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Fasnacht Day Means Long Lines At Local Bakeries

By Jan Carabeo and Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Who made the doughnuts for your Fat Tuesday in Philadelphia? The Pennsylvania Dutch know how to use up all the fat in the house, before Lent, in a tradition known as Fasnacht Day.

Shrove Tuesday, is known in some countries as Pancake Tuesday, before Ash Wednesday, but in these parts, including Beiler's Bakery in the Reading Terminal Market, they're making fasnachts, the fried treats traditionally used to rid household cupboards of fat.

"I know they sell them at Beiler's."

"You enjoy your last indulgences before 40 days of Lent go on and Easter comes around."

Alvin Beiler politely reminds folks about the main selling point.

Beiler's Bakery (credit: Steve Tawa/KYW)

"If you don't eat a Fat Tuesday donut, you're going to have a bad year."

Beiler's 21-year old son, Keith, was working on a 10-pound slab of dough, rolling out the fasnachts.

"Last year, we did close to 8,000 in one day on Fat Tuesday."

You can order those fasnachts plain, with powder or cinnamon on top.

"I got six fasnachts, three plain, three powdered sugar."

Owen was in line, remembering his childhood in Lancaster County.

"I've been out of state for the last five years. This is the first Fasnacht Day that I've been back."

They're slightly crispy on the outside and my colleagues in the newsroom say they're not as sweet as standard doughnuts.

Haegele's in Mayfair. (credit: CBS)

Open and taking orders before dawn, today's special at Haegele's in Mayfair is the Fasnacht.

You probably know them as donuts. But whatever they're called, this sweet treat has customers hooked.

"I've been coming here for over 40 years and I actually have to buy some and freeze them for a friend on Friday night but they don't make them, only this day," said Kathleen Hauck of Northeast Philadelphia.

That one day is Fat Tuesday or Fasnacht as it's known in this old fashioned German bakery.

A day for customers to indulge on the last day before Lent begins.

"The fasnachts is one day a year," said lifelong customer Mark Carroll.

And what a way to indulge.

Haegele's will feed hundreds of customers by day's end.

"We don't count we just make them and make them," said owner Richard Haegele.

Richard Haegele's father started the business 86 years ago.

Richard was born above the bakery.

"I grew up here. This is my whole life," said Haegele. "My father told me when to start to work, but no one told me when to quit."

Now he's perfected the recipe and has handed it down to his son and grandsons.

The traditional fasnacht is powder, the cinnamon wasn't created until a customer requested it.  And now at Haegele's, it's a customer favorite.

Each fasnacht is hand rolled and cut.

As for how the Haegele's create the light, fluffy dough that's a secret.

And the taste is almost too good to describe.

"I couldn't even tell you, you have to eat one," said Carroll.



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