EAST PALESTINE — Elisha Veon's great-grandmother Irene is no longer around to help Veon knead dough to make paczki.
But her presence is still felt.
In the East Palestine Moose Lodge kitchen — where Veon will make 100 dozen paczki between now and Tuesday — Veon explained that cooking with her great-grandmother inspired her foray into professional cooking, by way of her food truck Babcia's Lunchbox.
Babcia — pronounced bab-chya — means "grandma" in Polish.
Babcia's Lunchbox is one of the key places selling authentic paczki in the Mahoning Valley.
The decadent Polish doughnut is made with rich dough and filled with custard or jam. Veon said lots of butter, egg yolks and brandy are responsible for the dough's richness.
The tradition of making paczki before Ash Wednesday stems from the desire to get rid of sugar and butter, "so they weren't tempted during Lent," said Veon.
Video by Bill Lewis for Mahoning Matters
Babcia's Lunchbox has been making paczki for Fat Tuesday since the food truck's opening in May 2017, but Veon is known best for her Polish staples — pierogies and stuffed cabbage.
Veon and her team spend several days per week in the Moose Lodge kitchen preparing food to sell out of the food truck at breweries and events.
"We spend all this time cooking this so we're able to get those foods your grandma made out to you," Veon said.
Even her pierogies aren't your grandma's pierogies. In addition to making traditional dumplings, Veon puts an innovative twist to pierogies by filling them with buffalo chicken, spinach, artichoke and even shepherd's pie for St. Patrick's Day.
Veon prefers her paczki with a traditional filling, like rosehip jam.
"I love how rich [paczki] are, and then, when you take a stuffing that's a little savory, like rosehip or orange marmalade, there's a nice contrast of flavor," said Veon.
Paczki enthusiasts can try Veon's paczki at Oh Donut Co. or at Birdfish Brewing, which is hosting a Mardi Gras event from 4 to 10 p.m. Feb. 25. In addition to paczki, attendees can enjoy Cajun food and the musical stylings of the Youngstown Horns Brass Band "formed specifically for this event."
Babcia's Lunchbox is also selling paczki at the Vegan Bazaar on Thursday at The Soap Gallery from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The recipe swaps coconut milk for butter and eggs, and Veon compares the taste of the vegan variety to French crullers.
Here are some other places selling paczki this year:
Krakus Polish Deli and Bakery, 7050 Market St.
Krakus bakes paczki on Thursdays throughout the year. The Boardman bakery will also be selling paczki on Feb. 25. Krakus offers paczki filled with plum, apricot, raspberry, rosehip and mixed berry jelly. It will be open on Fat Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and customers can order in advance.
Kravitz Deli, 3135 Belmont Ave.
Kravitz is hosting the seventh annual Paczki, Polkas and Piwo party Feb. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at its original location in Liberty. Kravitz sells paczki made at Plaza Donuts, which are filled with custard, plum, poppyseed, apricot and rosehip jam. To preorder paczki, call 330-759-7889. At the Tuesday event, Kravitz will also sell paczki sliders: a plain sugared donut sandwich with kielbasa, red onions, brown mustard and a pickle.
Nemenz IGA, 655 Creed St.
Nemenz IGA is hosting a Fat Tuesday paczki event on Feb. 25 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Customers can choose filling — custard, lemon, blueberry, raspberry, apple, apricot, cream cheese or donut cream--and have their paczki filled in front of them.
Oh Donut Co., 1315 Boardman-Canfield Road
Oh Donut Co. is partnering with Babcia's Lunchbox to provide paczki on Feb 25. The shop will be selling chocolate and vanilla custard, blueberry, strawberry, apricot and rosehip paczki. Oh Donut Co. is open Tuesday from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. Customers can pre-order paczki online until Sunday night. Oh Donut Co. is offering free delivery to Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties for pre-ordered paczki.
Plaza Donuts, 3437 Belmont Ave., 712 Boardman-Canfield Road and 450 W. Federal St.
This year, all Plaza Donuts locations are making and selling paczki from Feb. 20 to Feb. 25. Paczki lovers can purchase custard, rosehip, apricot, plum, poppyseed and plain sugared paczki. Additionally, Plaza Donuts will be selling paczki "flavor of the day," which, on Feb. 25, is pina colada — paczki filled with coconut and pineapple. A portion of each dozen sold will benefit PolishYoungstown's youth programming. Paczki can be pre-ordered online.