Ash Wednesday kicks off the Lenten season this week. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is a time of preparation and reflection before the celebration of Easter. The 40 days of Lent replicate Jesus’ sacrifice and withdraw into the desert for 40 days.
Many Christians believe Lent is a time to “give up” something (if you attended Catholic school you may remember during this time the common question “what are you giving up for Lent?”) and often that “giving up” includes an indulgence – ice cream, chocolate cake, wine, potato chips, Cola – you get the picture.
The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday (which is tomorrow), a day when we indulge and go “all out” to enjoy all of the things, like ice cream and chocolate cake and wine, that we may be giving up for the upcoming 40 days.
For bakers, Fat Tuesday has long symbolized a period of clearing out and getting rid of the extra sugar, flour, eggs, and butter by making sweet treats. One way is by making Paczki, a traditional Polish treat, similar to a jelly doughnut. Paczkis are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fat, sugar, yeast and sometimes milk (a lot of those ingredients bakers are trying to clear out!) and are filled with a variety of fruit and creme fillings. They can be glazed or covered in powdered sugar. No matter which type of Paczki you prefer, they are delicious and a traditional treat to enjoy before Lent begins.
I’ve always enjoyed the story behind the Fat Tuesday treats, the clearing out the pantry, making way for simpler, less-sugary treats for a bit. It almost serves as a reset for the bakery, too, just as Christians take a pause to reset and prepare for Jesus’ resurrection.
Today and tomorrow you’ll be able to find plenty of paczkis here at Ashley’s Pastries. And then starting on Wednesday you’ll notice Hot Cross Buns in the cases for the Lenten season. Hot Cross Buns, as you may know, are not as sweet, are made with raisins and topped with a simple cross in white icing. They are the perfect complement to your table over the next 40 days.
We will still continue to sell our usual fare, but when we have Hot Cross Buns in the cases, it serves as a reminder to slow down a minute in this busy world of ours and prepare our homes, our families and ourselves for the coming days.
This Lenten season, have you thought about something you’re going to give up? Or have you thought about something you might do each day? Either way, giving up or doing something, can serve as a great reminder to reflect and be thankful in this busy, modern world.