Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fastnacht, The Pennyslvania Dutch way to celebrate Fat Tuesday!

When we moved back to Pennsylvania after cruising around the Pacific for two years, I met Waneta.  She lives just doors down from our townhouse style condo.  I've mentioned her in my blogs before and the cooking adventures she leads me into.  

The first year Ken and I lived here, myself and another neighbor, Barb started up a cooking and craft afternoon that included getting together with other women in the condos to learn new skills.  

One neighbor, Shirley, taught us how to make Fastnacht donuts.  It’s quite a process, and frankly because my husband is diabetic I don't make them for us.  But as I've said Waneta leads me down the culinary path at times and Fastnacht is one of them.  She loves them!  

Waneta helped me the first year I made them for her.  Then the next time I made them by myself.   However, this year I am waiting for her and/or her daughter Denise to help me!  But in the meantime here is the recipe! 

I love learning the history behind the food I make.  Here is what I learned about Fastnacht from

Many cultures have different Fat Tuesday traditions. Even people in different parts of the United States celebrate the day differently.  A curious Pennsylvania Dutch tradition skips much of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Day before Lent and simply involves the eating of a type of donut called a fastnacht.  In fact some of the churches hold big Fastnacht baking and selling days as fund raisers. 

The tradition of eating fastnachts probably started in Germany many centuries ago and was carried by the German settlers to Pennsylvania. Eating a fastnacht prevents boils from the previous year, although the tradition was likely an excuse to use up fats and sugars before the traditional Lenten fast.

A fastnacht is a type of donut made from potatoes. Fastnacht is a combination of two German words meanin "fast night.” Many recipes for this Pennsylvania Dutch hoilday food can be found online, and many include lard, but the one listed below does not.

BTW (by the way) I use a big plastic bin with a cover for this because it's too much dough for even my biggest bowl!)  

One batch makes 10 dozen donuts

Waneta dipping donuts in sugar

Courtesy of Shirley Starner

2 cakes Fleishmans Yeast
½ c lukewarm water
1 tbsp flour
½ pint boiling water

6 potatoes (each the size of an egg)

½ c sugar
7 lbs flour  (NOTE POUNDS NOT CUPS!)
1 pint milk
1 ½ c butter or margarine (melted)
4 eggs
2 c sugar
½ tsp salt

Dissolve yeast cakes in lukewarm water.  Add 1 tbsp flour to the ½ pint of boiling water, when cool add yeast. 

Boil potatoes in boiling water, drain water from potatoes and set aside to cool.  Mash potatoes and add enough of saved potato water to make one quart of mashed potatoes.  Add the ½ c sugar when cool, and the yeast mixture.

Take large bowl and put in approximately 7 lbs of flour, make a well in center of flour, add
milk, butter, eggs 2 c sugar, and salt.  Add all the yeast mixture.

Work altogether to make dough.  Knead dough for 3-5 minutes.  If needed, split dough in half to knead, then combine the 2 sections.  Let rise about double, usually overnight in a large plastic container. 

Roll dough to about 3/8” thick and cut with doughnut cutter. 

Place donuts on baking sheets or counter that has been lightly oiled or sprayed with Pam.  Cover with plastic wrap that has also been lightly oiled or sprayed with Pam.  Let rise again until double. 

Fry in deep lard, or oil.  Put fried donuts on cooling rack to drain oil off.  Then dip in sugar and cinnamon mixture or just powdered sugar if desired. 

Makes 10 dozen with a 3” cutter. (Yes, it really does!)

Special note:  When cutting out donuts, you end up with dough that is left over.  You can combine this dough into another ball and roll out again and cut more donuts.  After the 3rd time however, you will note that it is harder and harder to roll out because the dough becomes too elastic.  Form this dough into a ball and set aside to rise again for about 30-45 minutes.  It will then be much easier to roll out. 
I took my extra dough and made cinnamon rolls with it.  I rolled it out, then slathered on butter, sprinkled it with cinnamon, sugar, cranraisins, and nuts.  Then roll it into a log, slice and place rolls into a baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam or buttered.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.  You can sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on top and pour icing or melted butter over the baked rolls.  These were very delicious and a great way to use the extra dough. 

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