A PA Dutch favorite
Chef Sue Roth, associate professor of culinary arts,
Oh, what memories of these tender pillows of potato dough! Ever since I can remember, Fasnacht Day was a big deal in Trexlertown, where I grew up. Even now the Goodwill Fire Company still recruits an army of volunteers. Last year they produced 3,500 dozen fasnachts! That’s a lot of dough.
Both my Mom and Dad volunteered for this endeavor for many years. They would walk across the street to the fire company at all hours several days before Shrove Tuesday. The day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, is when these goodies are consumed.
In German tradition, the fasnacht was made to be a substantial sweet eaten before the Lenten fast began the next day. The dough contains mashed potatoes, giving it a unique flavor. Traditionally they are fried in lard, then bagged plain in order so people enjoying them could choose their favorite topping. Maybe just plain or rolled in sugar, powdered sugar, or even dipped in molasses with every bite. Fortunately, they were either eaten immediately upon bringing them into the house or at least within several hours.
Luckily, these delicious doughnuts don’t last long, as they became heavier “with age.” Other areas of the country also partake of similar doughy goodness, such as the beignets of New Orleans eaten during Mardi Gras, also prior to the Lenten season.
I’m so glad the tradition is alive today. It’s important to continue what those before us brought to the area and shared with their families. I have made fasnachts or beignets with my classes during my years at NCC, just as I have taught my children, nieces and nephews, and yes, even students, how to make pierogis and other traditional Polish foods, so that they can carry on the tradition.
We’ll be making fasnachts in class on Tuesday, February 25, for the culinary students to enjoy. Here is the recipe we’ll be using. Maybe you’ll give them a try. If not, you might want to try to get your name on the list at the Trexlertown Fire Company, if they’re still taking orders. If not, better luck next year. Call early.
Fasnachts Recipe- makes 2-3 dozen, depending on the size you cut
2 cups milk, scalded and cooled slightly
1 cup plain mashed potatoes (no butter, salt, milk, etc.)
½ cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 package rapid rise yeast dissolved in 2 TB lukewarm water
6 ½ cups flour – divided into 2 cups and 4 ½ cups
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tsp. salt
Vegetable Oil for frying
In a bowl large enough to hold the entire recipe (or a Kitchen Aid bowl) combine the first four ingredients and mix well. Be sure the mixture is only lukewarm and then add the yeast and 2 cups of the flour to combine. Cover and let rise half an hour. Add the egg, salt and remaining flour to the mix. Knead until smooth, adding more flour if needed so it’s not sticky and can be handled easily. Grease a larger bowl and place dough in bowl, cover and let rise for 2 hours or until double in size. On a lightly floured table, roll dough out until ¾ inch thick. Cut into rounds with a hole in the center like a doughnut or cut 3 inch squares. Lay on a parchment lined tray, spaced 2 inches apart, cover lightly and let rise again until double in size.
Preheat oil until it reaches 350 degrees. Gently place in hot oil. Turn when the first side is golden brown and cook the other side. Remove from oil onto paper towels. Cool slightly and roll in sugar, powdered sugar, enjoy plain or maybe even try molasses.
Happy Fasnacht Day!!
Chef Sue Roth
Northampton Community College's Culinary Arts program prepares students for careers as chefs, bakers, restaurants managers, and more. At NCC, you will learn from professional chefs as you earn your associate degree. This program typically takes two years to complete and all of the required classes are offered at our Bethlehem campus. Our culinary arts students have the opportunity to receive practical training in a modern commercial kitchen and work in our public restaurant, the Hampton Winds, in their second six months of the program.