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Offices across Chicago will be enjoying paczki on Tuesday

Weber's Bakery 7055 W. Archer started making paczki Monday afternokeep up with demTuesday.  |  WEBER'S FACEBOOK PAGE

Weber's Bakery, 7055 W. Archer, started making the paczki Monday afternoon to keep up with the demand on Tuesday. | WEBER'S FACEBOOK PAGE

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Cost per paczek: 90 cents

Cost per dozen: $10.80

Frying temperature of paczki: 375 to 400 degrees

Opening time Tuesday: 4 a.m.

Largest single paczki order: 440

Number of calories per pastry: 0 — no one’s counting on Mardi Gras

Updated: March 3, 2014 9:24PM

If you’re heading to work Tuesday, there’s a good chance you’ll be greeted with fried fritters filled with jam.

Unless you’re the one in charge of picking up the paczki — in which case, we hope you pre-ordered.

There’s a whole lot to love about the chewy, doughnut-like pastry that is deep-fried and glazed in sugar, and comes in a variety of fruit and cream flavors. Treating oneself to the Polish pastry on Fat Tuesday is a pre-Lenten tradition embraced by workplaces across Chicago.

Paula Sandrik is the keeper of paczki (pronounced poonch-kee; singular is paczek) at Ace Hardware’s corporate office in Oak Brook three years running. “I have a tendency to bring in baked goods anyway,” she said.

When Mardi Gras rolls around, Sandrik collects co-workers’ requests and places a jumbo order with Weber’s Bakery, 7055 W. Archer, one of many Chicago-area bakeries doling out paczki. This year Sandrik planned to pick up $200 worth of fresh paczki and a king cake. Her trick is to plan ahead. Otherwise, “there’s no way I could get in on Tuesday with an order that big,” she said.

Weber’s Bakery, a staple on the city’s Southwest Side since 1930, is used to the Mardi Gras mania. Easter is the busiest time of year for the family-owned shop, though the rising popularity of paczki keeps the bakers on their toes. Rebecca Weber said the largest single order this week was 37 dozen. Weber’s takes orders a month in advance, though most people called a week before the holiday.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s feast, bakers typically arrived around 3 p.m. on Monday. They work through the night to prep, fry and fill the dough balls before rolling them in sugar. A second shift of workers arrives at 8 p.m. to package the sweet goods.

Bigger batches make the work easier, yet “it’s definitely not the fastest process,” Weber said. “But it’s worth it because it’s delicious.”

Early risers begin lining up by 3 a.m., Weber said, and the bakery opens its doors by 4. At 90 cents a piece (or $10.80 a dozen), the paczki are first-come, first-served, unless ordered in advance.

“We’ll have everything available in the store, but depending on how crowded, they can run out pretty quickly,” Weber said.

Exactly how many thousand, palate-pleasing paczki the bakery will sell is hard to say. “I don’t know the number but I know it’s a lot,” Weber said. “It’s a strange day, but people really get into it.”

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