Catholic Recipe: Fastnachts
Also Called: Doughnuts
The Lenten season once began with Septuagesima, two weeks before Lent. It now begins at midnight of Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday). So this entire day, before the stroke of midnight, is one of merrymaking, feasting, parades, and carnivals — a last fling before Ash Wednesday ushers in the penitential season of Lent.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, gets its name in this fashion: In bygone days, not only meat but fats, milk, eggs, and cheese were prohibited during Lent. Thrifty housewives didn't want good food to go to waste, so they cooked up a storm of rich, luscious dishes, using up all the foods that would be unavailable to them during the coming weeks. Thus Shrove Tuesday's fare was a fine, unforgettable feast.
In Germany, these rich doughnuts, fried in deep fat and called Fastnachts, were favorites for pre-Lent festivities.
Heat milk in medium saucepan just until bubbles form around edge of pan. Add molasses, salt, and butter or margarine, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat; let cool to lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over warm water; stir until dissolved. Add milk mixture, egg, and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth and light — 2 minutes medium speed on electric mixer. With wooden spoon, beat in 2-1/4 cups flour. Dough will be soft. Cover with damp towel. Let rise in warm place (85°) free from drafts, until double in bulk — about 1 hour. Punch down dough. If dough seems too soft to handle, work in additional 1/4 cup flour. Turn out on well floured pastry cloth, rolling over to coat lightly with flour. Knead 10 times to make a smooth dough. Cover with mixing bowl; let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 3-inch doughnut cutter. Press remaining dough into ball. Reroll; cut. With wide spatula, transfer cut doughnuts to top edge of pastry cloth. Cover with towel; let rise until double in bulk — 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil (1-1/2 to 2 inches deep) to 375°. Gently drop doughnuts, 3 or 4 at a time, and "holes" into hot oil. As they rise to surface, turn over with slotted spoon. Fry until golden on both sides — about 3 minutes in all. With slotted spoon lift doughnuts from oil; drain slightly. Drain well on paper towels. Roll in sugar. Makes about 2 dozen.Recipe Source: Cook's Blessings, The by Demetria Taylor, Random House, New York, 1965