Today is a day I will always know as Fasnacht Day! And how do I celebrate it? With deep fried, Pennsylvania Dutch Fasnacht Doughnuts, of course! These delicious fasnacht doughnuts are deep fried to a golden brown and covered with sugar, cinnamon sugar, and powdered sugar. To be a little fancier, I even filled some of them with this perfect vanilla pastry cream!
when is fasnacht day?
Fasnacht Day (or Fastnacht Day), also known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch celebration which is held the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
what does the word fasnacht mean?
The word fasnacht or fastnacht is a German word meaning "night before fast." Tradition shows us that on this day Pennsylvania Dutch households make as many recipes to use up all the sugar and fat (such as lard ) in the house before Lent and fasting begins. More commonly now, you'll see people give up one tempting food item during Lent.
what is a fastnacht and how are they typically made?
A fasnacht is a square or triangluar-shaped, somewhat heavier doughnut that do not have holes in the center. Fasnachts are traditionally deep-fried in lard, then sliced open and eaten with butter and molasses or syrup.
There are many different fasnacht doughnut recipes out there and they're made into many shapes besides the traditional kind. Some are made using yeast, potatoes, or baking powder, and are shaped round, square, or as donut holes (like my neighbor down the street used to make them).
You can make fasnachts plain, glazed, or covered in powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar or regular sugar. The possibilities are pretty much endless! One thing is for certain, they are a very big deal around here and for good reason—they taste incredible!
about this recipe
For this recipe, I made the fasnachts using active dry yeast and cut them out with a circle cutter with no center hole. Then I covered them in sugar, cinnamon sugar, and powdered sugar. I also filled half of the fasnacht doughnuts with a vanilla pastry cream.
The parts of this doughnut recipe that come together quickly are making the dough and frying them. The parts where it takes a little more time is when you're waiting for the dough to rise. The first rise takes 1 - 1.5 hours. The second rise time (after you've cut the shapes out) takes about an hour. Give yourself some extra time as well to coat them in the different sugars, as well as, filling them with the vanilla pastry cream.
helpful tips and tools for making the perfect fasnacht doughnuts
- There are several fasnacht (or fastnacht) doughnut recipes out there, and just about all of them call for scalded, then cooled milk. I recommend doing this step before you start anything else so you can give the milk time to cool.
- If you've never scalded milk before, you'll want to bring it to almost a near boil, then allow it to cool. The purpose of scalding the milk is to help make any of your recipes with yeast fluffier.
- If you're planning to add the vanilla pastry cream to the inside of some of the doughnuts, I used a butter knife to make the hole. I inserted the knife and gently turned it back and forth a little to create the opening.
- I used a 2.5" circle cutter from this Ateco circle cutter set which gave me about 32 fasnacht doughnuts.
- If you have a different size circle cutter or one of these standard donut cutters they will work just as well. If you don't have any circle or donut cutter, using the top of a drinking glass will do in a pinch!
- For coating the doughnuts with the different sugars, with the exception of the powdered sugar, I used big ziplock bags. I placed 2-3 donuts in the bag and tossed them around until covered.
- For the powdered sugar, I used a sifter and sifted the sugar over top of the doughnuts while on a plate.
- For filling the fasnacht doughnuts, I used a large piping bag and a 1M piping tip. You can choose to use a smaller tip if you'd like!
Essential Fasnacht Doughnut Making Tools
To see more helpful tips and what recommended tools you can use for making homemade fasnacht doughnuts (or donuts), check out my Easy Homemade Donuts from Scratch recipe!
