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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fastnacht Kuecheles


This is a recipe I received from one of my sisters, who received it from our mother, who learned it from our grandmother, who undoubtedly learned it from her mother, and so on. I can still vividly recall the image of my mother's dough rising in a ceramic bowl covered in a towel on the radiator in our kitchen, and the yeasty aroma of rising sweet dough permeating the air (they are also tossed in powdered sugar just before you eat them...as these were later). It is a type of fried doughnut very similar to the French Beignet (but most nationalities have a version of this, I assume), and it's traditionally eaten on this day each year, fastnacht (fast night), or the night before the beginning of Lent. Iy's a day when Christians are supposed to use of all the fats and other rich foods in the house to prepare themselves to live lean and turn inward for the next 40 days. This is also why in some areas of the world this day is called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) or Carnival (loosely, farewell to flesh); in English it's of course a little more reserved (some may say boring) as Shrove Tuesday. These are simple to make and are a treat any time of the year, but not if you are trying to live lean, literally or metaphorically. To see previous posts and an article I wrote (with additional recipes), click here, here, or here.

Fastnacht Kuecheles
Makes about 3 dozen
1 cup water (room temperature)
1 cup milk (room temperature)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons yeast
6-7 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar

Combine the water, milk, sugar, yeast, and two cups of flour in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 1 hour, or until the yeast is fully active. Transfer to an upright mixing bowl with a dough hook. Add the eggs, melted butter, salt, and 4 cups of flour. Run the mixer on low for 1 minute (if the dough seems too sticky add the remaining cup flour) then turn to medium and knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rest at room temperature for about an hour, or until double in size. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and cut into three pieces. Shape into balls, cover, and let rest 20 minutes. Roll into large circles about 1/4 inch thick, then cut the dough into diamonds 2-4 inches wide. Cover the diamonds with a cloth and let rest 10 minutes. Preheat a couple inches of vegetable oil to 350F in a heavy skillet. Carefully fry the fastnachts in batches, cooking them for a couple minutes on each side until they are puffed and golden-brown; drain on absorbent paper. Allow them to cool for a few minutes, then toss a few at a time in a paper bag with confectionery sugar.

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