“There are angels in my mouth” said my son’s teacher after she bit into her first bite of this fastnacht. This fastnachts donut recipe Pennsylvania Dutch is an old family recipe. These German doughnuts fasnacht (although spelled different ways) are dense, fried doughnuts that are made with yeast and potatoes. They’re down right delicious! This is the fastnacht recipe you’ve been searching for!
They’re traditionally made for Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Lent starts. Before you run out and buy yeast, you need to know that this recipe needs to be started the night before so it can rise for 8 hours. So, read the instructions and tips carefully BEFORE you start! There are three rises in this recipe but, don’t fear, it’s still an easy recipe with step-by-step instructions and photos for beginners!
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I’m excited to share this authentic Pennsylvania Dutch recipe with you and share tips to make them come out perfect the first time like mine did!
This fastnacht recipe is my mother-in-law’s recipe. She is no stranger to Pennsylvania Dutch cooking as she’s from German decent and has been making these from-scratch fastnachts for many years. Her children wait anxiously for these donuts. She’s even harassed by her sons, but one in particular, not mentioning any names here.. Stephen Schweitzer!
I sent these donuts in with my kids to give to their teachers and both teachers wrote me telling me they loved them! I’m sure you’re going to love them too.
WARNING: DON’T EAT TOO MANY FASTNACHTS!
They lie a bit heavy in your stomach so, cut yourself off after 4 and please eat a low-carb dinner that night. Here are some low-carb recipes to ideas.
This recipe isn’t hard but, you need to be aware of some things that can botch the recipe. I have photos to reference so that won’t happen to your recipe! Mine turned out great the first time. If you’ve ever made bread, you’ll find this recipe easy.
Tips for making perfect Fastnachts:
- Use fresh yeast, not expired or opened jar and older than 3 months. If you’re aren’t sure, proof the yeast first. If your yeast doesn’t foam (as shown below) after 5 minutes of sitting in with water that’s 110F-120F and some sugar, it’s not going to rise and it’ll botch your recipe. You don’t want to find out later after you’ve wasted all of the ingredients.
- Use a thermometer to get an accurate temperature of the water that’ll be used with yeast. If the water isn’t hot enough the yeast won’t activate. If the water is too hot, it’ll kill the yeast. Therefore, you need the right temperature. Don’t botch your recipe by using the wrong temperature water.
- Make sure your oil is 400F-425F. If’s it’s under, the donuts won’t cook properly. If’s it’s over 425F, they’ll burn on the outside and not cook on the inside. When you drop the donut into the hot oil, the donut should immediately start to fry and sizzle in the oil like bacon.
- Change oil midway through frying. It will turn brown and that indicates it needs to be discarded and new oil added.
What is the donut for Fat Tuesday?
Fastnachts are the traditional donuts used to celebrate Fat Tuesday. However, Dunkin Donuts and many family-owned doughnut shops don’t make fastnachts but, like to promote any donuts for Fat Tuesday. They’ll market it as “doughnut day” but, fastnachts are the authentic donuts made for Fat Tusesday. Now, I’m not telling you to forgo a delicious Boston Cream doughnut (my favorite) on Fat Tuesday. You do what you gotta do.
What is a faschnaut?
Faschnauts are spelled a few different ways. I’ve covered some of them in this post so Google knows exactly the topic of this post. LOL That’s blogging talk. Faschnauts are a yeast raised doughnut containing potatoes that are cooked, mashed and mixed with other ingredients: flour, butter, sugar, eggs, yeast, starchy water, and salt and then fried and topped with sugar.
What is the difference between a donut and a fasnacht?
Doughnuts are not typically made with potatoes. Therefore, traditional doughnuts are more light and airy. Fasnachts are dense due to the potatoes and are made with yeast. Fastnacht means “fast night” and back in the day, were a fast way for people to use up some ingredients that were forbidden to use during Lent.
Fastnachts are not only popular in the German heritage, they’re also popular in Poland. My Polish friends also indulge in similar fastnacht donuts the days leading up to Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday.) My friend Maggie loved them and said they remind her of her grandmother’s donuts (in Poland) without the plum preserves. Keeping old traditions are a great way to celebrate your cultural heritage or just eat delicious donuts one day a year!
You may also be interested in this Skillet Irish Soda Bread recipe that doesn’t require yeast.
Pennsylvania Dutch Fastnachts Donut Recipe
- 1 potato medium sized
- 4 lbs flour may need up to 5 lbs
- 8 oz butter softened
- 4 cups starchy water use water from
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2/ 1/4 cups sugar, divided
- .75 tsp fast rising yeast ensure it's not expired or older than 3 months.
- 30 oz corn oil, vegetable oil or shortening
- First, peel potato and cut it into cubes. Boil it until soft. Save the starchy water. Mash potato cubes and measure out one cup.
- Measure the starchy water and add more water until you have 4 cups.
- Proof yeast if you think it is old or wasn't stored properly.
- Then, in a very large bowl (3 gallons or so because it'll rise in this bowl overnight) add two cups of sugar, mashed potatoes, very warm starchy water (temperature should be 110-120F for yeast to rise) and yeast. This is very warm/hot water. It's best to use a thermometer. Stir.
- Check back in a few minutes. You should start to see some foam which means the yeast is working. If there is no foam at all, the yeast could be dead and you should get a new packet. Let it sit for 1 hour. It's o.k. if it sits longer (up to three hours.)
- Add in the butter, eggs, salt, and two cups of flour at a time. Use a mixer or stand mixer with a dough hook. Add enough flour until it's only slightly sticky when you touch the dough. It should spring back a little when you touch it. Place the dough in a 3 gallon or so bowl covered with a clean dish towel to rise overnight.
- This is what the dough looks like after it sits overnight. It will have doubled in size and fill the container.
- Line 5 sheet pans with wax paper.
- Add flour to counter and pull out a handful at a time to roll onto floured surface. Roll out long pieces as shown. Then, pull apart the size donut you want to make. Knead it in your hands and push a hole through the middle. Add it to the sheet pan lined with wax paper.
- After you've rolled out all of the donuts. Let them sit for one hour for the third rise.
- Add oil to a frying pan and turn the fan on high. The oil temperature should reach 400-425F. Line a platter with paper towels to place cooked donuts upon.
- Carefully place the donuts in the hot oil and cook on each side for 2-4 minutes. When you see the bottom edge of donut is brown, it's time to flip it. As soon as you remove each donut, sprinkle sugar on top while the donut oil is still wet so the sugar adheres to it a little better or you can just remove all of the donuts and sprinkle with sugar all at once.
- Change oil midway through frying the donuts. The oil will get brown. Pour it into a glass container (plastic will melt with hot oil) that you can discard. Put new oil in the frying pan or fryer and continue with previous step.
Storage:Store leftovers in a plastic zipper bag or air tight container for up to three days. Donuts are freshest the day they're made. These donuts will get more dense after the first day. Sprinkle with granulated sugar or powdered sugar. Spread with your favorite preserves, if you wish. NOTE: I discarded 8 oz of oil after making these donuts. Therefore, the nutritional information doesn't take this into account. So, I'm happy to say the calorie and fat counts in this nutritional label are lower than reported but, it's too hard to get an accurate count.