Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, is known in Pennsylvania Dutch Country as FASTNACHT DAY. What I remember from my youth was my Grandma Losch deep-frying dozens of fastnachts, or doughnuts, that are truly without equal.
History holds that among other traditions, making fastnachts, or doughnuts, was a way to use up the last of the lard or sweets in the house before embarking upon Lent, the Christian season of purification and self-denial.
While I can’t locate my grandma’s exact recipe for these fried delicacies, I do have one from the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook (published by Culinary Arts Books in Gettysburg, PA) that is close. It’s likely that I will fire up my own deep frier tomorrow and churn out some deep-fried doughy goodness… if only I can locate a doughnut cutter here in the suburbs of Washington, DC. And if you want other sources, check out this post from Pennlive.com, Bella Online, Suite 101, or Amish News, or this blog post that includes a photo.
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees farenheit)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups sifted flour
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm [I assume they don’t mean skim milk here – these are the Amish, by golly!]
3 eggs, well-beaten
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 1/2 to 4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Large amount of vegetable oil for frying
In a small bowl, soften yeast in the warm water and let stand 5-10 minutes.
In a larger bowl, pour the milk, and add the 1 teaspoon sugar and 3 cups sifted flour and stir until smooth. Into this, stir in the water/yeast mixture. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise until doubled. [The recipe doesn’t say how long, so keep an eye on it. Possibly an hour or so.]
To this mixture, use a wooden spoon to stir and add the eggs, butter and remaining sugar, salt, nutmeg, and enough flour until the mixture can no longer be stirred with a spoon (it will be a soft dough).
Cover and let rise until doubled. [Again, doesn’t say, probably 45-60 minutes or so. Better have some reading material handy. Or some laundry.
Punch down this dough and divide into two portions.
On a floured surface, roll out each portion until it’s about half-an-inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter. Cover the cut-0ut dough and let rise in a warm place until (you guessed it!) DOUBLED! (You can do some crafts, such as knitting or crewel embroidery, while you’re waiting, or possibly, clean a room or three. Don’t worry -you’ll have time.)
Once risen, fry the cut-out doughnuts in deep fat that has been heated to 370 degrees Farenheit, frying each piece 3-4 minutes or until lightly browned, turning over to brown evenly. Remove from fat and drain. When cool, sprinkle with with powdered or granular sugar!
EAT and share, for tomorrow, we fast. Or, give up something. Or, whatever.