This is my revised fastnacht recipe, a combination of the one my Mom used and recipes from a local Mennonite Church cookbook. Using rapid rise yeast cuts the preparation time considerably compared to traditional recipes, and the Fastnachts turn out extra light and fluffy!
Fastnachts are traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, the day before the start of Lent. (Fastnacht means the night before the fast.) The "proper" Pennsylvania Dutch way to eat a fastnacht is to slice it through center (asyou would a bagle) and spread with sweet molasses or table syrup. Some people spread fastnachts with butter first.
Scald the milk. In a large mixing bowl, combine the scalded milk with the mashed potatoes. Add 1/2 cup sugar plus the margerine. Mix with an electric mixer. If the mixture is still very warm, cool it to about room temperature before proceeding with next step. Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in barely warm water. Add the yeast/watert mixture to the potato mixture and mix well. Add 2 cups flour and mix again. Cover with a towel and let rise for 25 minutes.
Add the beaten egg and salt to the mixture. Add 4-1/2 cups flour. Stir the flour into mixture with a large spoon. Turn the dough onto a well floured board and knead for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add a small amount of extra flour if necessary so the dough can be handled without sticking to your fingers. Grease a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl. Cover with a towel, and let it rise in a warm, draft free place for about 2 hours or until it has at least doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to about 3/4" thick. You can use a doughnut cutter to cut the dough or cut it as typical Fastnachts, slicing the dough into 3" to 4" wide strips, then cutting the strips into 3" to 4" long pieces. To allow the center of Fastnacht to fry completely, cut a small slit in the center of each piece with a sharp paring knife. Arrange the cut pieces, about 1-1/2" to 2" apart, on large wax paper lined trays. Cover each tray with a thin towel. Place the trays in a warm place for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the dough pieces have raised to about double in size.
Heat the shortening to 365º. Deep fry the Fastnachts, until both sides are golden brown. Drain on white paper towels. Cool completely before storing in an airtight covered container. Makes about 20 to 24 Fastnachts, depending on size. This recipe can be doubled with no change in the preparation directions.
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