By Betsy Natter
Montgomery County and eastern Pennsylvania have many cultural foods that are unique to the area. Eating fastnachts, a special type of fried doughnut pronounced “fost-nokt” on Fastnacht Day is another opportunity to indulge your taste buds in one of these specialties! Literally meaning “fast night,” this annual German tradition takes place on February 28, the day before Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, German housewives would use up all the butter, sugar and eggs in the house before the beginning of Lent, the six week period when people refrain from indulging in rich foods as a way of preparing for the religious celebration of Easter.
Fastnachts are different from regular doughnuts in that they do not have a hole in the center and are traditionally square or triangular in shape. They are made with either baking powder or yeast or yeast and potato in the dough. They are raised, then fried and left plain or sugar coated. Some bakeries will also fill the treats with cream or jelly. Plain fastnachts are often served warm with drizzled table syrup.
Local bakeries are gearing up for the annual holiday and taking advance orders to prepare for the big day. To get yours, find a bakery near you and place your order or stop in for a taste of this local favorite.
55 Easton Rd., Willow Grove, PA 19090
Weinrich’s has been operating in Willow Grove for 65 years and was originally started by Herman Weinrich when he arrived from Germany in 1919. With a long history of German tradition, they do fastnachts right! Their doughnuts are made using potatoes and are the old fashioned triangle shape. Available in plain and powdered or sugared varieties as well as any custom icings or fillings you choose. Orders can be placed in advanced by calling the store at 215-659-7062 or just stop in. The shop will be open from 6 am to 6 pm.
57 S York Rd, Hatboro, PA 19040
Lochel’s is gearing up for a great day at the bakery when people from all over the tri-state area come to get their fastnachts, made with the traditional mashed potatoes in the dough. Orders for plain, sugared, powdered, cinnamon or glazed can be placed via email at [email protected] or by calling the store at 215-773-9779. Special toppings of vanilla glaze or chocolate can only be gotten through advanced ordering. For pricing and further details see their Facebook page. The store is open from 6 am to 7 pm.
2222 S. Valley Forge Rd., Lansdale, PA 19446
The Merrymead Farm store is taking orders for its annual participation in Fastnacht Day celebrations. The doughnuts are the traditional variety and are available plain or with chocolate, vanilla, powdered, or cinnamon sugared coating. If you can’t decide, the bakers are happy to mix your dozen with a variety of types. An additional treat is their cider doughnut, only available for pick up on Tues, the 28th. Orders can be placed by call 610-584-4410. See the website for a sneak peek.
Perkiomenville Mennonite Church
1836 Gravel Pike
Perkiomenville PA 18074
Made by the members of the local Mennonite community, the way fastnachts have been made for decades, this church in northern MontCo is holding their annual Fastnacht Day Sale. Organized by a former professional baker and staffed by church members, the doors open from 7am to 2pm. Doughnuts are available plain or sugared and with lemon, cream and black raspberry fillings. Advanced orders can be placed by calling the church office at 215-234-4011 or just stop in as the bakers are making them fresh all morning.
And if you just can’t wait for your fresh-baked goodness, several local grocery store bakeries are also filling the shelves now with this seasonal favorite. Visit any Redner’s Warehouse, Weis Markets or Landis Market store for their in-house offerings.