These are paczki - traditional Polish doughnuts, traditionally served each year on Paczki Day. AKA Shrove Tuesday. AKA Fat Tuesday. AKA Mardi Gras. AKA for 2009: tomorrow!
Paczki (pronounced poonch-key) are no ordinary doughnuts. They're made with especially rich dough, then deep-fried, shaped into flattened spheres, over-filled with confiture or other sweet fillings, and topped with powdered sugar, icing, or bits of dried orange zest. And at 500 calories a pop, you may want to go easy on them, no matter how good they taste.
Traditionally, paczki were made in order to use up all the lard, eggs, sugar and fruit in the house, because those items are forbidden during Lent - which begins on Ash Wednesday, which is the day right after...Fat Tuesday.
In Hamtramck - an enclave in Detroit, Michigan - they hold an annual Paczki Day Parade, a paczki eating contest, and festive Polish dancing. In fact, Hamtramck is known as The Place to go for paczki, and has one of the longest-standing Fat Tuesday celebrations.
Now, for all you people that share my Pennsylvania Dutch roots, you may be getting a sense of déjà vu. And it would be entirely justified, since Fasnacht Day is the equivalent of the Polish Paczki Day. And no matter what you call them, they certainly are just as bad for you, and just as tasty, and just as fun!
If you can't find paczki in your town, make your own! I found some recipes here: Polish American Journal: Paczki Day. Just scroll down toward the bottom to find them.
Want to know more about Paczki Day? Check out these links: