Have you ever heard of them? Can you even say it?
Fastnachts (fost-knots) are a huuuuuuuuge
deal where I’m living now. York and Lancaster areas of Pennsylvania (south-central in the state) have a large population of “Pennsylvania Dutch” and those folks love these little doughnuts, called fastnachts.
The fastnacht is basically a fatty doughnut (read: carbohydrates from heaven) that is served on “Fastnacht Day” — the Tuesday before Lent begins (also known as Fat Tuesday for our N’Orleans folks!). Wikipedia tells me they were originally created to use up all the lard, sugar, fat and butter before beginning Lent.
Seems like a pretty good deal to me!
There are only two places that really embrace the fastnacht — Lancaster/York areas of Pennsylvania, and a town in Switzerland called Basel. Basel actually has a festival for the little buggers!
There are also different types of fastnachts – the german fastnacht is basically a yeast doughnut that can be filled with cream or jam, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar….but the Pennsylvania Dutch version is the best: a potato-dough, fried and dusted with powdered sugar.
Anyway — now that you’ve been educated, I’m passing along a delicious recipe and some pictures. I didn’t make these little wonders — the mother of one of DH’s high school friends makes THOUSANDS of these little lovlies every year on Fastnacht day, and she’s always happy to share them with everyone!
Recipes vary greatly — some fry in oil, some in lard, for example — but here is an example that is very “Pennsylvania Dutch”
2 cups milk
1 cup mashed potatoes (no salt, milk, or butter added)
1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 stick margarine
1 packet rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
6-1/2 cups flour (divided, 2 cups + 4 1/2 cups)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 can (3 pounds) Crisco® or similar vegetable shortening for frying
– Scald the milk
– In a large mixing bowl, combine the scalded milk with the mashed potatoes
– Add 1/2 cup sugar plus the margarine and mix with an electric mixer (If the mixture is still warm, cool to about room temperature before proceeding with next step)
– Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in barely warm water
– Add to the potato mixture and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and mix again. Cover with a towel and let rise for 25 minutes
– Add the salt and beaten egg to the mixture
– Add 4-1/2 cups flour, stirring it into the mixture with a large spoon
– Turn onto a well floured board and knead for about 3 to 5 minutes
– Add a small amount of extra flour if necessary so the dough can be handled without sticking to your fingers
– Grease a large bowl and place the dough in the greased bowl, cover with a thin towel, and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about 2 hours or until it is at least double in size
– On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 3/4″ thick. You can use a doughnut cutter to cut the dough or cut as typical Fastnachts – Cut the dough into 3″ to 4″ wide strips, then cut the strips into 3″ to 4″ pieces
– To allow the center of Fastnacht to fry completely, cut a small slit in the center of each piece, using a sharp paring knife
– Arrange the pieces of dough, about 1-1/2″ to 2″ apart, on large wax paper lined trays
– Cover each tray with a thin towel. Place the trays in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough pieces have raised to about double in size
– Heat the shortening to 365º. Deep fry until both sides are golden brown, turning one time.
– Drain on white paper towels. Cool completely before serving
– Store in a covered, airtight container. Makes about 20 to 24 Fastnachts, depending on size
– This recipe can be doubled with no change in preparation directions
– When cool, place in a ziplock bag with powdered sugar and shake to coat