Today is more commonly called Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, but here in Berks county, PA we are in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country! Fastnacht (also spelled fasnacht or faschnacht) are a doughy potato pastry, similar to a doughnut, and fried in lard. In the past people spread honey on them but, today, you most commonly find them glazed or coated in confectioners’ sugar.Mardi Gras has been a traditional day of feasting since the Middle Ages. All the feasting would use up extra food in the home pantry that would be a temptation during the 40 days of Lenten fasting. Lent is the period of 40 days prior to Easter and fasting during this time began as a Catholic custom, but is also celebrated by many Protestants.
Historically, fastnacht dough was set out to rise on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. It was then cut into squares and fried in lard for Tuesday morning breakfast. Everyone would eat all the fastnachts they wanted with their coffee or other morning beverage.
I wish you all a happy Fastnacht Day! If you can’t find fastnacht where you live, here’s a recipe I found at www.maplespringsfarm.com. This farm is in Bradford County, PA and the family is of German and PA Dutch heritage. (The recipe make 100 fastnachts – you might want to reduce it!)
Ingredients2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup shortening and ½ cup butter
1 quart milk – scalded and cooled
5 cups flour
3 packages yeast in 1 cup warm water (dissolve yeast in water + 1 tea sugar)2 eggs
1 tea salt
Rest of 5 pound bag of flour
DirectionsMix first six ingredients in order with electric mixer. Let rise until double, approx. four hours at room temperature.Stir remaining 3 ingredients into previous batter. Let rise till double (approx. 5 hours). Roll and cut. Let rise again till double (2 – 3 hours).Fry in lard at 425. Makes 100.