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Happy Fastnacht Day, 2013

Fastnacht Day is once again upon us. My daughter and I will be busy making fastnachts tomorrow morning in celebration. Since I don't have anything new to say from previous years, I'll just rework last year's entry a bit.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia CommonsDepending on where you are in the world, you may call tomorrow something else, like Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. But from where I'm from in Pennsylvania, it's called Fastnacht Day (here's a link to the not-so-thorough Wikipedia article). Traditionally, you make potato based donuts, called fastnachts, supposedly as a way to empty your larder of all the fatty, sugary foods in preparation for the Lenten fast. My elementary school even used to give out donuts with the lunches on this day. So, in celebration of Fastnacht Day, here's my family's recipe for making them:

You're supposed to wake up early to make the fastnachts on Tuesday morning (they're freshest that way), but a few times I've made them the night before, and they're still okay. They keep pretty well in a brown paper lunch bag. I also like to put a little bit of powdered sugar into a ziploc bag, and a mix of granulated sugar and cinnamon into another one, to coat the fastnachts just before eating them.

To see just how popular fastnachts are back up in Pennsylvania, go have a look at this article, Fastnacht reminder -- order yours before Tuesday, with a photo showing some of the 2800 fastnachts that a local church made, or this article, Frying fastnachts for pre-Lenten splurge, about a fire company that's making 42,000 of them for a rundraiser. Here's an article from a couple years ago, Pre-Lenten fastnachts a traditional treat, describing how bakeries in Hagerstown started baking on Sunday night to meet Tuesday's demand.

A guy I worked with from Chicago mentioned a similar tradition up there - paczkis, from the Polish immigrants. But instead of a hole in the middle like my family's fastnachts (not all fastnachts have the hole), they have a filling, usually jelly or creme. I guess lots of groups have invented traditions to allow indulgence before a 40 day fast.

Doughnut Picture from Wikimedia Commons

Update 2013-03-12: I took a few pictures while we were making the fastnachts this morning. The first is my daughter rolling out the dough to cut more fastnachts, the second is the first batch frying up in the pan, and the third is the completed fastnachts. Note that we doubled the recipe, so that's twice as much as what you'd normally get. But we all three (my wife, daughter, and I) take them in with us to work/school to share them, so the double batch still goes quick.

Alex Rolling Out the Fastnacht Dough Frying the Fastnachts The Completed Fastnachts - Two Batches Worth

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