Paczki, Kolache, or Fasnacht? Your Guide to Fat Tuesday Donuts

February 28, 2022

#learnsomethingnew

Texas has the pleasure of being the next-door neighbor to the fun-loving Mardi Gras partying Louisiana. Texans love to celebrate Mardi Gras. In the eastern part of the state, we party with our own Texas flair, including sweet treats from Europeans.

Lent begins this year on Wednesday, March 2. The day before is celebrated as Fat Tuesday, culminating Mardi Gras celebrations. Fat Tuesday is customarily the day to indulge in luxurious, sugary desserts. The most notable treat is the famous King Cake, decorated with colorful crystallized sugar: purple, green, and gold (symbolizing justice, faith, and power, respectively).


Plus beignets.

Fried dough lovers unite!

Traditionally, in the many communities observing Lent either religiously or culturally, Fat Tuesday desserts used up all the rich ingredients off-limits during the fasting period of Lent (butter, sugar, lard, and milk).

Fat Tuesday Treats in Texas

When I became a Texan, I learned about the state's rich heritage of the Polish, German, and Czech, who came to Texas beginning in the 1850s. Arriving in Galveston, these immigrants moved through the central part of the state, creating small settlements. The Polish and Czech lived and developed productive agricultural communities in the Austin, Fayette, Lavaca, and Washington counties. Germans settled from Galveston to San Antonio and small rural communities in the Texas Hill Country, such as Fredericksburg. They all brought their culture, food, and Catholic faith with them.  


Paczki

My introduction to Fat Tuesday in Austin was the paczki (pronounced POTCH-key, or POONCH-key). I never heard of paczkis. Since I didn't observe lent before becoming a Texan, I guess I wasn't allowed to be privy to the paczki network as a Protestant.

Because of the hype, I believed paczki to be a big deal – I was prepared to be wowed. 

So at an Austin bakery, I met the popular Polish pastry filled with jelly and coated in sugar.


Wait. What? A paczki is . . . a DONUT?

Why yes – these were precisely the same type of donuts I would sell (and eat!) when working at my hometown donut shop during high school and college! I had been eating paczki all my life!

(I later learned that paczki is actually the primary Fat Tuesday treat in the Midwest, not Texas.)

When I sold donuts as a teen, the same jelly-filled, sugar-coated donuts were called bismarcks. Yet a Google search today says that bismarcks are long-shaped rectangle-type yeast donuts filled with cream (or jelly) filling. We sold them in the donut shop too, but those were called long johns.

Confused?

Make no mistake – I still bought the paczki at that bakery and ate them, and they were delicious!

Kolaches

The Polish offer Texas the paczki, and the Czech offer the kolache (pronounced kol-AH-chee in Texas). Perfect for breakfast on the go, this yeasty bread dough is filled with a small sausage link, cheese, and jalapeno if you like. In Austin, I found the best savory kolaches at Lone Star Kolaches.

While Texans call them kolaches, they aren't really kolache. They are actually klobasnek (KLO-bus-nek).



I am not surprised that they are called by two different names. In Austin, every major highway has two names. Really. But I digress.


It was at the Village Bakery in West, Texas opened in 1952 by Wendel and Georgia Montgomery, where kolaches were first served to the public (according to the internet). The klobasnek was born when the kielbasa sausage came together with their kolache dough recipe. The idea came from Wendel while eating a hot dog. It was their version of a pig in a blanket. Wendell trademarked his invention as Klobasniki, the Czech word meaning "little sausage."

But now everyone calls them kobasnek.

Got it? 

The traditional kolache is sweet loveliness! The dough is lighter and breadier than a traditional paczki. In Czech, kolache means "cake or pie" – the perfect name since it is a sweet cake that holds a nice dollop of fruit. Like a Danish. (But if you want more about the origin of the Danish, you're on your own.)


My husband and I found another bakery with delightful sweet kolaches on a road trip to Brenham – the Weikel's Bakery in LaGrange. Not only are their kolaches good, but also their bread, carrot cake . . . and the employees are so nice. 


And finally, because I want to be all-inclusive, here is a German version -- not available in Texas, but in popular in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Fastnacht


Fasnacht (pronounced fahs-nahkt) originated in Germany. It was served during their own carnival celebrations before Lent. Fasnacht comes from the words "fast" and "night," probably meaning the last night until fasting begins. (My german is rusty.)


 
The Fasnacht (sometimes spelled Fastnacht) is similar to paczki; however, there is traditionally no filling while still covered with sugar or cinnamon sugar. This donut can sometimes be denser, shaped as a square or triangle, and served cut in half with butter and molasses (or maple syrup).


In Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a predominately Amish area, the Fasnacht is baked for Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. Their versions vary from the donut variety to some using mashed potato.

For Fat Tuesday, should you decide to eat King Cake or beignets, or indulge with a Paczki-Fasnacht-Kolache (whatever nationality you feel at the moment), be sure to buy extra to share!

Do you celebrate Fat Tuesday? Tell me in the comments what the popular donut (or dessert) is in your area for Fat Tuesday!  





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