My family is Pennsylvania German. We don't do Mardi Gras; we do Fasnacht Day.
Now, some of you might live in areas where there are sizable German communities and know what a fasnacht is. Loosely speaking, they're doughnuts, but so much more than doughnuts. Let me be honest: I hate making fasnachts. It's messy, it's time consuming, and I burn myself with hot oil at least four or five times. I do not enjoy frying things as a general rule. But it's TRADITION. And it's FRIED DOUGH. I can't not make fasnachts.
The most traditional recipes will involve potatoes and lard. I have plenty of lard (it's actually a fantastic oil and has been wrongly maligned). However, the creation process takes long enough without also making mashed potatoes, and I forgot to get the lard out of the fridge to soften it for today, so I went with cooking oil.
Step 1: Realize you have lost the recipe and call your mom to ask for it again. Listen to your mother dramatize about how you have a habit of losing recipes. Agree with her when she says that she has given you the recipe every year for the last four years. Remind your mother that this is part of the tradition.
Step 2: Tell all your friends that fasnachts are in their future. Complain subtly about how much you dislike making them.
Step 3: Gather the supplies.
3.5-4.5 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar for recipe; more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. hot water
1/4 c. softened margarine or butter (I use butter because ew, margarine)
1 package yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)
Oil (you can use lard or veggie oil; I have not tried other types of oils)
Step 4: Begin the mayhem. Mix 1 1/4 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast into a bowl or mixer. Add margarine/butter and start stirring with the mixer or hand mixer. I suppose you could do this by hand but it's a LOT of stirring. Gradually add hot water and beat for two minutes on medium speed. Add egg; add more flour until you get a thick batter. Beat the batter for two more minutes and add more flour until you get a soft dough. Cover and let rise until doubled; mine took about 2 hours because it's cold today. This is also a good time to text your husband to tell him how lucky he is to have a wife who is making fasnachts. Your husband will thank you but also remind you that you and you alone put yourself through this every year.
Once the batter has doubled, roll out onto a floured surface until you form a square roughly 8"x16" and cut the dough into 2" squares. Put on a plate or cookie sheet for 45 minutes or so until they rise some more.
Step 5: Change into clothes that you don't mind getting spattered with oil. This is another good time to complain about how much of a pain these are to make.
Heat several inches of oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan until it's bubbling well (about 375 degrees). This will take forever. If you own a deep fryer use that! When the oil is hot, toss in three or four fasnachts and fry them until light golden brown. If you over-fry them they'll get tough from absorbing too much oil. Make sure you use a metal slotted spoon or other cooking implement to take them out, because the oil is hot enough to melt plastic. I speak from experience: one year everyone got fasnachts with nice speckles of melted plastic. Also, I usually end up burning myself by 1) splashing oil 2) touching the spoon when it's recently out of the oil 3) trying to eat a fasnacht too soon.
When you pull them out, toss them on a plate or cookie sheet with sugar. Some will use powdered, but my family has always used granulated. You could also glaze them but those don't seem like fasnachts to me. (Aside: can you spot the fasnacht that I took a bite out of and then dropped because I burned myself?)
Eat many of them.