A long time ago (but not in a universe far, far away), there was a tradition in the Roman Church forbidding the consumption of lard, eggs, and milk during the Lenten season. This was likely, at least in part, due to the need to discard all lard (long before the advent of hydrogenated shortening) at regular intervals so that it didn’t turn rancid. As is frequently the case, cooks and bakers developed recipes to use up all of these items prior to Lent, so that nothing was actually wasted.
Those intrepid forebearers of the Pennsylvania Deitsch developed the tradition of using the lard, eggs and milk to make Fasnachts (translated as Eve of the Fast) which are akin to a donut and made with potato dough. Now please, don’t you dare speak to a Deitsch person about fasnachts being donuts, or you’ll be in for a lecture for sure and for certain!
Traditionally, Fasnachts are a delicacy served on Shrove Tuesday (also known as Fat Tuesday from the tradition of using up all of the lard in the house on that day). Authentic Fasnachts are made by many non-profit organizations (Fire Companies come to mind), while poor imitations are frequently sold in markets and other retail establishments.
However, no purchased Fasnacht will ever come close to being as good as the ones you make at home. The smell of that yeast-laden dough rising in your house will also beat any commercial air freshener. So, in order to allow you time to assemble the ingredients, I thought I’d share a recipe with you for Fasnachts!
- 2 Cups of Milk
- 1 Cup of Hot Mashed Potatoes (add no salt, milk, or butter)
- ½ Cup plus ½ teaspoon of Sugar
- 1 Stick Butter, Softened
- 1 Packet of Rapid Rise Yeast
- ¼ Cup of Lukewarm Water
- 6 ½ Cups of Flour (Divided into 2 ¼ Cup and 4 ¼ Cup Portions)
- 1 Egg, Lightly Beaten
- 1 ½ teaspoon of Salt
- Sufficient Lard (or Hydrogenated Shortening) for Frying
Scald the milk in a pan, and then transfer the scalded milk to a large mixing bowl. Combine the mashed potatoes with the scalded milk. Add ½ cup sugar, plus the softened butter. Mix with an electric mixer at low speed. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature prior to the next step.
Dissolve the yeast and the remaining ½ teaspoon of sugar in lukewarm water. Add to the potato mixture and mix well. Add 2 ¼ Cups of flour, and mix again. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for about ½ hour.
Add the lightly beaten egg and salt to the mixture. Add 4 ¼ cups flour, stirring it into the mixture with a large spoon. Turn onto a well-floured board and knead for about 5 minutes, or until thoroughly mixed. 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 into this bowl. Cover with cheesecloth (or a thin dishtowel), 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 to a ¾ inch thickness. While it is permissible to use a standard donut cutter, purists will want to cut their dough in the more traditional manner – Cut the dough into 3” strips, and the cut each strip into 3” pieces. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in the middle of each 3” square, to allow the centers of your fasnachts to fry completely.
Arrange the pieces of dough (about 1 ½“ apart), on large paper-lined trays. Cover each tray with cheesecloth (or a thin dishtowel). Allow each tray to rise in a warm place, until doubled in size (approximately one hour).
Heat the lard (or hydrogenated shortening) to 365o. Deep fry until both sides are golden brown, turning one time. Drain on white paper towels. Cool completely before serving (or, if they don’t all disappear in an instant, storing in an airtight container).
Yields approximately 2 dozen Fasnachts. Recipe can be doubled with no changes required. Fasnachts may be covered in powdered sugar prior to serving, but many forgo that additional sugar.
Please don’t share this recipe with your cardiologist or endocrinologist. I doubt that any of them would be happy with the lard, butter, eggs, etc.
I intend to do Noon-day Prayer at noon (what a novel time to do that) on Tuesday, March 4th, which is Shrove Tuesday. If you’d like to bring a homemade fasnacht to be “graded” by a thoroughly Deitsch, Anglican Priest, I’ll be more than happy to accommodate you! … 0:-)