A & I were invited to a "Fasnacht" party this past weekend, hosted by two PA natives who have several years of experience in the art of making these treats. We're always curious about food that we've never heard of, especially when it falls in the dessert category, so there was no way we were missing this event.
We unfortunately missed the actual making of the dough, but I grilled our host on the process so I could
First you "scald" 5 cups of whole milk. I've never had to scald milk, but apparently the technique our host used involved "heating up the milk until it forms a skin." Sounds good enough for me. Next, mix in 4 cups of mashed potatoes (oh yeah, make these before you start the milk). Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 2 sticks of margarine (makes a better texture than butter), and mix thoroughly. Next comes the yeast, as with any fluffy breadlike substance. Mix three packets of yeast (I think 1 packet is standard 1/4 oz) with 1/4 cups of hot water and add this to your potato-milk mix. Then mix in 4 cups of flour. Let the whole mess rise for 30 minutes in a warmish location.
At this point, the dough will be reeeally sticky and wet. In order to get to a workable donut dough, more flour must be added. A lot more flour. Apparently 9 cups more flour. After you exhaust your flour supply (and possibly your next door neighbors supply as well), form the dough into your donut shape of choice. Our fasnachts were squareish, several inches in width. Line them up on wax paper covered pans and let them rise again (perhaps in your oven on a warming setting). Another option is to add surprise treats inside- our treats included mini Snickers and Hershey's chocolate pieces (gotta support PA). The large sized dough chunks easily wrap around your candy of choice- be creative!
The next step is actually frying the donuts. Our host & hostess used a mixture of lard and shortening- most recipes call for "hot fat." Heat it up to somewhere between 325 and 350 F (use a candy thermometer and monitor it carefully) and get ready to fry! A & I manned the kitchen for awhile- we like to get in on the cooking action. The pot that was used was very deep & stainless- there really was very little splatter factor. However, use a metal slotted spoon to keep your distance from the oil. Plop the donuts in, let them fry for a few minutes, flip them over, repeat, and... fasnacht! If this doesn't sound good to you, you're probably a Communist.
To make these even MORE delicious and disgustingly bad for you, add powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar to a brown paper bag, pop in a piping hot donut, and shake. The end result will be a perfectly coated donut- hot, fresh, and ready to go. Even though I ate a very large number of these fist sized doughy puffballs (we had to try all of the variations!), I could still totally go for one right now. Sweet but not overly so, crisp on the outside, hot and airy on the inside, a slight amount of greasiness... SO GOOD. We're already looking forward to next year!