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Local

Paczki Day is Morris Bakery's busiest day

The doors of Morris Bakery opened up at 5 a.m. on Feb. 13, also known this year as Fat Tuesday, to a line of hungry patrons in anticipation to grab one of the gooey and decadent stuffed egg dough pastries to celebrate Paczki Day.
 
According to American Food Roots, this food came about when Polish cleared their homes of fats, sweets, butter, eggs and other treats in preparation for Lent. The goods were turned into a donut like treat traditionally filled with a variety of jams and then covered in glaze or powdered sugar.
 
 The Polish originally observed this day on Fat Thursday before Lent, but in America, the tradition has been to eat these calorie filled pastries on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which signifies the preparation for Easter Sunday. 
 
Morris Bakery owner Bob Elleson said the bakery began to make these Polish treats after he heard an ad on the radio in 1999 about a Polish bakery in Chicago that made paczki and it ended up being its busiest day. He said he went home and talked to his wife Darcy and thought the pair should give it a try at Morris Bakery.
 
The bakery made and sold out of the 20 dozen they made the first year, so the following years they made more and more paczki to keep up with the demand. Bob Elleson said Fat Tuesday sales beat out any other time of year, even Christmas.
 
“This used to be a small thing my dad wanted to try out and it has snowballed into this huge event. Everybody knows about Paczki Day. Selling these donuts has helped my parents raised six kids and the community always comes out to support our business,” Lauren Ralston, bakery employee and daughter of Bob and Darcy Elleson said.
 
This year, Morris Bakery will make around 12,000 Paczki, which was an increase from the 10,000 sold last year, according to Ralston. Ralston, works alongside her parents and as well as siblings in order to fill the large orders.
 
Some of the staff will work 32 hours straight in order to mix and cut the dough, fry and slice each individual Paczki, then stuff with one of the 30 plus flavors. Ralston said she and her mother usually have a contest to see who can come up with the best new flavor of the year, but with the upgrade in the amount of Paczki created this year, they put the new flavor on hold.
 
Out of the many flavors, Ralston said the favorite of the Morris crowd has been the fresh strawberry and cream Paczki. Bob Elleson said one year he even drove all of the way down to Florida in order to pick up fresh strawberries. Last year he worked a deal with Peter Rubi Produce in Plainfield to obtain his strawberries and continued the partnership in 2018.
 
A few of the flavors which were stuffed between the two pieces of fried egg dough were peaches and cream, chocolate heath, cookie dough, cannoli, cherry and cheese, tropical, chocolate peanut butter cup, maple bacon, birthday cake, German chocolate and red velvet.
 
Ralston said a month in advance, her mother Darcy Elleson will begin to order boxes and sticker labels; the week before, they order the fruit and fillings; and a few days before, they prep the ingredients for the fillings. On Monday, Feb. 12, they began to make the dough and fry the Paczki. Each one is then hand sliced and placed on a rack.
 
Monday night the cream was whipped and the fillings were mixed together. The late hours of Monday, turned into early Tuesday, as each Paczki was filled by hand. In order to make the lines run smoothly, Morris Bakery offered pre-orders of five dozen or more and also made up boxes of Paczki for people to grab and go at a fast pass station set up near the door.
 
For those who wanted to pick and choose which paczki they wanted to indulge in, customers could pick and choose at $26 per dozen or $32 per dozen of the favorite fresh strawberry and cream. 
 
This bakery tradition means more than just Paczki to Ralston and her family. She said what she enjoyed most about this event was, “family, the whole family is here and we work together. It’s a big job and we always get it done.”

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