Mixed, Rolled and Fried to Perfection

By Chelsea Peifer, Engle Publishing

“Every fastnacht is a work of art,” said Jim Knapp, who runs the fryer room at the annual Fastnacht Bake at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 409 Cherry St., Columbia. “They do not all come out the same like doughnuts,” he explained. “They’re like snowflakes. No two are the same.”

As the Fastnacht Bake enters its 93rd year, organizers and volunteers have come to anticipate the hundreds of area residents who come to the church to partake of the hand-rolled, fried doughy goodness. “(Fastnachts) are a delicate morsel,” said organizer Ed Wickenheiser. “And since it’s only once a year, I think that’s what makes people want to come out.”

Fastnachts were originally made on Shrove Tuesday as a way to use up all of the fats in the kitchen before Lent. At Holy Trinity, the Fastnacht Bake started with a group of ladies from the parish who decided to make and sell fastnachts as a fundraiser for the construction of the church building, explained Wickenheiser.

All fastnachts must be preordered. Individuals may place an order online at www.holytrinitycolumbiapa.com. The website opened for online orders on Feb. 6. “This is our second year offering ordering online, and it was a huge success last year,” Wickenheiser said. Individuals who would prefer to place an order by phone may call 684-9612 beginning on Monday, Feb. 20. Operators will be accepting phone orders Feb. 20 through Friday, Feb. 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until sold out.

Plain or glazed fastnachts may be ordered by the dozen or the half-dozen and picked up at the church on any of the bake days. Fastnachts will be baked on Monday, Feb. 27, through Wednesday, March 1. After that, fastnachts will be baked on Mondays and Wednesdays during the four weeks of Lent, with the last bake on Wednesday, March 29.

Wickenheiser oversees the army of rollers that begin arriving at 4 a.m. each bake day to start hand rolling, shaping and cutting the dough that is prepared by the night crew, which measures, weighs and mixes the ingredients under Phil Haberstroh’s leadership. Additional volunteers arrive at 5:30 a.m. to operate the fryers, and others handle the sorting, counting and packing in preparation for pickup by the public.

Haberstroh is the third generation in his family to help with the annual Fastnacht Bake. His grandmother was part of the founding group, and his mother helped at the yearly event as well. He remembers his parents saving potato water in the weeks leading up to the Fastnacht Bake, as it was a key ingredient needed to help move the yeast used to bake the fastnachts. With today’s store-bought yeast, the potato water is no longer a necessity.

Other than that, and a long-ago switch from lard to vegetable shortening, Haberstroh said that not much has changed about the event, which is still very much a family affair. “A lot of families are involved in the volunteering,” Knapp said. Many volunteers are members of the parish, but others come from the surrounding communities to pitch in.

The team of approximately 166 volunteers typically produces almost 7,000 dozen fastnachts during the 11 baking days. “We’re not the biggest (fastnacht operation), just the best,” Knapp said with a smile.

“Families who live here order extras to ship all over the country,” Wickenheiser said.

So what sets the fastnachts at Holy Trinity apart? “It’s the love we put in them,” said Knapp. “There’s no yelling or rushing when we make the fastnachts. It’s a sense of camaraderie; we enjoy each other and what we’re doing.”

Individuals who are interested in volunteering at the event may contact Wickenheiser at edwick103@comcast.net.