Koeksisters are a South African pastry that’s deep-fried and then dipped in spiced sugar syrup. Somewhat reminiscent of doughnuts, koeksisters are made by twisting/ braiding either 2 or 3 small strips of dough, deep frying them and dipping them in a ginger and cinnamon spiced sugar syrup.
It seems of the two versions of the koeksister, the Afrikaner version is crisper, syrupy and usually braided while the Cape Malay version is softer and cake-like, spicier and rolled in coconut.
According to Jeanne (she’s South African and her blog is called Cook Sister), the name koeksister or koeksuster (pronounced cook sister) comes from the Dutch “koek” or cake and “sissen” or sizzle. She says the sizzle part of the name might be from it being a deep fried pastry, but I think it could also be from the slight sizzling sound that comes when you dip the hot pastry in the chilled sugar syrup.
I first came across koeksisters in an article which mentions Nelson Mandela eating Mrs Verwoerd’s koeksisters. This new and interestingly twisted preparation caught my attention as much as the mention of **Nelson Mandela.
I spent my senior school and university years in Nigeria, so hearing and reading about the apartheid in South Africa was a daily affair. I have always admired Nelson Mandela more especially because he showed us, at much personal cost, that in today’s world peace and perseverance can achieve freedom.
Getting back to koeksisters, I found a lot of different recipes online and as is the case with many traditional recipes I’m not sure there is an “authentic” recipe for these. If anyone does know of one, please point me to it.
Many of the recipes used eggs, though I found a couple that didn’t. Many of them seemed to use a lot of baking powder, up to 2 tbsps! I couldn’t find the cream of tartar used for the sugar syrup, so left that out.
So I made some adjustments to the quantities of some ingredients, but otherwise stayed true to the spirit of the recipes.
I made the Afrikaner version which is the crispy variety of koeksisters. The trick to this is to move the hot koeksisters to the chilled sugar syrup as soon as possible. It is very important to keep the sugar syrup chilled. Once the sugar syrup warms up, the koeksisters will not become crunchy, but become softer which is more like the Cape Malay variety.
Koeksisters (South African Deep Fried And Sugar Coated Pastry Braids)
For the dough:
- 2 cups cake flour
- 2 1/2 tsps baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 25 gm butter , chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
For the sugar syrup:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2 ginger (3/4u201d each) fresh
- pinch salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cinnamon stick
- First make the syrup.
- Break the cinnamon stick into 2 and out it into a pan. Crush the ginger pieces and add to the pan. Now add the remaining ingredients for the sugar syrup in a pan. Place it on medium heat, and keep stirring till all the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, then cover with the lid and let it boil for a minute.
- Uncover, turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes and take it off the heat. Cool the syrup and chill in the fridge for at least 6 to 8 hours, preferably overnight. The sugar syrup must be ice cold when ready to use. Remove the cinnamon and ginger pieces before using syrup.
- Now make the dough.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and rub the butter into the mixture, till it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the milk, water and lemon juice to this and knead till the dough is very soft and elastic but not sticky. You should be able to roll it out easily.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for about 2 to 3 hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator.
- To make the koeksisters, roll out the dough to about a little less than 1/4u201d thickness. Cut out strips about 5u201d long and a little under 1/2u201d wide. You can decide how long or short you want the strips to be depending on what length you want to make your koeksisters.
- Braid 3 strips together pinching both ends together very well, or they will unravel while being fried. Repeat with all the strips of dough.
- Heat the oil over medium heat until quite warm but not too hot. If the oil is too hot, the koeksisters will be brown on the outside, but raw on the inside. When the oil is at the correct temperature, it will take 10 seconds for a piece of dough to pop to the surface after it has been dropped into the oil.
- Keep the chilled sugar syrup ready. To ensure that the syrup doesnu2019t get warm, you may place it in a bowl of ice, or take out only half the syrup out of the refrigerator. When this gets warm, use the other half.
- Drop the braided dough, about 4 at a time into the oil and fry them till theyu2019re brown on both sides and done. Remove 2 at a time, with a slotted spoon and drop them straight into the sugar syrup keeping them submerged in the syrup. Keep them in the syrup till theyu2019ve soaked through.
- Remove them from the syrup and place on a wire rack allowing the excess syrup to drip onto a plate below.