Kolaczki are woven into Chicago food culture so deeply that it took me a while to realize that they were indeed a “foreign” cookie. Kolaczki dough is made with cream cheese, and it is traditionally folded (as below) over a filling of fruit – raspberry, plum or apricot usually – or sweetened cream cheese. Originally, the kolaczki is said to be from Poland (though its exact origin is unknown), and are popularly seen around the holidays. They seem to be just as popular in Cleveland, where we learned that they are known as Kiffles in Hungarian. This type of cookie is found throughout Central and Eastern Europe, with several variations, including a circular shape. Even more confusingly, there are many similarly-named desserts, including the Czech kolache, which is more like a yeast roll, and is most popular in Texas (post forthcoming)! Here is a recipe for apricot-filled kolaczki from American Heritage Cooking, another apricot from Cooking the Globe and one for cream cheese from All Recipes.
Photo by Kurman Communications
Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Indiana (just over the border from Chicago in NW Indiana) has been going strong for over 20 years – and is wholly dedicated to celebrating the humble Polish dumpling, the pierogi. Pierogi Fest (July 29-31 this year) boasts all the Polish food you can eat, polka music and dancing, games (like Pierogi toss) and appearances by Mr. Pierogi and Ms. Paczki (along with the Village People this year). Pierogi Fest has grown in size over the years, and is now a major attraction for those in the Chicagoland area, and has even garnered national press. Thought the pierogi is the star of the show, you can also get other Eastern European food favorites like: sauerkraut, potato latkes, Polish sausages and stuffed cabbage. We will not be anywhere near Whiting, Indiana, so we are hoping that someone can visit and give us a full pierogi report!
Happy Dyngus Day! Dyngus Day (Easter Monday – from the Polish Śmigus-dyngus ) is huge celebration in Cleveland (music automatically plays) and throughout Polish American communities, especially in Buffalo, New York . Typical Dyngus Day celebrations include pierogies, polka, free-flowing krupnik, a parade and all things Polish. Similar celebrations occur. Food and drinks are of course a focus, but so are other traditions – like attempting to soak the neighborhood girls with water and swatting them with pussy willows (yikes!). Traditionally, the girls retaliated by doing the same to the boys on Tuesday, but nowadays the retaliation occurs on the same day (how could you wait until the next day anyway?) If you are not in the area of a Dyngus Day celebration, why not celebrate with some pierogies, Bigos (Hunter’s) Stew, Haluski and Polish sausage.
Dyngus Day Parade in Cleveland by lgbeebe2
January 6th marks Three Kings Day (also known as 12th night or Epiphany) the official end to the Christmas holiday season. In the past, we have written about some of the most popular cakes eaten on this holiday: the French Galette des Rois and its classic Fèves, Portuguese Bolo Rei and the Spanish and Latin Amerian Rosca de Reyes. In Poland, there is also a special cake to ring in this holiday, the Ciasto Trzech Króli (Three Kings Cake). Similar to other Eurpean cakes, the Ciasto Trzech Króli is rich, filled with dried fruit, and topped with a decorative crown (recipe in English and photo from About.com here). Whoever finds the almond or coin baked into the cake gets to wear the crown!
Dumpling lovers rejoice: today is National Pierogi(e) Day! Pierogi can be found anywhere with a sizable Polish popular throughout the US and Canada, especially in the Midwest. Now living in Cleveland, I realize that this town may be even crazier about pierogi than Chicago. Here, the filled Polish dumpling can be found in dozens of frozen varieties in every grocery story and is a popular take-out and restaurant menu item. Michael Symon’s restaurant Lola even has an upscale beef cheek and mushroom version as an appetizer. So where do you go? Here are the top 9 places to get pierogi in Cleveland. One of our favorite places for Pierogi is the Pierogi Palace inside the West Side Market – take your pick of varieties! Or if you are feeling ambitions, make your own pierogi with meat, cheese and potato (my favorite combo), mushroom or even blueberry!
Tomorrow is the Thursday before Mardi Gras – fat Thursday – which means it is paczki day in Chicago – an unofficial holiday which is an opportunity to gorge oneself on Polish filled doughnuts called paczkis. We have done a little bit of paczki coverage over the years, and there are ton of places in the Chicagoland area that serve up great paczkis around this time of year, both traditional and inventively-flavored. Time Out Chicago has a shortlist of paczki bakeries, and DNA info has paczki locations mapped out. Evanston bakery Bennison’s even has a paczki-eating competition on Feb 14 for diehards.
Pańska skórka – from Wikipedia
We are most familiar with Latin American traditions for Dia de Los Muertos / All Saints’ Day, but the holiday is also celebrated in Europe (with some similarities and differences). All Saints’ Day is a national holiday in Poland, where it is known as Wszystkich Świętych. One of the most popular treats for All Saints’ Day in Warsaw is pańska skórka which translates to “The Lord’s Crust.” Pańska skórka is a pink-and-white nougat, similar in texture to Turkish Delight, and is sold in and around cemeteries during the week of All Saints’ Day where families go to light candles (znicze) in cemeteries in honor of the deceased. In Krakow a similar candy is called Miodek Turecki, or “Turkish honey.”
When we were in Chicago for Fat Tuesday, it was not uncommon to have a friend or co-worker bring over a box of fresh Paczki. Paczki, a type of jelly- filled doughnut, originated in Poland (the official plural in Polish is pączki -pączek is the singular form), as a way to use up sugar and butter before the start of Lent. Unsurprisingly, Paczki Day is really big in Chicago, which has one of the biggest Polish populations outside of Poland. In Michigan, Hamtramck and Detroit are also epicenters of paczki culture. So what is a pączek like? The texture of a pączek is a bit denser than a jelly doughnut, and the jam fillings range from standard raspberry to more creative varieties, such as rose-hip or even guava (you may also see cream fillings). Louisa Chu on the WBEZ blog lists some top picks for Paczki in Chicago, and DNA Info rounds out the list even further. Rest assured, if you are in Chicago, you can get your Paczki fix.
Paczki options at Alliance Bakery by Chad Magiera