When I was a child growing up in Pennsylvania, Fasnacht Day (the day before Ash Wednesday) was always a day when we ate doughnuts. Fasnacht Day was supposed to be a day to eat indulgent foods before the beginning of Lent – and doughnuts with their sugar and fat were considered the ultimate in indulgent foods. It is also known as Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday.
Some churches in Pennsylvania made doughnuts on Fasnacht Day as a fundraiser, and students at my school who attended those churches took orders for the doughnuts, and then brought the them to school on Fasnacht Day. I always looked forward to buying (and eating) those incredible doughnuts.
Now, every year as Lent approaches, I remember those sweet, flavorful, light, yet slightly chewy, doughnuts of my childhood (they are nothing like modern cake-like doughnuts), and think that I should try making doughnuts, but I never actually did – until this year. I came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Raised Doughnuts and decided it was time to give doughnut-making a try.
It took me about six hours from start to finish to make the doughnuts since I had to let the dough rise three times – but it was worth it. The doughnuts were just like I’d remembered (and my husband kept saying, “These are a lot better than store-bought doughnuts”).
And, here’s the coffee cake foundation recipe:
Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
1 cup milk
1 packet (0.25 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm (110 – 115° F.) water
1 1/2 cups flour + approximately 3 cups flour
1/4 cup butter melted + a small amount of additonal melted butter to brush on top of dough
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
fat or cooking oil (I used shortening.)
Put the milk in a saucepan, and scald (180-185° F.) using medium heat. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm (110-115° F.). In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.
Put the 1 1/2 cups flour, lukewarm scalded milk, and dissolved yeast in a mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Cover and put in a warm spot until the mixture is light and spongy (about 1 hour). Add the melted butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and salt. Gradually add approximately 3 cups flour until the dough reaches a consistency where it can be handled. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Put in a large greased bowl, brush top with melted butter, cover and place in a warm spot until the dough is about 2 1/2 times its original size (about 2 hours).
Put dough on a lightly floured surface and roll dough to 1/4 inch thick, and cut doughnuts with a doughnut cutter. (If thicker doughnuts are desired, don’t roll quite so thin.) Put the cut doughnuts on a baking sheet, and let rise until light and doubled in size (about 45 minutes).
Heat 3 – 4 inches of fat or cooking oil in a deep fat fryer or kettle to 350 – 375° F. Drop doughnuts (a few at a time) into the hot fat or oil. Turn as they rise to the surface. Gently turn and fry 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from fat and drain on paper towels.
Put powdered sugar in a bag. (I used a brown paper lunch bag.) While the doughnuts are still warm, put one doughnut at a time in the bag and gently shake to coat with the sugar.