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.