Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fastnacht Day!

It's Fastnacht Day! Or Shrove Tuesday...or Carnival...or Mardi Gras. Take your pick. Last year I shared the Pennsylvania German fastnacht tradition for Shrove Tuesday. I'll be making them again today, and listening to my Trinidad steel pan music at the same time. Since both Diana and Calypso have spent time in New Orleans I suspect there may be some beads and masks tossed around this house as well. Who knows, maybe even a flash or two.

That's Grammy up there making donuts. No fancy donut cutters for Grammy. She used a glass and a thimble to cut them. She made fastnachts too. The main difference between donuts and fastnachts is fastnachts don't have a hole in them and are made with mashed potatoes in the dough. If you want to be a real purist they are also supposed to be fried in lard. One year I decided to be a purist. Frying dozens and dozens of fastnachts in lard was disgusting. My face felt like it was coated in lard and for days all I could smell was lard. I think it permeated my nostrils far too deeply. It was so gross I couldn't even bring myself to even enjoy eating the fastnachts. It was utterly revolting. I get nauseated thinking about it now. That mistake will not be repeated...back to peanut oil for me. Forgive me, Grammy.

I'm sure she will. Grammy was pretty relaxed. Allow me to share a donut related example. She used to fry donuts to sell. For years her oft-repeated line to a customer was, "Bring back the holes and I will give you a free dozen." One day a boy came to buy a sack of donuts. As she handed over the bag she delivered the standard jest with a wink. The next day he came back with the greasy paper bag containing a dozen bits of donut that had been carefully eaten leaving only a tiny ring around the hole. Now some people would have been disgusted and others would have been indignant but this was Grammy. She howled with laughter that the joke was on her. She very happily made good as she counted out a free dozen for the lad. She did have to stop using her favorite line though.

So now I suppose you want the recipe. Well, the sad thing is this is one recipe that was never written down in any real form at all so over the years I have tried all sorts of different recipes. I have one other cousin who has tried many different combinations and permutations as well and she's not sharing. I'm clearly more generous than she is because I'll at least give you the recipe I plan to attempt today. *Sticking out my tongue in her general direction*

1 C. warm mashed potatoes
3 egg yolks
1 C. sugar
1 yeast cake or one envelope dry yeast dissolved in
1 C. warm water
1 C. flour

-Mix well in large bowl. Add 3 egg whites beaten stiff. Let rise 3 hours.

1 C. butter
1. cup warm potato water (left from cooking potatoes)
1 C. sugar
6-7 C. flour

-Knead well. Let rise 6-6 1/2 hours. Roll out dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut and let rise again for a short time. Fry in hot oil.

I've got no commentary on the finer points of executing this recipe since it's one I haven't tried before. Given that crazy rise time though I will start the dough Monday night so it rises while I sleep. My nod to being a "purist" will be getting up to make them well before the buttcrack of dawn. I must be out of my mind. Hey! You didn't have to be so eager to agree with me!

I'm setting this thing for autopost so by the time you read this I should be in "the fastnacht zone." Either that or in a dough induced coma from over indulgence...or possibly in the nuthouse cursing this recipe while I careen off the padded walls.

Happy Fastnacht Day!

UPDATE (6:00 am): I actually hauled myself out of bed at 4am to begin the rolling, cutting, frying process. everything was done by 5:30 am and mostly cleaned up. The results of this recipe were mixed. The dough took way more than 7 cups of flour in order to be even remotely kneadable. It rose nicely and I kept the oil at a constant temp but some of the fastnachts didn't cook all the way through. Grrr.... Is it my incompetence at such and unreasonable hour (or just in general)? Is it the recipe? I dunno. The ones that cooked through were yummy. I think I may just need to give up on traditional "holeless" fastnachts and just cut holes in them all the time so they definitely cook through. Ok, I'm off to hustle the limelets who will no doubt move through the fastnachts like a swarm of locusts.


Anonymous said...

The "fired in lard" part kind of killed it for me! I'm sticking with pancakes.

