It's five days before Fat Tuesday and the Paczki police are after me already.
Really, after more than a few months in the bagel business I should be used to this. The internet has made this sort of commentary inevitable. I should be jaded, steadfast, above this sort of thing. I should just accept that I am wrong. Acceptance is the first step in the healing process, right?
I am wrong. There, I admit it. My bagels, while New York style, are not the exact ones that Mr Expert #4 had on May 15th, 1982 at H&H. Nor are they the ones that Ms Professional Opinion #26 lyrically remembers from her childhood ramblings in which she accidentally while chasing a ball happened upon a 3rd generation bagel making family's one tiny storefront. They aren't even the ones that you could get from any other bagel place right now. They are too small, too large, too malty, not malty enough, not topped enough, topped too much, too different and sometimes not different enough. I did not grow up Jewish in New York City. Also, the water is different. Despite all this, they are good bagels.
Paczki are a Polish pre-Lent celebration, a way to use up all your naughty ingredients, a damn tasty variation of the doughnut. Thanks to immigration patterns, I discovered them in Chicago. They are rich, with a supple dough, filled with custard or fruit, and I have missed them. They just aren't found much in the neighborhoods of Portland, and each year I have seen other transplants seek them out, and end up disappointed. Really, what's the point of having a bakery if you can't fill a pastry void? So I asked. I made samples. And then a few more samples. They were well received. Now, for one single day we will celebrate one more puzzle piece of where we came from.
We post pictures, tell a story, and get the word out. Then, it begins. Those are too round, not round enough, not big enough, too big, probably don't have lard, aren't glazed, shouldn't be glazed, should be fruit filled, should never have chocolate. Not the Real Thing. Also, they have never been eaten by any of these people. It's even possible that they never will be eaten by some of them.
It's ok. You are all correct. I am not making something you may consider authentic. What I am making is a recipe passed on to me through who knows how many hands and minds. I have adapted it to my own purposes. And yes, I am daring to call these Paczki in full knowledge of this fact. But my Paczki is made with a sincerity of purpose. It is true and genuine to what I know Paczki can be. It also tastes really, really good.
What does authentic mean again?