Today feels a little strange.  It's the first time in 5 years that I won't be eating a Fastnacht on Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras.

It's customary in some places, including Central Pennsylvania where I just moved here from to celebrate Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday by eating Fastnachts.  And no, they're not as horrible as they sound.  As a matter of fact, a Fastnacht is a donuts!

Fastnacht is an English name for a fried donut served on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent starts. Back in the day, Fastnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent.

The Pennsylvania Dutch in the areas surrounding Lancaster Pennsylvania (where I last lived) celebrate Fastnacht as well. The word Fastnacht originates from the German words Fast (verb: fasten, meaning fast, verb: to fast), and Nacht, meaning night, eve, indicating the eve of the traditional Lenten fasting period observed by many Christian denominations. It is the equivalent celebration to Mardi Gras.

Interested in making your own Fastnacht?  My friend Judy has a delicious recipe:

Old fashion Amish Fastnachts

  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1 cup mashed potato (plain nothing added)
  3. 1/2 cup shortening
  4. 3 eggs
  5. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 1/4 tsp nutmeg (if desired)
  8. 2 packs yeast
  9. 1 cup warm water (use the water from making the potatoes!)
  10. 5 cups flour

Beat mashed potato with sugar, add shortening  and beat . Add eggs, salt & vanilla. Dissolve yeast in warm, potato water then beat into potato mixture. Beat in about 3 cups of flour, that you stirred nutmeg in (if using). Dump out onto flour surface & need in the rest of flour until dough is no longer sticky. You might need more or less flour at this stage. You want the dough to no longer be sticky, play it by ear. Put in bowl, cover with cloth & let rise until doubled.  Once doubled roll out dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut into rectangles lay out on flat surface covered in wax paper. Let rise until almost doubled in size & puffy. Fry in shortening 350 - 375 degrees that is 4 inches deep. Turn doughnut over once to brown on both sides. Once brown remove from fryer & drain onto paper towels. Once cool dredge doughnut in powdered sugar. Store in air tight container. Makes 3 dozen.