Fastnacht Bread Pudding
A once-a-year treat that's a perfect excuse for buying an extra dozen donuts.
- 1 dozen plain fastnachts, unglazed
- 3 large eggs or 3/4 cups Egg Beaters (y'know, to reduce cholesterol)
- 2 cups milk
- 2/3 cup sugar (white or brown -- I make a mix because I can't decide)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Start by pre-heating your oven to 350° Fahrenheit and eating a fastnacht. The fastnacht (sometimes fasnacht, faschnact, or even kinkling) is a type of donut made from potato dough and deep fried. There's some variation in the recipe, depending on whether your chef is Swiss, German, Polish, or Pennsylvania Dutch. I'm familiar only with the Pennsylvania Dutch variety. They are very yummy, but they're only available one day each year -- Fat Tuesday.
Originally, these delightful little pastries were an excuse to use up sugar, fat, and butter prior to Lent -- a forty day period of fasting during which Christians weren't supposed to eat meat, eggs, or dairy products while they prayed a lot and reflected on the resurrection of Christ (represented by a big feast on Easter Sunday). This also had the benefit of getting rid of goods stored over winter that might be getting a little past their expiration date.
Bored yet? I am too, so let's get back to the matter at hand: break 6 fastnachts into small pieces to fill a lightly greased, 9 x 13" baking dish.
That was a long lecture and hard work, so eat another fastnacht. Yum.
Mix the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. In a medium sauce pan, combine the milk and sugar and heat gently until the butter melts. I also like to throw the cinnamon and nutmeg into the milk at this stage, and maybe a teaspoon of rum or brandy. Let the mix cool until it is lukewarm.
Eat another fastnacht while the milk/butter mixture is cooling. If the mix is introduced to the egg too soon, the egg-white proteins, which are normally long molecules twisted and curled into little globules, uncurl and begin to bind with each other; partially cooking the eggs without mixing first. You'll wind up with a milky, sugary bowl of semi-scrambled eggs that are useless for pouring over the fastnachts. So don't chew too quickly.
Once the milk has cooled, slowly introduce it to the egg mixture while continuously whisking. The result is a creamy, uncooked custard just perfect for the final step. Now might be a good time to throw in a handful raisins, but I prefer to eat grapes while they're fresh, so there will be none of that in my puddings.
There's no need for another fastnacht yet -- you're almost done. Pour the milk/egg/sugar concoction over the shredded fastnachts. There should be enough of the liquid to drench the pastries. Let them sit quietly for a few minutes until they're good and soggy. Some crumbs may have dried out after shredding, so make sure there isn't a dry fastnacht chunk in the dish.
Pop the dish into the pre-heated oven, and set the timer for about 40 minutes and go eat another fastnacht. As it cooks, the pudding will rise and darken. The custard will thicken and the entire production will blossom into a mouthwatering treat that you can enjoy only once a year. Unless you make your own fastnachts.
Let it cool for about a half hour and serve warm. Personally, I prefer it fridge-cold. Top it with powdered sugar, honey, or a vanilla cream sauce.
Now if you've followed the recipe correctly, you might be wondering what the last two fastnachts are for. I'll let you puzzle that one out for yourself, I'm sure your solution will be ... fattening.