek still warm from the oven, it’s best to try to get to Café Rochelle at 7:15 am.
Café Rochelle is located at 940 Manhattan Avenue, between Java & Kent Streets. The Café is associated with the Old Poland Bakery just a few doors down at 926 Manhattan Avenue, and both have the same pączki baker.