Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shrove Tuesday

Today is Shrove Tuesday or better known as Pancake Day.  It's also Mardi Gras for those in New Orleans.  Traditionally it's the last day to get all the 'forbidden' food out of the house before the fasting of Lent starts.  The festivities with Mardi Gras also lets folks burn off high spirits before the contemplation and soul searching of Lent.

As you can see from my menu plan, we don't 'keep ' Lent.  Neither side of the family (the Anglican/Lutheran or the United/Baptist) ever kept Lent.  I'm not sure it would work with the family at this stage in our life.  I know my friend Magdalena and her husband keep a fairly strict Lent.  Colin works so hard that he wouldn't be able to function if I took away meat.  Ella eats such a limited variety of foods right now, I wouldn't be afraid for her health if I took away dairy -the one thing I can count on her eating.   In the past I've tried giving up Coke or chocolate, but usually fail miserably.   On top of it all, I'm not sure Colin would approve at all.  His family is United through and through and fasting isn't a part of that tradition.

Pancakes help use up dairy, eggs and fats that wouldn't last until Lent was over.  Fastnachts are another delicious way to use up these food stuffs.  Fastnachts are German potato doughnuts.  Unlike a lot of doughnut recipes, these doughnuts stay nice and fresh for days after frying.  They also freeze well, which is what we usually do with them.   I usually make doughnut holes.  They are just the right size for Ella and I and Daddy can eat a few at a time without having too much.  They take just a few seconds to 'nuke' in the microwave (from frozen) and are delicious slightly warm.

1 T yeast

1 c lump-free mashed potatoes (I often use potato flakes)
1 c sugar                                         1 1/2 c warm water (potato water is best)
1 c flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Mix in other ingredients.  Let rise in a warm place for several hours.

Then add:
1 c sugar                                                 1 c warm milk
3/4 c butter, melted                          3 eggs
1 t salt                                                     5 cups flour

Add this to the starter.  Mix well, adding enough flour to make a fairly stiff dough.  Let rise double.
Roll out about 1/2 inch thick and cut to desired shape.  Don't make them too big or it's too hard to get the dough cooked through.  Let the fastnachts rise again.

Heat at least 3 inches of oil (or use deep fryer) to 375F (use a deep-frying thermometer).  Carefully put fastnachts into the oil, be very gentle or the oil will splash.  Don't over crowd your pot or the oil will cool.  Fry them about 3 minutes per side, turning them as needed.  Lift out and drain on paper towel.  Roll in cinnamon sugar, white sugar or glaze of your choice.  Always do a test fastnacht so you have an idea of how long your dough needs to cook.  It's always easy to find testers  :)
If you've never deep-fried food, please be careful.  There are lots of information out there on how to do it safely.  And remember NEVER put water on an oil fire!  A deep fryer is the best choice for the novice doughnut maker.

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