by Eric Wharton
My Recipe Book, constantly being added to
Although I am proud of my Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, it makes me wonder how some cultures came about celebrating the day by throwing beads at girls who flash their bare chests and we ended up stuffing ourselves with fastnachts.
— Coon Duke
I use the term "donut" rather loosely because Fastnachts are similar but not your Dunkin Donut kind of donut. They are made in Pennsylvania Dutch country on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Fastnacht is a German word meaning “night before the fast.”
These baked goods were originally created to use up the lard, sugar, butter, eggs and other perishable foods before Lent began—the season of fasting, abstinence, and penitence in the Christian faith. It’s one of those foods you can’t ignore. At one time they were available for only a few days every year.
Pennsylvania Dutch farm families were frugal. Many of their foods were created to use up every bit of food, although recipes for them vary. Some fastnachts are square or diamond-shaped, while others are round. Some are made with yeast or baking soda. Others call for mashed potatoes or potato flour. Traditionally they are all deep-fried in lard.
This, a recipe from my mother's Pennsylvania Dutch recipe file, which calls for them to be made with baking soda. I do, however, forgo the lard in favor of vegetable oil.
11/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
—flour (enough to make a soft dough)
Roll out—not to thin—and cut into squares. Make large slit in each square and fry in deep pan.
NOTE: These directions come directly from my mother's recipe. Sorry about the terse nature of the directions. They were frugal in words as well.
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