Honoring the paczkiIt’s not just a plain old jelly donut. Popular around the country during Mardi Gras, paczkis, the delicious, baked and filled treat are easier to eat than their name is to pronounce. No one agrees on how to pronounce the name, paczki, which in Poland, is pronounced “pooch-key,” “poonch-key” or “pounch-key.” Either way, they’re a tasty treat that I’m told means “little package” in Polish.

The round, glazed or sugar-coated, fruit-filled pastries are often anything but little. Some bakers make them the size of a softball. They’re traditionally served up in Poland and elsewhere annually on the day before Lent. Originally, they were made to use up lard and eggs, as those ingredients were prohibited during Lent. Now, they’re more of a last-minute binge of sweet treats.

The large doughballs are usually rich in egg yolks and deep fried like a donut. Light and spongy, they resemble a round eclair, Bismarck or jelly donut but are quite rich. Besides eggs, the dough contains plenty of fats, sugar and sometimes milk. Each paczki is also filled with a generous helping of raspberry, apple, strawberry, custard, lemon, peach, cream cheese or prune preserves. Then, they’re topped with a smooth sugar glaze or powdered sugar or rolled in fine granulated sugar. Bakers don’t skimp on the calories when making paczkis.

Celebrated in Chicago, Buffalo and Boston, paczkis and Pączki Day (also Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras) are also popular in Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, South Bend, Windsor, and many other cities, according to Wikipedia. There are even paczki parades, paczki-eating contests and polka dances at some schools and Mardi Gras festivals.

In light of all the better-for-you, healthier eating movements today, paczkis might seem like the opposite of a “smart treat.” But on Mardi Gras, which is a day to indulge and a day signifying the winding down of Carnival season, one paczki is plenty but memorable, and reminds me of times past. Bakers should be credited with producing such delightful treats, which I hear are anything but simple to make.

One healthy indulgence we explore this month is The Christie Cookie Co. in Nashville, Tenn., which makes decadent and fabulous cookies, brownies and other treats using the highest quality ingredients it can find. The company’s single production facility churns out some of the richest, delectable yet preservative-free treats around.

We also find more sweet/savory baked goods and snacks from cookies and snack bars to potato chips and popcorn in our Market Trends section that marry unusual pairings for more consumers desiring a new twist on their favorites. Today’s flavors run the gamut from Sea Salt Chocolate Oatmeal and Apricot Sage to Espresso Chocolate Peanut Butter, Sienna Cream Crunch, Cajun Harvest and Mango Tango.

Ethnic influences also abound right now in snacks and bakery products. Our Ethnic Influences article by Industry Expert, Sylvia-Melendez Klinger, uncovers some good tips for bakery and snack marketers to use to engage the growing number of ethnic consumers having a major impact on the food industry. There’s no question that Latinos are quickly changing America’s palate, so we discuss some ways that manufacturers and marketers can grow their brands and presence in the Hispanic market.

With more comprehensive food-safety requirements on the horizon, our Special Report on food safety shows what baking and snack food producers can do to raise the bar with their manufacturing and distributing practices with a sound food-safety program.

With all of these new products cropping up in the market, packaging may need to be complex, which can be a challenge, especially with the escalating demand for variety packs and assorted shipping-case configurations that must be shelf-ready. Our Packaging section covers innovative flexible packaging technologies, including robotics, designed to meet the needs of many snack and bakery marketers and manufacturers.

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Enjoy our March issue. In other words, Smacznego!, which is Polish for tasty or here’s wishing you a tasty meal. I wouldn’t suggest making a meal out of paczkis, but you certainly must try one.