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Beyond paczkis: 3 more seasonal baked goods and where to get them

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 5-year-old daughter, Viva, who will soon be more custard than person.

It’s Paczki Day, and I sincerely hope you pre-ordered your Polish pre-Lenten doughnuts or woke up early and are currently stuffing your face with all kinds of flavors and fillings. Our own Stephanie Benavidez did her Paczki Day bakery line up here, and there are plenty more where that came from … but they’re all busy!!!  My daughter Viva and I “pre-gamed” and got ours from Bennison’s in Evanston ahead of time, so we’re already a custard, a prune, a lemon and a raspberry into the day.

Whether paczkis are an annual tradition for you or just a novelty today, right now you’re thinking, “What other seasonal, ethnic deliciousness is hiding in plain sight?” Well, let me drop some multicultural baking knowledge on you as you wipe the powdered sugar and chocolate frosting from your mouth.

Semla

The Poles aren’t the only people with a pre-Lenten baked good. As a matter of fact, there are more pre-fasting food traditions around the world than I can cover in a week’s worth of blogs. If you’re looking to stand with Sweden, it is Semla Day today. Semla are Swedish Lenten buns topped with pastry cream. You can pick one up right now at Tre Kronor (3258 W. Foster) in Albany Park, or at Andersonville’s 88-year-old Swedish Bakery, (5349 N. Clark) which, sadly, closes forever TODAY at 6:30 p.m. It’s going out with a bang with long lines for Paczkis and more. Bring your semla to the Swedish Museum (5211 N. Clark) to eat while looking at the art of Sponberg.

Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick’s Day is March 17. Even if you’re over green rivers and Wrigleyville vomitoriums, you should still treat yourself to some light and delicious Irish Soda Bread, which used sodium bicarbonate instead of yeast as a leavening agent. There will be plenty available all over town in time for the holiday, but what better place to get it than Misericordia’s Heart and Flowers Bakery, where residents work on the amazing products. (6300 N. Ridge Ave.)

Zeppoli

St. Joseph’s Day is March 19. San Giuseppe (Jesus’s stepdad to you) is huge with Italians, and Sicilians in particular, as intersessions with this Saint are credited with having saved Siciliy from a number of famines. Now we celebrate by staving off hunger with boxes of zeppoli (zeppoles)–airy choux pastry topped with pastry cream, powdered sugar and a cherry. Head to Taylor street and pick some up at Ferrara Bakery, founded in 1908. (2210 W. Taylor St.)

Enjoy your baked goods today and all spring. Thank you and best wishes to the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville–you’ve been a Chicago institution and we’ll miss you.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Paczki eating.

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