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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Packs a Paczki

The 12 weeks between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day are stacked with food-laden holidays, but if you think people’s appetites for baked goods cool off after the holidays, think again.

“People are already asking, making sure we’ll have them,” Donut Bank vice president Ben Kempf says.

The “them” in question is paczki (pronounced “punch-key”), deep-fried pastries akin to filled donuts. For more than 20 years, the Kempf family’s bakeries have celebrated Fat Tuesday by offering a slice of Poland in German-influenced Evansville.

The idea sparked at a Retail Bakers of America conference when bakeries from the upper Midwest gave presentations attesting to the popularity of paczki. The loaded pastries long have been a pre-Lent staple in the area’s Polish communities.

“It had a really modest beginning because the bakeries wanted to use up all their ingredients before Lent. They wanted them out of their cupboards,” says Chris Kempf, Ben’s brother and Donut Bank’s president.

Back home, the Kempfs began concocting their versions of paczki. Starting with a yeast-raised doughnut mix, they add more shortening, eggs, and butter, toss it in the deep fryer, then overfill each six-ounce pastry with a fruit-flavored jelly.

“We don’t back off,” Ben laughs.

Donut Bank’s paczki come in three flavors: glaze-covered raspberry, lemon topped in powdered sugar, and blueberry finished with granulated sugar. Chris says raspberry “outsells everything.”

This year, Donut Bank customers can place orders or walk in Feb. 9-13 for single servings costing around $2, with Ben anticipating sales of about 10,000 paczki. Be warned — paczki are offered only for the five days leading up to Fat Tuesday. Once they sell out, they’re gone.

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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