Beignets, a type of donut, are linked to the celebration of Mardi Gras. Similarly, “Fat Tuesday” or Shrove Tuesday (today), is linked to fried dough in many Christian European traditions. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lenten Season marked historically by fasting, prayer and acts of repentance. The decorations and flowers come off the altar, liturgy and music is more contemplative and spare, and we are meant to go inward. It’s my favorite liturgical season, although come Easter I’m ready for some music, color and joyful emoting!
The rich treats of “Fat Tuesday” presented a way to use up all of the butter, sugar and fat in the household prior to the self-denying diets of Lent. Traditionally it was an opportunity for indulgence, a day when, once a year, communities would go through the labor-intensive and expensive process of deep-frying in order to partake in a luxurious treat.
The Polish and Polish-Americans have their Paczki, traditionally filled with rose hip jam or a stewed plum concoction calledpowidla, though today they often contain a variety of different jams and custards. The German take on pre-Lenten doughnuts are called fastnachts(or fasnachts), which can also be found in Pennsylvania Dutch and Moravian enclaves in the United States. Traditional fastnachts are fried in lard and, like malasadas, do not have a hole or contain filling.
The Pennsylvania Dutch version often includes mashed potatoes in the recipe, making a heartier and denser doughnut — something to stick to your ribs until the end of Lent.
I’ve got Pennsylvania Dutch on my mom’s side of the family, and have grown up enjoying many of those foods, so I’m leaning Penna Dutch for this celebration. But I won’t be deep frying or using “real” dough. I want to do a healthier take, as my husband and I are sort of on a dough break. My ode to indulgence is material and not caloric — I stuffed them with Pinchuberries which are far from local and far from inexpensive. I’m making farro-rye donut holes.
I’ve created a “dough” from cooked cracked farro (again, soaked overnight in whey and water to render more digestible and probiotic), rye flower, and egg and a bit of mashed potato, stuffed the donuts with the latest Andean super berry, shallow fried them in coconut oil, and served them with a dollop of yogurt and some almonds.
Honestly I don’t know where I come up with my ideas, but these were delicious!