As any South African visitor will have noticed, my blog’s name is somewhat of a pun – if you happen to understand Afrikaans! Back home in SA we have a sweet pastry known as a “koeksister” (literally translated as “cake sizzler” and pronounced “cook-sister”). The name comes form the Dutch koek (cake) and sissen (sizzle) – presumable a reference to the sizzling sound they make when being deep fried. It is one of the few things which, despite the huge South African population in London, I have not seen in mainstream stores. This is not to say that someone, somewhere is not producing them in England – I just have not come across them.
So what exactly is a koeksister? Well, the best analogy I can find is with doughnuts as they are also sweet doughy fritters, but that’s as far as the similarity goes. With koeksisters, the dough is rolled out flat and then plaited in 6cm lengths, deep-fried and then soaked in syrup and chilled overnight. They are absolutely delicious with tea or coffee and I have also seen miniature koeksisters served in lieu of petit fours. Below is a recipe, if you are in the mood for getting plaiting! But there is something of a dispute raging as to the provenance of these teatime treats.
On the one hand, we have the Afrikaans community who hold koeksisters dear and say that they were invented by their forebears as they colonised the Cape. On the other hand, we have the Cape Malay community who also claim koeksusters as their own, albeit with a different name (koesisters) in a somewhat different form – their variety is less sweet, spicier, covered with desiccated coconut and twisted as opposed to plaited. The taste is definitely more doughnuty than the Afrikaner version. Click here for a recipe for these – any comments on which is your favourite would be interesting to hear…
FOR THE SYRUP:
6 cups of water
24g of root ginger
2.5kg granulated sugar
FOR THE PASTRY:
6 cups plain flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
125g of butter
125ml evaporated milk
312ml lukewarm water
a pinch of salt
oil for frying
To make the syrup (to be made the day before and left in the fridge to cool):
Boil 3 cups of water together with the peeled and sliced root ginger. Remove the ginger and add 3 more cups of water. Bring to boil again.
Add the sugar and allow to boil for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and store in fridge - it has to be kept in the fridge as you need your syrup to be chilled!
For the pastry:
Mix all the ingredients together and knead well, then leave to rest for 2 hours.
Roll the dough flat into an oval/square until it is 5mm thick. Cut the dough into strips 2.5cm wide. Then cut these strips into lengths of 6cm so that you are left with rectangles 2.5cm x 6cm.
Make two cuts along the length of the rectangles so that you can plait them – you are aiming for a plait similar to a 3-strand hair plait. Leave the strips attached at one end to make handling easier.
When you have plaited each one, press the three strands together firmly at the loose end end so that they do not come undone. Deep-fry each koeksister in hot oil until crisp and golden brown.
Remove with a slotted spoon and dip the whole cooked koeksister immediately into your chilled syrup. Remember – the koeksister has to be hot and the syrup cold in order for the syrup to be absorbed by the dough! Remove from the syrup and allow to cool on a paper towels before eating.