I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. While not in the "heart" of Pennsylvania Dutch country or Amish farms, near enough to know and follow the traditions of the land.
"Fasnacht Day," (pronounced Fosh-knock) more properly just called "Fasnacht," is also known as Shrove Tuesday, or Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Literally translated, it means Fast Night.
Fasnacht is the established beginning of the 40 days of fasting during Lent - which officially begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday to be exact. It is a folk tradition dating to the Middle Ages, a Catholic custom that has survived in mostly Protestant Pennsylvania.
Traditionally, on Monday, the day before Fasnacht, dough was put out in straw baskets for raising, then cut in squares and deep-fried in fat, not baked. Served with hot coffee at breakfast on Tuesday, the popular way to eat your Fasnacht was to split it in half and spread with honey. (Today they often come coated with confectioners’ sugar.)
In the old days, this was a chance for everyone to gorge on good doughnuts without reprise, for the lean days of Lent and fasting would now follow. The making of fasnachts helped use up fat and sugar prior to the fasting days of Lent.
Would you like to join me in a custom dating back hundreds of years? You probably already have all the ingredients needed in your pantry. So come on, fry up some Fasnachts and enjoy - the lean, fasting days of Lent are about to begin.
Pennsylvania Dutch Fasnachts: (if you don't use potatoes, it's not a Fasnacht) makes one dozen
1 cup milk, warmed to between 110 and 115 degrees
2 packets yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup warm mashed potatoes (microwave a potato, scoop out inside)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Sprinkle yeast over warm milk, add a pinch of sugar and set aside for 5 minutes allowing yeast to grow.
Combine flour, potatoes, salt and sugar. Add the milk/yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Mix by hand or with the dough hook attachment of your mixture for 3 minutes.
Turn the dough out on a floured bowl and knead for a for minutes until the dough is elastic and no longer sticky.
Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thick and cut the donuts. You can cut a square donut (traditional) or use a glass and cut one donut and use a shot glass to cut the hole.
Place the cut donuts on a floured cookie sheet, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.
Heat a half inch of oil in a large skillet or electric fry pan. (heat to about 360 degrees). Slide donuts in and fry for about 2 minutes, turn and finish cooking until golden brown.
Remove donuts to rack to drain and cool slightly. Toss with powdered sugar or glaze with the following recipe.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk (maybe more)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Mix it all up to thin consistency, drizzle over donuts set on rack over a cookie sheet.
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon (maybe more) milk
Mix it all up and drizzle over donuts OR dip donuts into glaze. Set on a rack over a cookie sheet for easy clean up!
A Cook's Notes: Do you have a tradition that marks the beginning of Lent or the end Mardi Gras?
I'm a cook. That's who I am at the very core of me. Yes, I'm a wife and mother and sister and friend and all those other titles we have for ourselves. But if you asked me WHO I AM at the pit of my soul - I'd say I'm a cook. An "in the kitchen, up to the elbows in food, recipes, pots and pans" cook. I love it - and I do it everyday.