January and February are tough months for bakeries, wedged as they are between New Year's resolutions and the Lenten season of self-denial. Enter the paczki, which, while adding to your girth, can fatten a baker's first-quarter earnings.
So it is at the Party Cake Shop's locations in Brookline and Mount Lebanon. Bakery co-owner Scott Smith says he expects to sell some 300 dozen paczki per week prior to Lent.
"Paczki" sounds nothing like it looks -- it's typically pronounced "poonch-key." But the Polish delicacy tastes as sinful as it sounds: It's deep-fried batter, filled with fruit or custard, and coated with sugar.
Indeed, kitchen lore has it that paczki were a good way to use up the lard, eggs and sugar frowned upon during Lent. Accordingly, each paczki is its own little Fat Tuesday.
"I don't even know how many calories they have," admits Nancy Smith, who co-owns Party Cake with her husband.
The bakery began offering paczki a decade ago, and they soon became big sellers. There's even a mascot: Mr. Paczki, a waist-high wooden cutout of a smiling pastry often seen along Brookline Boulevard.
You can find paczki elsewhere -- Oakmont Bakery is another noted local source -- but not before January or after Lent begins.
"They're a pain to make," says Nancy Smith. And, they're also a constant temptation. "I love packzi," she sighs. "But I'm on a New Year's resolution."