The Crown Treasury situated in the historic Gothic rooms which were used from the 15th century on for storing the Polish coronation insignia and Crown Jewels, feature on display priceless objects from the former Treasury that survived plunder, among them the memorabilia of Polish monarchs including members of their families and eminent personages, like the hat and sword given to John III Sobieski by the pope after the Battle of Vienna, as well as the coronation sword Szczerbiec.

The courtyard of Wawel Castle.

The courtyard of Wawel Castle.

Although they look like German berliners, North American bismarcks or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, butter, sugar, yeast and sometimes milk. They feature a variety of fruit and creme fillings and are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing, glaze or bits of dried orange or lemon zest. Powidła (stewed plum jam) and wild rose hip jam are traditional fillings, but many others are used as well, including strawberry, Bavarian cream, blueberry, custard, raspberry, and apple. 

Pączki

If there is one thing I loved most in Krakow, this is Pączki (singular: pączek). Pączki are filled doughnuts which are typical for Polish cuisine. Pączki are deep-fried pieces of dough shaped into flattened spheres and filled with confiture or other sweet filling. A small amount of grain alcohol (traditionally, Spiritus) is added to the dough before cooking; as it evaporates, it prevents the absorption of oil deep into the dough. The common opinion is that the ideal pączek is fluffy and at the same time a bit collapsed, with a bright stripe around – it is supposed to guarantee that the dough was fried in fresh oil.

Pączki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. The Polish historian and diarist, Jędrzej Kitowicz, wrote that during the reign of August III, under the influence of French cooks who came to Poland, pączki dough was improved, so that pączki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient.

In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), the last Thursday prior to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. The traditional reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, sugar, eggs and fruit in the house, because their consumption was forbidden by Christian fasting practices during the season of Lent.

Pączki are very popular also in the United States due to the big polish communitiesthat exists there.  Urban centers with large Polish and Polish-American populations like Detroit and Chicago have been bracing themselves for Fat Thursday, aka Paczki Day, a celebration of the delectable fried treat in preparation for the coming Lenten traditions.

How do you pronounce the word "paczki" so you don't sound like a total “amerykanski” when you're ordering one at a bakery? Try pronounce it like this "POONCH-key” or "POUNCH-key"… but chances are, unless you speak the language, you'll end up butchering it.  Who cares?  I always tend to point with my finger towards what I want. 

In Krakow you will find this sweet treat almost everywhere.  I had the best pączki at “Gorące Pączki” in Old Town (in Szewska str, just between other two of must visit places:  the 'Nakielny Café' and 'Pierogarnia Krakowiacy') and at “Stara Pączkarnia” in Stradomska street, which is the street that connects Wawel Hill with Kazimierz. 

“Gorące Pączki” in Old Town (middle left) and “Stara Pączkarnia” in Stradomska str (Middle and bottom) are two of the best places to have your paczki.

“Gorące Pączki” in Old Town (middle left) and “Stara Pączkarnia” in Stradomska str (Middle and bottom) are two of the best places to have your paczki.

Read more about doughnuts, in my NYC page by following this link:

Pierogi

There is no way to be in Krakow and not taste Pierogi.  Pierogi (singular: pieróg) are filled dumplings, which can be found everywhere in central and eastern European countries. This tasty delicacy is made by wrapping unleavened dough around a savory or sweet filling and cooking in boiling water. Pierogi are associated mainly with the Polish and Slovakian kitchen where they are considered national dishes. The variant called varenyky are popular in Ukranian and Russian cuisine. The last years fried pierogi are getting very popular and are served mainly as street food. 

The origins of pierogi are disputed. Some legends say that pierogi came from China through Italy from Marco Polo's expeditions.

Pierogi are popular street food.

Pierogi are popular street food.

This legend is based in the fact that similar dishes exists in China and the rest of the Far East till today. Others contend that pierogi were brought to Poland by Saint Hyacinth of Poland, who brought them back from Kiev (the center of “Kievan Rus”). On July 13, 1238, Saint Hyacinth visited Kościelec, and on his visit, a storm destroyed all crops; Hyacinth told everyone to pray and by the next day, crops rose back up. As a sign of gratitude, people made pierogi from those crops for Saint Hyacinth. Another legend states that Saint Hyacinth fed the people with pierogi during a famine caused by an invasion by the Tatars in 1241. Yet another legend says that pierogi were brought to Poland by the Tatars to the West from the former Russian Empire, in the 13th century. None of these legends is supported by the etymological origin of the root pirŭ- from the proto-Slavic for "feast".

Traditionally considered peasant food, pierogi eventually gained popularity and spread throughout all social classes including nobles.

Comments

03.11.2019 04:15

Rob

What a great adventure.

15.10.2018 08:50

Jane

The first time I read such an interesting review on Krakow.