Exeter >> Fasnacht Day. For many, it’s a day of tradition … history … family … deliciousness.
Fasnacht translates from German to “Fast Night” in English. The idea is that all the best foods are eaten before the Lenten fast begins on Ash Wednesday. So fasnachts are traditionally made and eaten the day before — on Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Fasnacht Day.
Talk to bakery owners and families who spend time each year making the pre-Lenten treats — and you’ll find that almost everyone has a “secret” recipe for making the best fasnachts around.
Susan Good of Exeter is one of those in possession of a secret family recipe — a recipe that has been passed down through several generations on her mother’s side. Only two people in the world currently know the secret family recipe — Susan and her mother Dolores (Kriebel) Weinsteiger.
Good has two sisters and a brother, but she is the only one who has maintained the tradition of making the pillow-pastry.
“My sisters are welcome to the recipe if they want it,” Good said, adding that she’s hopeful one or both of her children will want to continue the tradition with their families.
“It’s a lot of fun. I am interested in the recipe, and maybe Mom could come over to my house when I do it,” said 15-year-old son Christopher, a comment that elicited a huge grin from his Mom.
“I know parts of the recipe, I would be interested in doing it with my family,” added daughter Elizabeth, 16.
“I’ve adopted this tradition due to my love of family and history in general,” said husband Rob Good. “This is special for our children, too.”
Susan Good has been making fasnachts with her mother for many years. Initially they worked together in Weinsteiger’s home before relocating the operation to Good’s home in 2005.
“I took over the process and Mom started coming here to make them,” Good said.
Once Good took the lead, she changed the tradition a bit, to make it a truly family-centered event. Instead of making the fasnachts on the day before Ash Wednesday, as is the tradition, she moved the process to the Saturday before — creating a new tradition.
“Moving it has meant that the kids can be more involved, and it’s more convenient for family to get here to enjoy them,” she said.
Rob Good, who is in charge of frying the pastries, used to take the day off of work to be home to help. He takes the job seriously — knowing that if he spends too much time chatting with a visitor — Weinsteiger might remind him to keep his full attention on the task as hand.
Good’s children are in charge of delivering the risen dough to Rob for frying and then sugaring the slightly cooled finished product.
Weinsteiger remembers her childhood home in Bally was permeated with the smell of fresh baked fasnachts every year. Weinsteiger’s mother, Rosa (Henry) Kriebel, would fill every inch of her kitchen with work surfaces — setting up sawhorses and planks to hold the pastries as they rose and later cooled.
“I was a runner — I would deliver fasnachts to our neighbors and friends,” Weinsteiger reminisced Saturday. “I liked it because I really got to know our neighbors so well.”
Willard Kriebel is Dolores’ brother. He remembers eating the fasnachts without sugar but adding molasses.
Good can remember walking up the sidewalk coming home after school on Fashnacht Day — smelling the sweet aroma of dozens of fasnachts that her mother had been making.
“Everyone enjoyed it so much. People would come to get them — they looked forward to it,” added sister Donna Weinsteiger.
Weinsteiger made fasnachts more than once a year, entering them in the Oley Fair in September — and winning blue ribbons for them.
For Good, the process of making the fasnachts actually began mid-day on Friday, when she started the yeast.
“I added some additional ingredients in the evening and let the mixture rise overnight,” she said. “Then I was up at 5 a.m. to add the rest of the ingredients.”
By 10 a.m., Good was ready to start the rolling and cutting process — making round and square fasnachts. Once cut, they went into a warm space off the kitchen to rise for another 4 hours.
When they were finished rising, Rob Good heated the oil — the recipe does not call for lard — to between 350 and 375 degrees. He then cooked about three fasnachts in each batch. Each pastry took about two minutes per side to cook.
After cooling just long enough to handle, the fasnachts were sugared and set out for the rest of the family.
“Making fasnachts is a labor intensive process. I remember one year where they didn’t rise,” Good added. “They still tasted okay, but it was disappointing.”
That was not the case with Good’s batch this year — five dozen fasnachts were perfectly risen, light and fluffy, with just a slight crispiness to the outside.
Weinsteiger was unable to help roll and cut the pastries with her daughter this year, but expressed her pleasure with the finished product when she arrived late Saturday afternoon.
“They look really good, you did such a good job,” she said before sitting down and taking her first bite.
“This is a family legacy,” said sister Janet Blume. “Susan and her kids are so interested in doing this. And I am so glad she does it every year.”
While the weather changed outside, it was warm inside Susan and Rob Good’s home Saturday. The couple’s children, their cousins and a few friends sat in the dining room playing Monopoly — interrupted by trips to get a second and then maybe a third (or fourth) fasnacht.
In the kitchen with coffee and other beverages, the family ate, reminisced, laughed and created more memories … over a plate of fasnachts.
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