The Pennsylvania Dutch celebrate Shrove Tuesday by eating yeast raised potato doughnuts, which are lovingly known as “Fastnachts.” The name “Fastnacht” is German for “Fast Night.”
Fastnacht Day is a day to forget about dieting and a slim waistline and feast on doughnuts! It’s a custom that had its beginnings with the Plain People. Making Fastnachts helped to use up the fat and sugar they had on hand before the Lenten fast began.
My husband has a bit of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage and my family came from Germany at the turn of the century so this recipe is a favorite in our family. Who can say no to a day devoted to making and eating fried dough?
Making Fastnachts is a great family project.
2 cups milk
1 cup mashed potatoes (no salt, milk, or butter added)**
½ cup sugar + ½ teaspoon sugar
1 stick margarine
1 packet rapid rise yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
6½ cups flour (divided, 2 cups + 4½ cups)
1 can (3 pounds) Crisco® or similar vegetable shortening for frying
** Don’t have a potato in the house? Use potato flakes as a substitute. Just be sure to reconstitute them!
Scald the milk. In a large mixing bowl, combine the scalded milk with the mashed potatoes. Add ½ cup sugar plus the margarine. 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 ½ 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 beaten egg to the mixture. Add 4-½ 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. 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 ¾-inch thick. You can use a doughnut cutter to cut the dough into 3-inch to 4-inch wide strips, then cut the strips into 3-inch to 4-inch 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 1½ inches to 2 inches 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 365 degrees (a high temp thermometer works wonders here) and deep fry until both sides are golden brown, turning one time.
Get recipes for how to make glazed, powdered sugar and cinnamon sugar Fastnachts at howipinchapenny.com.