Poland may lack the giant street events of the Carnival in Rio or the long tradition of Venice, but when carnival comes, we’re certainly not lacking in fun. While the warmer countries feast in the streets, Polish partygoers find themselves indoors, where they have ample opportunity to literally feast.
Rich, sweet and sumptuous food is the foundation of our carnival, and even the most oblivious and boring people will know it’s time to party when the bakeries suddenly offer faworki.
Known in the US as the angel wings, this special pastry is the symbol of Carnival. Typical Polish names are chrust (literally, “brushwood,” thin dry twigs that fall off trees naturally), which evokes the shape and form of the dessert, and faworki (literally, “small favours” or tokens of favour), a name indicative of how special it is. And with good reason – the dough is made with cream and butter, rolled extremely thin, twisted into a special shape and then deep-fried. Quite a lot of work to make delicate, thin cookies that you can eat by the dozen, or rather until there’s none left: there has been no authenticated case of there ever being too much faworki, anywhere. And while the recipe is typical for the season, when we eat all that will be forbidden during Lent, the actual effect is a light, elegant dessert that will trick you into thinking that you are absolutely not indulging in culinary debauchery.
But you are. And you will not stop.
Vying for your attention with these devious delicacies are pączki, a more honest type of pastry that is very popular in Poland all year round. While faworki are deceptively light and crisp, pączki are fat little cushions of deliciousness and proud of it. Similar to western doughnuts, made of yeast dough, shaped into lovely irregular globes, pączki are deep-fried as well, dunked into boiling hot fat twice to fry both sides. This results in the characteristic pale ring at the circumference that every pączek (singular) must have. Traditionally, they have been made to use up all the sweet and rich products that would be forbidden during Lent, so pączki are usually filled with marmalade, jam and all sorts of fillings, from chocolate mousse to whipped cream. Glazed or powdered with sugar, sometimes with orange zest, pączki are as irresistible as the spirit of Carnival itself. So take the chance while it lasts, and load up on those choice tidbits while you can! You can diet at some other time.