Lev's Bakery to make 10,800 paczki for Fat Tuesday

By: 
JACKIE KOCH

Roger DeJonghe with his father, Lev, inside their downtown Tecumseh bakery. Photo by Jackie Koch.

A once-yearly event based in religion and brought to this country through Polish culture has given donut-lovers paczki, pronounced “punch key.” These rich donuts are deep fried, filled with various fillings and covered with powdered sugar or icing, and donut connoisseurs await their arrival each spring, salivating at the thought of devouring the decadent sweetness.

In Tecumseh, Lev’s Bakery at 124 E. Chicago Blvd. is gearing up for a busy three days of mixing, rolling, frying, filling and glazing close to 900 dozen of the tasty treats, preparing for an onslaught of customers who will line up to purchase their favorite flavors on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 24 and 25.

Roger DeJonghe, who operates Lev’s with his father, Lev and mother, Velma, said the most popular flavors are raspberry and custard. “We’re the only ones with chocolate custard,” he said. “We’ll start making them on Sunday afternoon.” They will continue to make the treats on Monday and Tuesday to satisfy their customers. Their paczki will also be sold at Jerry’s Market in Tecumseh and at Perky Pantry locations. “Jerry’s Market will get 20 dozen on Monday and 20 dozen on Tuesday,” said Roger.

“We can’t make them fast enough,” said Lev. “When we open up the door Monday we’ll have probably 300 dozen rolled.”

They create a traditional paczki that is rounded and solid, not a “jelly ball,” Lev said. Their product is more time-consuming as it takes twice as long to fry them, but the results are worth it. On Sunday morning they will bring in an additional fryer as well as a rounder that will help reduce some of the hands-on work that has made for 15-hour days in the past.

According to dictionary.com, Mardi Gras is French for “Fat Tuesday,” the last opportunity to eat rich food before the fast of Lent begins. For those who observe, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 26, when religious fasting commences in preparation for the Holy day of Easter. Traditionally 40 days of fasting, meaning one meal a day and full fasting on Friday, Lent did not allow for the consumption of rich foods. The last Tuesday before Lent, the people in Poland would use up their food so it would not be spoiled or wasted, so eggs, butter, sugar and fruit were combined to make paczki so they could indulge one last time before their diets were restricted.

Michigan State University Extension’s website expounds on the history of Paczki Day, which started in the medieval age during the reign of August III. An ancient Roman festival honoring the deities Lupercalia and Saturnalia, which took place in mid-February, was the precursor to today’s Mardi Gras. When Christians came to Rome, they incorporated the festival into Lenten preparations.

With Polish immigrants settled in places such as Detroit, Baltimore, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Chicago, Buffalo and especially Hamtramck, Polish bakeries would have paczki for sale on Fat Tuesday morning, and in smaller communities the local Polish parish came together to make and sell paczki.

The strict rules for fasting among Roman Catholics have relaxed since World War II, but many Catholics still observe fasts from meat on Fridays during Lent and may abstain from certain pleasures such as sweets, alcohol, or other indulgences in order to focus on spiritual matters.

Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, paczki-lovers are everywhere. Lev’s will have eight different flavors of paczki to choose from by the time they open their doors Monday morning. They include strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, lemon, apple, chocolate custard, vanilla custard, and kreme, which will sell for $14 a dozen or $21 for a dozen and a half, and $1.25 each. Those who would like to order their paczki ahead may call Lev’s at 423.2948.

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Tecumseh Herald

 

110 E. Logan St.
P.O. Box 218
Tecumseh, MI 49286
517-423-2174
800-832-6443

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