Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a doughy day of Dutchy fastnachts

Although I am not the type to give up one thing or another for Lent (not a celebrator here, sorry), I am guilty of jumping at any opportunity that will allow me to guiltily fulfill my closeted sweet tooth, or furthermore, my need to scandalously scarf anything that's remotely bad for me.

Enter: Fat Tuesday!

Born in the common land of apple butter barrels, pickled chow-chow jars and hogmaw feasts, such a fattening day only means one thing: an incredible chowdown of the Pennsylvania Deitsch's finest potato doughnut, the fastnacht.

Like any other individual within my sacred ancestry, the recipe for the favored fried dough comes passed from generation-to-generation, each adding a little more sugar or spice to make it just a tad bit more nice. Last from my grandmother, Naomi Strauss, who was keen in teaching me the precise measures in the art of doughnut shaping and hole-punching -- all with a promise to enjoy as many sugary pieces as I'd like.

Now, with a wish to carry on her hardy baking task that's in serious need of continuing, I tackled the six-dozen, two-day recipe that overall, left me covered from head-to-toe in floury dough. But more importantly, showcased that I may be able to someday slip into her tiny shoes.

Naomi's Fastnachts
Makes 6 dozen
  • 2 yeast packets
  • 1 cup mash potatoes
  • 3 cup potato water
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 lbs. flour
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
The evening before, begin to prepare the dough, which must rise overnight. First, activate the yeast packets in a cup of warm water with a spoonful of sugar. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl omitting four pounds of the flour (using only 4 cups), which will be used later. Add the yeast water to the liquid mixture and let set for an hour. Slowly, add the remaining four pounds of flour to the mixture until the dough stiffens and is shaped into a large ball. Cover; allow dough to sit overnight.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 3/4"-1" thick. Use a doughnut cutter to cut the dough or cut as typical Fastnachts (square-shaped). To allow the center of Fastnacht to fry completely, cut a small slit in the center of each piece, or use a thimble to punch holes. Allow shaped doughnuts to sit for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough pieces have raised to about double in size.
Heat oil to 300 degrees. Fry each doughnut for one to one-and-a-half minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Serve doughnuts plain or shaken in a nice coating of confectioner's sugar and a dash of cinnamon. But, from a fatherly perspective, my dad twists open the vault to reveal the proper way to down these fried Tuesday pleasures: slice crosswise, butter each slice and drizzle with some marvelous molasses.