What? Never heard of them …. Until now! Delicious.
“Fastnacht Day: Pennsylvania Dutch doughnuts mark the beginning of Lent
It’s Fastnacht Day, also known as Fat Tuesday. Traditionally, fastnachts were made by Pennsylvania Dutch housewives on
Fat Tuesday to use up all the fat in the house before Lent. “Fastnacht”
is a German word meaning “night before the fast.”
The heavy yeast-raised doughnuts are as much a part of the central Pennsylvania food landscape as chicken and waffles and whoopie pies. Wise fastnacht lovers placed their orders ahead of time. Others better hurry. The treats have been known to sell out quickly at churches, bakeries and supermarkets.
Some places to buy them: (All in Pennsylvania)
Dingeldein Bakery, 316 Bridge St., New Cumberland: 717-770-0466.
Pennsylvania Bakery, 1713 Market St., Camp Hill: 717-763-7755.
Prince of Peace Parish, 815 S. Second St., Steelton: 717-985-1330.
Schenk’s Bakery, 1023 N. Mountain Road, Lower Paxton Twp.: 671-5133.
St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church, 202 E. Lehman St., Lebanon: 272-4412.
Supermarkets: Giant Foods, Karns and Weis.” [Fastnacht Day]
“In the Pennsylvania Dutch Country, housewives traditionally spent Shrove Tuesday using up the larder’s most sinful ingredients: sugar, butter, eggs and (well) lard. Nowadays, German and Amish bakeries throughout Southern Pennsylvania do the same, crafting old-fashioned doughnuts that share their name with the German pre-Lenten carnival: fastnacht (pronounced fash-naht).
According to the Oxford Companion to Food, the German Shrove Tuesday doughnut tradition dates all the way to medieval times. Heagele’s Bakery, a 1930s-era German shop located in the Mayfair section of Philly, notes that fastnacht translates to “feast night.” (Others say it’s “fast night” or “night before the fast.”) Either way, a visit for their annual fastnacht sale is like time traveling. Old-fashioned string dispensers hang from the ceiling, perfectly placed to tie up boxes with a bow. Women wear tasteful dirndl and history feels close at hand.
Bakeries typically keep their recipes secret, but there are constants. A true fastnacht is prepared only for Shrove Tuesday, and made with sweet yeast dough that gets fried. From there, variations abound: mashed potatoes are often added to the batter, and the doughnuts can be crafted with or without holes (the latter is more traditional). Sometimes fastnacht come soaked in cream, glazed or dusted in sugar or cinnamon. Occasionally, they’re filled, but old-school types demand them unadorned, cut into diamonds and served with honey or molasses.” [pastemagazine.com]
Makes 50 Fasnacht
¼ cup warm water
1 pkg. yeast
2 tbsp. sugar
2½ cups lukewarm milk
4½ cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
½ cup lard, melted
1 cup sugar
dash of salt
5 ½ cups flour
1). Dissolve yeast in warm water.
2). Mix next three ingredients together, then add to yeast mixture. Set in warm place and let rise overnight.
3). In the morning add next four ingredients. Add last batch of flour slowly; it may not all be needed. Dough should be sticky but able to be handled.
4). Let rise until doubled, approximately 2 hours.
5). Roll out and cut with biscuit or doughnut cutter, with or without a center hole. Let rise 1 hour.
6). Deep fry in hot oil at 375 degrees for several minutes, turning until brown on both sides.
Among the PA Germans, Shrove Tuesday (day before Ash Wednesday) is known as Fassnacht Day (night before the fast). In a symbolic effort to rid their homes of leavening agents and to feast before Lent, many PA Germans cooks spend part of their day making Fasnachts. The cakes are made of yeast dough, and tradition requires that they be shaped in squares or rectangles, with slits cut in them. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins.
And to our dear friend and superb baker, Donna, here is your challenge (and I know she reads this blog!). Seeing as how it is to late for this year, Shrove Tuesday is here, you have a year to practice. Shrove Tuesday, or Fasnacht Day, 2021 is your target. I know you can do this to perfection! Cheers!