Pennsylvania Dutch Fasnacht DoughnutsAuthor:
- Circle or donut cutter
- Candy or deep fryer thermometer
- Deep fryer, large stock pot, or deep skillet
- Paper Towels
- Cooling Rack
- Tongs or slotted spoon
Pennsylvania dutch fasnacht doughnuts
- 2 cups Milk, scalded and then cooled
- 4 ½ tsp 2 packages Active Dry Yeast
- ½ cup Warm Water
- ¼ cup Unsalted Butter, melted
- 2 tsp Salt
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ tsp Nutmeg
- 2 Large Eggs
- 7 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
- 3-4 cups Canola Oil, for frying the Fasnachts
- Additional Sugars for Coating the Fasnachts - Granulated Sugar, Powdered Sugar, Cinnamon Sugar)
vanilla pastry cream (for doughnut filling, optional)
- 3.4 oz Vanilla Pie Filling and Pudding Mix (1 box)
- 1 cup Milk
- ½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream
pennsylvania dutch fasnacht doughnuts
- Using a small saucepan, scald the milk and allow to cool.
- Combine the 2 packets of active dry yeast and the warm water in the mixing bowl of the stand mixer that's fitted with the dough hook attachment. Let the yeast proof (or sit) for 10 minutes.
- Add in the melted butter, cooled milk, salt, sugar, nutmeg, and eggs. Then set the mixer speed to low and add in the flour one cup at a time, until the dough begins to form. There will be a lot of dough and it will be sticky, but it should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily. If you find that the dough is just way too sticky, you can add 1 tbsp. of flour until the dough is slightly tacky.
- Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead it for about 5-8 minutes until smooth.
- Then place in a lightly greased, medium size bowl, flipping it over once to coat the entire ball of dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (do NOT use aluminum foil) and also place a clean, dry kitchen towel over top, and place in a warm, draft free spot for about 1 - 1.5 hours or until it's almost doubled in size. That last part is very important!
- Gently punch the dough down in the center, then turn it out on to a clean and lightly floured surface and, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about a ½" thickness. Coat your circle cutter (mine was 2.5" dia in size) with some flour and then cut out the fasnacht doughnuts, placing them onto a parchment lined baking sheet (space them out about 1" a part, they will get bigger). With any leftover dough you may have, you can roll some into balls to make donut holes.
- Cover the fasnacht doughnuts with a clean tea or dish towel and allow to rest for 1 hour or until they've almost doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with about 2-3 layers of paper towels with a cooling rack placed over top. Set aside. Note, the cooling rack part is optional.
- When ready to fry the fasnacht doughnuts, place the canola oil into a deep heavy skillet or stock pot and heat until it reaches 365ºF. Two important notes here: 1. Add in the oil BEFORE you turn on the heat to heat up the oil. 2. Do not guess at what you think the temperature might be — use a candy/deep fryer thermometer.
- Place 2-3 doughnuts in at a time for approx. 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, turning them over with either tongs or a slotted spoon. You want the donuts to be a nice medium golden brown in color. At the correct temperature, they will fry quickly, so please pay attention while you're doing this part! If you're new to making homemade doughnuts, I would recommend only frying one at a time until you get the hang of it.
- When the doughnuts are ready, carefully remove them from the oil and place them onto the cooling rack or paper towels to let any excess oil drain off of it. Allow them to cool slightly before adding the opening for the filling (optional).
- When doughnuts are still warm and ready for coating, place 2-3 in a large ziplock bag with either the sugar or cinnamon sugar, and toss around until covered. Place them onto a parchment lined baking sheet or just begin to eat them.
- The doughnuts should be cooled before adding the vanilla pastry cream filling.
vanilla pastry cream (for doughnut filling, optional step)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the vanilla pudding mix and milk until it thickens.
- Using your hand-mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream on high speed for several minutes until medium peaks form.
- Fold the whipped cream into the vanilla pudding mix with a spatula until completely blended.
- Take a large piping bag fitted with a piping tip of your choice (I used the Wilton 1M tip) and fill with the vanilla pastry cream. Pipe into the doughnuts until filled.
- Equipment items listed above are recommendations only. Use what items you have available to you or what you've used before that works well.
- If you don't have any cinnamon sugar on hand, it's very easy to make! Check out my Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe for some pointers!