Friday, February 14, 2020

It's Time To Eat the Fastnachts!

Shrove Tuesday - Or Fastnacht Day - Falls on Tuesday February 13th 2024

A fastnacht is a heavy, yeast-raised potato doughnut that is typically prepared on Fat Tuesday before the start of the Lenten season. The doughnuts are traditionally made on the Tuesday before Lent. 

Read the History & Legends, Where To Find Fastnachts, And Traditional Recipes To Make Your Own, below.

The History
Danville Morning News
February 9 1937

Fastnacht Kuchen loosely translates to Fast Night Cakes. German immigrants brought with them the tradition of using up rich foods like sugar, lard, and flour before they began fating and renouncing luxuries for lent.

"One legend has it that the last one out of bed is the "fastnacht", as subject of derision and butt of jokes, who is likely to find himself shut up in the pig pen or cellar for his tardiness.  
Legend states "woe be unto those housewives who sew on fastnacht day" *

Well, anyhow, it's fastnacht day, and we enjoyed square, doughnut-like bits of pastry, made palatable by being dipped into mother's boiling lard, which is always mothers greatest concern in fastnachts, for fear the kiddies might get burned." - Republican and Herald, Pottsville, Feb 28 1933

*The full saying is - if a woman sews on fastnacht day, the hens will not lay.

Fastnacht socials were a tradition until World War II, when many old country traditions were discontinued.


Fastnacht Recipes

Fastnacht Basics:
  • The Shape can be squares, triangles, solid circles, or even circles with holes.  Triangles and squares are less common these days, but they are a very traditional fastnacht shape!
  • Frying in lard is traditional, but vegetable oil can be used.
  • Oil should be around 370 degrees, cook 1-2 minutes on each side
  • Once pulled from the oil, hot doughnuts can be dropped into paper sandwich bags that hold sugar, shaken, then placed on a rack to cool.
  • Plain doughnuts can be sliced like a bagel, and spread with molasses.  
  • Buttermilk, or Sour Milk, Substitute: 1 tsp lemon juice in 1 cup of milk
  • Lard Substitute - you can use butter or shortening in place of lard.
My Favorite Recipe:

Raised Potato Fastnachts

1c potato water, warm
1c mashed potatoes, warm
1c sugar
1 pkg dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 c hot water with  2tsp sugar
1 1/2 c warm milk
1/2 c butter
2 large eggs
2tsp salt
4lbs of flour (roughly 12-14 cups)

Mix Sugar, potatoes, shortening, eggs, and salt.  Beat well.
Add warm potato water and milk.  Beat.
Add the yeast/water and sugar.  Beat.
Add the flour slowly, one cup at a time, until dough is no longer sticky, but is still wet.
Cover doughnuts and let rise for 90 minutes.
Heat 3/4 of a gallon of oil on medium to medium high heat.  
Drop the doughnuts in carefully, turning when brown.  (about 1-2 minutes on each side)
Brown paper grocery bags are the best for draining these, as they soak up the grease!

Traditional, 150 year Old,  No Yeast Fastnacht Recipe

1 C Sugar
1 Stick Margarine

2 Eggs
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda in a little vinegar
5 1/2 to 6 c flour to make a soft dough
2 cup buttermilk

Cream together all ingredients except flour.
Add the flour one cup at a time.  Dough will be a little sticky.
Roll on a floured board until about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into squares or diamonds.
Fry in hot oil

Sour Cream Fastnacht

3/4c thick sour cream
3/4 c thick sour milk
1/4 c sugar
1-2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3-4 c flour
Mix all ingredients but flour.
Mix flour in until it's a good consistency for rolling.
Roll out to 1/4 inch thick.  
Cut with a pastry will in rectangles. Cut a slit in the middle.
Fry in deep fat.
Cut doughnut in half and fill with molasses.

Unraised Potato Fastnachts
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c. mashed potatoes
1/2 c sweet milk
2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 Tbsp shortening
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
Beat mashed potatoes: add melted shortening, beaten eggs and milk.
Sift dry ingredients together and add to the liquid.
Dough should be soft, yet firm enough to roll.
Separate dough into two parts and roll each out to 3/4 an inch thick.
Cut with a doughnut cutter into rounds of cur with a knife into old-fashioned rectangle shapes with a slit in the middle.
Cook in deep fat, 365 degrees. Fry to golden brown.
Drain on absorbent paper.  Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar.
Split, fill with honey or apple butter, or molasses.

A Traditional Lard Recipe:

A Fastnacht In Three Rises
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water 
1 teaspoon white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts vegetable oil for frying

Warm the milk in a saucepan until it bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, proof the yeast (adding the warm water to the yeast) Let stand  for 10 minutes.

Mix the 3 c flour and 1 tsp sugar, then stir in the milk until smooth. Add proofed yeast and mix well. Cover and let rise until doubled in size.

Stir in beaten eggs, melted butter or margarine, 1 cup of sugar, salt, and enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. 

Cover and let rise for a second time until doubled.
Punch down dough and divide into 2 portions.

 On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut dough with a biscuit cutter. Make 2 slits with a sharp knife in the middle of each doughnut. 

Cover and let rise a third time until doubled in size.

Deep fat fry in oil or lard for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Rotate to ensure even cooking. Drain on brown paper bags. Toss in confectioners sugar while still warm.

Read More:
"To-Morrow will be "Shrove Tuesday or Fastnacht" and no doubt any quantity of the peculiar kind of cakes known by that name will be brought upon the tables.  The custom of dishing up doughnuts on Fastnacht has died out to some extend, but is still observed in many families.  In the olden time it was generally, if not universally observed, but its real pleasures not ware principally confined to our rural districts, where almost every family makes it a point to be prepared for the day and it's peculiar observance.  They esteem it a luxury and so so we, to see huge dishes of fastnacht cakes brought into view and everyone invited to help himself. Shrove Tuesday is so called from the ancient practice  in the Church of Rome of confessing sins or being shrived or shroved - that is obtaining absolution on this day.  Being the day prior to the beginning of Lent, it may occur on any one between the second of February and the eighth of March.  In Scotland it is called Fasten's E'en but it little regarded in that Presbyterian country.  The character of the day as a popular festival is mirthful, it is a season of carnival like jollity and trollery.  The pancake and Shrove Tuesday are inextricably associated in the popular mind." The Danville Morning News, February 18 1901

The Standard Sentinel
February 1937

The Lewisburg Chronicle
February 3 1876

I used an online translator, so this is probably not exactly correct:
Fastnacht is next Tuesday, February
28th. If it is up to our honored ancestors,
the so-called "Fastnacht-Rudben" will be
served to us on this day - of course, if
we can keep the women in good humor
on this day.

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