Pancakes, king cakes and fastnachts. Choose your favorite to celebrate Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) before the season of Lent arrives on March 5.
Any kind of pancake or doughy pastry will do. For those who observe the 40 days of Lent, a season of sacrifice, it’s a last chance for indulgence.
In the old days it was the time to use up rich ingredients that weren’t allowed during Lent. Today we don’t often have lard in the house, but we still can enjoy fastnachts, the German word for the deep-fried doughnuts they make for Fat Tuesday.
The English eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday; to “shrive” is to hear confessions, marking it as a day of both feasting and penance.
King cakes are part of the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans; a doughy cake, it is decorated with purple, green and yellow frosting and usually a small toy baby is baked inside. Finding the baby can mean good luck or that you have to host next year’s party, depending on the celebrator.
Locally, fastnachts are the easiest to find, possibly because of Pennsylvania’s large German population. Lochel’s Bakery is Hatboro will have them, as will the Maryanne Pastry Shoppe and Crossroads Bakery, both in Doylestown.
Yum Yum Bake Shops in Quakertown and Warminster also will have fastnachts, as will Warrington Pastry Shop in Warrington.
But any doughnut will do.
For pancakes you could join the folks at Stockton Presbyterian Church in Stockton, N.J., who will be serving their annual pancake dinner starting at 6 p.m. March 5. The dinner is free, and donations are accepted for a money tree for those who are in need.
If you serve your own pancakes, this recipe from foodnetwork.com is pretty much a giant doughnut or a cake, so it covers all bases.
Vanilla Dutch Baby
3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup milk, heated 20 to
30 seconds in the microwave
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put the butter in a large, ovenproof, nonstick sauté pan and place in the oven.
3. Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the eggs, flour, warm milk, sugar, vanilla extract and pinch of salt, and blend on medium-high speed until uniform. (If mixing by hand, combine the eggs with the milk until the mixture is light yellow and no longer stringy, about 1 minute. Add the flour, sugar, vanilla, and pinch of salt, and whisk vigorously to remove the lumps, about 30 seconds.)
4. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven. The butter should be melted. Swirl the butter around the pan to coat completely, and then pour the remaining butter into the batter and pulse to blend. Pour the batter into the hot pan and return the pan to the oven. Cook until the pancake is puffed in the center and golden brown along the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Using a spatula, remove the entire Dutch baby from the pan and place on a cooling rack for a few minutes to allow the steam to escape without condensing along the bottom and rendering the pancake soggy. Dust with confectioners’ sugar when cooled slightly. Slice the pancake into 8 wedges on a serving platter or cutting board.