Today is Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday - the beginning of Lent. Here in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, it's Fastnacht Day. Traditionally, lard, sugar, butter, and potatoes were given up for Lent - so the Fastnacht was born (to use the last of these items before Lent). Here is some additional info from wiki.
I made fastnachts last year, but they were not as great as some I've tasted over the years. Not many people still make them here, but I refuse to let tradition die. I'm proud of my heritage - rustic, hard-working Germans who came to the US for a chance at the American dream. We love potatoes, bread, butter, and noodles.
I recently researched some different recipes and planned to test two different ones, but I liked the first one so much that I never went any further. The recipe is simple - no yeast, no rising time. A key component of the fastnacht is mashed potatoes - sounds weird, but it is key in this treat. I found this recipe on the internet, and it is courtesy of Alice Faust of Berks County, Pennsylvania - thanks, Alice!
My sister lives near a farmer's market where the Amish have a stand. My sister asked her if they were going to have fastnacht's today - the "Amish" girl didn't know what they were. We're pretty sure these people are "fake". If you live here and you're Pennsylvania Dutch - you know what a fastnacht is.
Here's how I made them:
You need 2 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes. The recipe suggested putting potatoes in the microwave. I microwaved three potatoes and mashed them with a fork into 2 tablespoons of salted butter and 1 tsp of kosher salt.
I used my hand mixer to incorporate 2 cups of sugar.
and three beaten eggs (you should be able to just peel the skin off of the potatoes (I used Yukon Gold).
I know this sounds like a lot of baking powder, and it is - but it is the secret!
Slowly, add the five cups of flour - you may have to switch to hand-mixing, you don't want the dough to become tough. Get ready for some elbow grease!
Roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch thickness on a generously floured surface. Using a biscuit cutter, make desired size and pierce the middle with a sharp knife.
Fry in hot canola oil. I used my outdoor gas grill - which has a side gas burner. I don't really like my house to smell like a Fry Daddy.
Drain on paper towels.
The last step - share! This recipe makes about three dozen. I packed these up and delivered most of them before we ate them all!
We eat ours warm with powdered sugar. Some people split them in half and spread molasses over them. Still others like a glaze covering their fastnachts.
Alice Faust's Fastnacht Recipe
2 ½ cups hot mashed potatoes
1 cup milk
3 beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
5 cups flour
Mix everything together except flour. Mix flour in slowly.
Divide the dough in half. Roll ½ inch thick. Cut with a donut cutter or use a knife to cut into triangular shaped pieces. Deep fry in hot fat or oil until done. Serve with sugar or molasses.