Keep your beads and debauchery New Orleans – I want my donuts! While Fastnacht Day may not be familiar to you, I’m sure Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday rings a bell.
This Pennsylvania Dutch tradition began as a way to use up fat/lard, flour and sugar in the house, before the fasting of Lent begins. I have memories of my grandmother making these when I was a kid, as well as the greatest donut shop on the planet, Krumpe’s, pushing these on this blessed Tuesday.
In an attempt to find a proper recipe, I also found that there are about a million ways to spell this… well not a million, but too many for my tastes – Fastnacht, Faschnacht, Fosnot, Fosnaught, and Fasnacht. Reminding me of one of my favorite 80s movies – “You don’t spell it, you eat it!”
There are also tons of recipes out there for this treat – some use potatoes (would love to try this method), and others just change the amount of butter, sugar, and flour. I tried two different batches and there wasn’t much change in the consistency or taste, so this is what I settled on.
I’m a fan of cutting them in squares, only because it’s the easiest method, but obviously you can do donuts, squares, holes, whatever you want. Depending on the thickness and the size this can make anywhere from 4 to 6 dozen.
Much like beignets, these little balls of doughy love get all puffy and perfect when dropped in hot grease. You can leave them plain, use a cinnamon and sugar combo, or cover them in powdered sugar. We found that a double dipping in the powdered sugar gave the best results. I’ve also seen them served cut open, buttered and covered in molasses… heaven!
I had a great grease man at the helm on these, my dad, and we had to do several rounds to get the inside perfectly cooked, although some tasters like them a little gooey in the middle. We found that you really have to let them get dark brown to ensure full cooking. Once the oil hits 375 degrees, do a test ball to see what works best. Keep your thermometer on the pot and be sure it doesn’t flucuate too much from 375, and adjust the cooking temperature accordingly. You can use any number of fats for frying – lard, vegetable oil, bacon grease?! I used Crisco Frying Oil, it gets nice and hot and doesn’t impart any unwanted additional flavors.
These are not a lowfat, low key treat by any means, but remember, you’re storing up for the next 40 days.
How ever you celebrate – enjoy the glorious gluttony.
1 package dry rapid yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
7 cups flour, divided
2 cups milk, scalded then cooled
3 eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups powdered sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Add sugar to cooled milk, and stir to dissolve. Add milk to yeast mixture and stir. Add 3 cups of flour and mix on low for 2 minutes, then another 2 minutes on high. Cover and let rise in a warm place, until doubled, approximately 1 hour.
Stir in eggs, butter, sugar, salt, nutmeg and remaining flour.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Punch down dough and divide into 2 portions.
On a floured board, roll out to 1/2″- 1/4″ thickness, and cut with a doughnut cutter, glass, or knife.
In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat approximately four inches of oil over medium high heat. When the heat hits 375 degrees, drop dough in, turning when the bottom is golden dark brown, repeating on other side. Allow fried dough to cool on a drying rack over a baking sheet, or on paper towels.
Put powdered sugar in paper bag, drop warm fastnachts in, shake until well coated.