Fastnacts - family tradition yields sweet results

February 17, 1998|By Kate Coleman

by Ric Dugan / staff photographer

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fastnachtsFastnacts - family tradition yields sweet results

We asked readers if they'd be making fastnachts - the doughnuts traditionally eaten on Shrove or Fat Tuesday, the day observed as a time of merrymaking before Lenten fasting that begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 25.

Anne Hott of Williamsport e-mailed that she wouldn't be making fastnachts, but her 88-year-old grandmother would.

Mamie Martin of Maugansville doesn't make her doughnuts as a fund-raiser. She just gives them to her family - five children and many grandchildren and great- grandchildren. "If you are interested, I'll try to get her secret recipe," Hott wrote.

How long has Mamie Martin been making the pre-Lenten treats she just calls "raised doughnuts"? "Oh heavens. It's been a long time," she said.


The last of a family of 10 children, Martin grew up with a twin sister and eight other siblings in the Kemps Mill, Pinesburg and Williamsport areas.

One of her sisters taught her to make the doughnuts, and Martin learned not to roll out the dough but to make an egg-sized ball out of a piece of dough and with her hands, roll it into a ball, flatten it, then stick her finger in the middle to make a hole.

"That might not sound too sanitary," Martin said with a laugh. She added that she keeps her fingernails short.

Martin's son, Bill, said you don't get any doughnut holes with his mother's method, but that seems to be OK with him. She calls her family for orders: "I'm making doughnuts tomorrow, how many do you want?" is her annual question.

Ernest William Martin, Mamie Martin's husband, died in 1988. Martin's living room is filled with family photographs. She has a Bible, a box of candy and Cal Ripken's autobiography on a footstool in front of her easy chair. "I like ballgames," she said. "I like Cal."

She also enjoys watching "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" and was quick to notice the increase in the price of her heating oil when the bill arrived, figuring it might have something to do with what's going on in Iraq. She keeps up with the news and fries her doughnuts on a very modern burnerless cooking range, but still prefers to use a solid yeast cake to powdered yeast. "I don't like to change," she said.

Martin's other sweet treats include German Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake and a Fresh Coconut Cake for which she grates fresh coconut.

"A lot of people don't make doughnuts," Martin said.

She sometimes measures out the flour the night before, and she gets up a little earlier than usual on her doughnut-making day. "It takes a lot of work," she said.

It's a labor of love and family tradition.

Grandma Mamie's Bread Doughnuts (Fastnachts)

2 eggs well beaten

1 cup brown sugar

1 scant tablespoon salt

1 "lump" butter (1 ounce or 2 tablespoons)

1 cup scalded milk

1 quart lukewarm water

1 large yeast cake (1/4 ounce dry yeast)

4 sifters full of flour (17 cups or 4 1/2 pounds sifted flour)

Break yeast cake, place in brown sugar and make a paste. Add salt and mix.

Add scalded milk, butter and water. Mix well and let sit. In a very large bowl (Mamie Martin uses a large dishpan) place 4 to 4 1/2 sifters of flour, then add liquid mixture. Stir until well mixed (you may want to use your hands). If necessary, add extra flour until dough is no longer sticky.

Let it rise until double - to about the top of the pan. Work down, knead and let it rise again. Once dough has doubled the second time you are ready to shape.

Pull off a small piece (about the size of an egg) and roll into a ball in your hands. Flatten between your hands and stick your finger in the middle to make a hole.

Lay doughnuts out on a plastic tablecloth or wax paper and let rise. Fry in hot lard or vegetable oil until light brown.

Shake doughnuts (2 at a time) in a paper lunch sack of powdered (10X) sugar.

How much is a lump?

Chef Michael Toth of Washington County Career Studies Center and a few of his students made the fastnachts for our photograph from the recipe Mamie Martin shared. Toth clarified a couple of Martin's homestyle measurements:

The "lump" of butter Martin's recipe calls for is 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons.

17 cups or 4 1/2 pounds of flour equates to Martin's four sifters full of flour.

Martin uses a large yeast cake; Toth figured that equals 1/4 ounce of dry yeast.

Toth was pleased with the results of his students' efforts. He said he'd been munching on the doughnuts all morning before the photographer arrived. Many thanks to Chef Toth and his students:

* Brandon Coldsmith, 17, North Hagerstown High School

* Zachary Foster, 17, Smithsburg High School

* Hillary McCarty, 18, North Hagerstown High School

* Derek Ortiz, 17, Smithsburg High School.


St. Paul's Lutheran, Leitersburg

St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Leitersburg, will be selling fastnachts as a fund-raiser for confirmation camp this year.

The doughnuts will be available for pickup Sunday, Feb. 22, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the church at 21513 Leitersburg-Smithsburg Road, Hagerstown.

Cost is $3 a dozen, and fastnachts are available plain, glazed, with powdered sugar, cinnamon or frosting with sprinkles.

Fastnachts may be ordered by calling the church answering machine at 301-779-5442 by Friday, Feb. 20. Leave your name, phone number and order.

A church member recently stopped by and told Pastor Lans Alexis that it's been about 30 years since the congregation has made fastnachts.

Washington Square United Methodist

Washington Square United Methodist Church, the children's division, will be selling doughnuts on Shrove Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Chairperson Patsy Wiegand says the church fund-raiser is more than 40 years old. Last year more than 1,200 dozen doughnuts were sold.

For orders, call 301-790-3510 or the church office at 301-739-2653.

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