What is Fastnacht Day? What is a Fastnacht anyway? These are common questions for those unfamiliar with this PA Dutch custom. Fastnacht has its origins in German-speaking regions of Europe and refers to the leadup to the season of Lent. Because Lent is a penitential season and is associated with giving up foods such as fat and sugar, folks would use up the last of these items in their pantry to make delicious donuts that in PA Dutch parts of Pennsylvania are known as "Fastnachts."
What is the difference between a donut and a fastnacht? The main difference is in the ingredients used. Fastnachts use potato flakes or potato flour in the dough. They often (but not always) incorporate lard or are fried in lard. The potato flakes and yeast create a denser, more moist dough. Unlike donuts, fastnachts typically don't have a hole. Instead, they are circular, triangular, or square in shape. They are often glazed or covered in cinnamon sugar.
In PA Dutch country (primarily Lancaster and Berks counties), Fastnacht Day is the last Tuesday before the start of Lent. For many folks it means putting in an order of fastnachts for friends, family, and coworkers. Here at Stoltzfus Meats we sell Amish-made fastnachts from a bakery down the street. They taste amazing, and it feels like penitential suffering to have Fastnacht Dat only come once a year! If you missed celebrating Fastnacht Day or don't live near a bakery that makes fastnachts, you can always make your own. Just follow this simple recipe:
What you'll need for this recipe:
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 package yeast
- ½ cup lard
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 well-beaten eggs
- 2 tsp ground nutmeg
- Approximately 7 cups flour
- Put milk in a saucepan, and scald by heating it to 180 degrees F and then cool down to about 110 degrees F. (Milk should not boil).
- Add mashed potatoes, sugar, salt, and lard to scalded milk. Let cool until lukewarm, then add eggs and nutmeg.
- Add yeast and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead well and place in a greased bowl. Cover with a cloth and let rise for about 1 ½ hours.
- Roll out about ¼ inch thick on a floured board. Cut with a doughnut cutter or into squares.
- Place on a cloth and let rise until doubled in size; then fry in hot fat until lightly browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve warm with molasses, syrup, or honey, or sprinkled with sugar.
Note: Leftover fastnachts can be made fresh again by placing them in a brown paper bag and warming in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.
As always, if you make this recipe, we would love to hear about it. Please let us know in the comments or be sure to tag us on social media.