(I love that photo, though.)

Cocotte said...

I have never heard of these "fastnachts" you speak of. I've only made doughnuts or apple fritters a half dozen times and used vegetable oil. They tasted normal that way to me. Happy frying to you!

Jazz said...

Getting out of bed at 4 am to fry stuff? Kudos to you Lime!

Desmond Jones said...

You know, around these parts, many of the donut shops sell 'donut holes' - they take the 'thimble' portion that gets cut out of the middle, and fry those up, and sell 'em by the box.

And, at least in our part of Michigan, there is a sizable Polish population, and the Great Fat Tuesday Tradition is paczki's (pronounced 'punch-key'; the vowel in the first syllable is like the one in 'push'), which are a kind of jelly-donut, typically filled with fruit, and covered with powdered sugar. The purists will tell you that they should be filled with prunes or apricots, but we also get cherry, raspberry, lemon creme, or custard. This year, we bought our paczkis at an Italian bakery (I know - Polish pastries at an Italian bakery?), that had some delicious ricotta-filled ones. And of course 'canonical' paczkis are also fried in lard. The 'traditional' idea being that you were clearing out all the 'fat' stuff from your cupboards before the Lenten fast, so paczkis were a convenient way to use up what lard you had left.

But I agree with you - even just eating the lard-fried things leaves me feeling sorta 'waxy' for a couple days afterward. I can't even imagine what it would be like to cook the things, and have the residue all over you. . .

And your limelets have got nothin' on my crew for inhaling mass quantities of food-substances in a short time interval. . .

Ella said...

i can't think of a time EVER that i'd rise from a warm cozy bed to cook/bake/fry ANYTHING. i will now assume you've officially lost.your.mind.

S said...

OMG I would have just made the darn things for an after school snack!
You oughta make a cookbook, Lime!

Im back.


truckdriver_sefl said...

What a great post!! Now Lime I am very hungry!!

Jill said...

Mmmmm, donuts. I can't think of anything else that would get me out of bed voluntarily at 4am.

Jeni said...

I tried making the "Fried dough" by cheating and using frozen bread dough, a method suggested to me by a Slovak friend who learned I love the fried dough so much. They were okay but not nearly as tasty as the ones made from scratch by a neighbor lady when I was a kid! As much as I love donuts, this day should be my favorite day of the whole year.
Tonight though, my family and I will be having pancakes and sausage at the traditional Shrove Tuesday supper the men of our church have. It's great in that we know we can take both the little ones there and they will eat the pancakes like there is no tomorrow -no fuss at all from them -or their mother and me either!

Cheesy said...

Oh man I haven't had those since I left Jersey1 Thanks for the flashback!

Cooper said...

could be the type/brand of flour...some have higher gluten content and can make a very sticky mess...

Suldog said...

I wish I had some here now. I would eat them, quickly.

Anonymous said...

fascinating! :) Happy Fat Tuesday!!! :D

Hilary said...

I'm not a big fan of most any deep-fried foods so that doesnt' grab me too much, but oh how I think I'd have loved your Grammy. She sound like a sweetheart. :)

Lulda Casadaga said...

Love the photo and I'm sure I would have loved your Grammy too...my Babci (Polish grammy)would make the paczki's and we would help. She filled hers with prune and also maraschino cherrys.
I enjoyed the cherry ones.
I remember she had a huge wooden board that she would set the paczki's on and powder away...she didn't have a big kitchen so she would lay the board on her bed...Donuts in Bed anyone! :D
Great traditions...not carried out by me I'm afraid. :(
You go girl with your fastnacht self! LOL

cathy said...

Thee only time I fry anything at
4am is when I haven't been to bed yet and I've got the munchies,lol!
Bon appetite limeletts:)

G-Man said...

Don't be such a lily about lard!!

Spanish Princess said...

Oh, yummy! I agree about the lard though, the thought is a bit revolting!

RennyBA said...

Very interesting read (you know I love traditions and history). In Norway we call it Fastelavn - some traditions are similar, some are not.