NANTICOKE, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES - 2022/03/01: A baker powders fastnacht to be sold for Fat Tuesday.
Fat Tuesday is celebrated by eating Fastnacht and Paczki. Sanitary Bakery in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, experiences long lines of customers to buy their treats. At noon the bakery was almost sold out of donuts. (Photo by Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Food - Drink
The German Pastries That Hold A Sacred Place In Pennsylvania Cuisine
What Are Fasnachts
Fasnachts, German for “night before the fast,” are a pastry of German origin that is primarily eaten in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The pastry is essentially a less-sweet donut, without the hole in the center, and it is typically eaten the night before Lent begins, hence the name.
Although German in origin, fasnachts are popular in Pennsylvania thanks to the influx of German immigrants into the area in the 19th century. While the traditional German recipe calls for flour, butter, and sugar, the Pennsylvania version swaps in a classic American crop for its starch base: the potato.
How They’re Made
Fasnachts are made with yeast, mashed potatoes, and lard for frying. The potatoes are first boiled and mashed, then mixed with sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and the bloomed yeast before being left to rise slowly overnight or for 8 hours. Once risen, the dough is fried in lard or oil heated between 400 to 425 degrees.
How to Serve Fasnachts
A classic way to eat fasnachts is to cut them horizontally and slather them with butter and maple syrup, which most closely resembles the way the first German immigrants enjoyed their fasnachts with molasses. Otherwise, you can top yours with sugar, cinnamon, or colorful sprinkles as soon as they’re finished frying.