How to Make German Fastnacht Doughnuts

German deepfried donut being cooked
David Cordner/Photodisc/Getty Images
  • 2 hrs 35 mins
  • Prep: 2 hrs 30 mins,
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield: 2 dozen (serves up to 24)
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Are you eating fastnacht on Fastnacht? It may sound like a confusing question, but it's fun and you'll have just as much fun making and eating these delicious fried doughnuts.

The name Fastnacht is Pennsylvania Dutch or German for 'fast night.' It falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday and is the last revelry before the fast of Lent. On the other hand, a fastnacht is a doughnut that is deep fried that is commonly enjoyed on (you guessed it) Fastnacht.

The fastnacht comes from German folk traditions where it was thought that eating a fastnacht before Lent would prevent boils in the coming year. It also has a practical purpose of using up the previous year's fat and sugar. In many Pennsylvania Dutch areas, the last person out of bed on that day is called fastnacht.

These delicious doughnuts are served by slicing them crosswise like a bagel before sweet molasses is spread on them. They're surprisingly easy to make, so there's really no excuse not to indulge in the tradition.

What You'll Need

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 egg (beaten)
  • 2 packages (5 teaspoons or 1/2 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 7 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose)

How to Make It

  1. In a medium saucepan, warm the milk and butter until butter has melted.
  2. In a large bowl, add salt, sugar, and nutmeg. Pour in the milk and melted butter mix. Stir and set aside until it is lukewarm.
  3. When the bowl's contents are warm, mix in beaten eggs and yeast.
  4. Add 3 cups of flour. Beat on low speed for 2 minutes and then on high speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Mix in the remaining flour by hand.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 3 minutes.
  1. Place it into a greased bowl, turn the dough over, and cover with a clean cloth. Let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
  2. Punch down and turn the dough out onto a floured board.
  3. Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch thick and cut it into squares.
  4. Cover and let rise until it is double in size.
  5. Drop the dough squares into hot fat. Turn over when golden brown on the bottom side. Remove from heat and set fastnachts on paper towels to cool.

A Few Fastnacht Tips

Traditionally, fastnachts are cut open and buttered with molasses. However, you can also top the with sweeteners or freeze them and warm them back up.

  • If you are going to freeze the fastnachts for later, allow to them to cool completely, bag and freeze.
  • To cover fastnachts in powdered sugar, sift sugar over fastnachts while they are still slightly warm.
  • To cover fastnachts in cinnamon and sugar, put 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a plastic bag. Shake one fastnacht at a time inside the bag to coat with cinnamon sugar.