Koeksisters (Pronounced Cook-sisters) are a very popular South African sweet. I haven't really seen them sold in the UK, other than at the odd South African food stall or shop. They are like a very sweet, sticky, braided doughnut soaked in syrup, crispy on the outside and gooey inside... and they are so delicious! I am a bit nervous about deep-frying (my mom once burnt a massive hole in our kitchen ceiling) so I asked if she could make them with me as she has made them many times before. They do take time to make and are a bit of a mission (they are much easier with two people), but are so worth it and you can make them in big batches to be frozen and eaten later.
I only found out recently that there are two versions of koeksisters in South Africa... an Afrikaans version (the ones that I have made) and a Cape Malay version which are made in an oval shape and are made with more spices (cinnamon, aniseed, ginger, cardamom)... these sound amazing, but I have yet to try one!
The way to make koeksisters so syrupy is by boiling them in hot oil and then immediately dunking them in very cold syrup. That way the syrup is absorbed into the koeksister rather than just coating the outside. You need to keep the syrup cold (which is not that easy when you keep dunking boiling hot koeksisters in it). We made the syrup the day before and kept it in the fridge overnight... and then split it into two pots which we rotated when the one we were using wasn't cold anymore. We also filled the sink with ice and kept the pot of syrup we were using sitting in the ice which really helped.
Koeksister Recipe (Makes 1 and a Half Dozen)
3 and a half cups of Water
1/2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar
A thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into slices
3 sticks of Cinnamon
7 cups of Sugar
1 Tbsp Syrup
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
3 Heaped cups of Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 and a half cups Milk
1 Tbsp Butter
A pinch of Salt
2 litres of Sunflower or Vegetable Oil for deep-frying
You will also need a tray for your plaited koeksisters waiting to be fried, 1 large pot for frying (or a deep-fat fryer if you have one), 2 pots/ dishes for the syrup, 1-2 bags of ice to keep the syrup cold and a dish for the finished koeksisters.
In a large pot bring the water to the boil and then add the sugar, ginger and cinnamon and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the syrup, cream of tartar and lemon. Leave overnight in the fridge.
Sieve the Flour, Baking Powder and Salt. Using your fingers, rub in the butter.
Beat the eggs with the milk.
Add the egg and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and knead for 10 mins.
Cover your bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 2-3 hours.
Using a rolling pin, on a floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle until it is about 5mm thick.
Using a sharp knife, cut out rectangles about 10cm long and 5cm wide. Then for each rectangle, make two cuts lengthways leaving one side attached (so that it is easier to handle), so that you have three strips that you can now plait. Plait each one and at the end of the plait, press the ends together so that there are no loose ends.
When you have plaited all of your dough (you will need to re-roll out all of the leftover dough ends), heat your oil in a large pot. You can test when the oil is hot enough by putting the handle of a wooden spoon into the pot so that it touches the bottom - when tiny little bubbles run up the spoon handle the oil is ready.
Add your koeksisters to the oil - as many as you can without overcrowding them. You will need to turn them so that both sides turn a nice golden colour.
When they are cooked, remove each one with a slotted spoon and quickly dunk in the ice cold syrup and after about a minute (allowing time for the syrup to be absorbed) move them to a tray or dish to cool before eating.
They can be stored in the fridge soaked in the leftover syrup for up to a month or in a container in the freezer.