Friday, 14 August 2015

Something Different: Koeksisters (Wheat- and Dairy Free)

This time, I thought I'd try something completely different and unusual. My culinary explorations lead me to South Africa, where they make these delicious doughnut like confections soaked in syrup: Koeksisters.

For some reason, my family has had a lot of interaction with South African people: both my brothers have dated South African women, and I have had a few South African friends over the course of my school and college life. I think Ireland had some sort of connexion to the country, through hiring people to work for Intel in Leixlip, but I don't exactly know the details. Either way, it's a big migrant group here in Ireland.

Recently, I invited a friend around for dinner (who helped me out with the videos) and she told me she hadn't had a doughnut in years since going off dairy and wheat, so I promised her that I'd make some for her. I made the dough and thought, while I have it, I'll do a little experiment: another friend reminded me of the existence of koeksisters, which are braided doughnuts (sometimes flavoured with nutmeg and cardamom) that are deep fried and soaked in a simple syrup flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, and more cardamom.

The process was very simple: I used my new doughnuts recipe, adding ¼ teaspoon of ground nutmeg and the crushed seeds of 2 cardamom pods to the dry ingredients, and replacing the butter with block margarine. I then split the dough into eight equal pieces and then began the rolling and braiding process.
  1. Take each eighth of the dough and roll it into a ball.
  2. Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball out into a long oval.
  3. Make a mark a little bit down from the top end of the oval, and cut the oval into three legs up to the mark.
  4. Pinch each of the three legs into ropes.
  5. Braid the legs together.
  6. Pinch the loose ends together and fold them behind.

 My technique improved while I has braiding: my first two were a little loose and mental, but the third and all thereafter were much better and neater. My advice is don't be afraid to pull on the legs a bit to keep them tight.

I then fried them like normal doughnuts for about 6 minutes per batch, flipping each side twice to make sure even cooking. If you leave them too long on one side, it actually causes the braids to unravel a little, so turn a few times during the cooking process to make sure each side rises slowly.

Once each batch cooks, take each cake out of the oil and wrap in a piece of kitchen roll and leave on a wire rack to drain and cool slightly. Once all eight are cooked, allow them to cool enough to handle, then make the syrup.

In a saucepan, heat together 6 ounces (170 grammes) of caster sugar with 6 fluid ounces (180 millilitres) of water, along with some spices: 1 cinnamon stick (or a sprinkle of ground cinnamon), 2 whole cloves, the crushed seeds of 4 green cardamom pods, and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Bring to the boil and cook until the mixture thickens and becomes syrupy like warm honey.

Lay the koeksisters in a dish and pour the syrup out of them, liberally dousing each one. Allow to soak for a while, then flip them over to allow the other side to soak.

These are very heavy going, and very similar to gulab jamun, which I made for one of our Indian themed tea parties. These are best kept in an airtight container and eaten within 3 days.

THIS TIME IN 2014: Honey and Cinnamon Popcorn (Gluten Free)
THIS TIME IN 2013: Minty Millionaire's Shortbread (Wheat Free)


  1. I'm South African, thought I'd let you know that traditionally the way we make koeksisters, are to dunk them in ice cold syrup immediately after cooking them in oil. This is so the koeksisters can draw in the syrup, making it gooey inside too.

    Fantastic though that you came up with a wheat-free recipe, I'm definitely going to try your recipe. For health reasons I'm not allowed to eat wheat any longer so really missed the yummy treat.Great job!

  2. Hi
    Thanks for the great recipe.

    Have you tried making a Gluten free koeksister? And how would you go about trying this?


Fröhliche Weihnachten! Individual Sacher Tortes (Wheat Free)

Glücklicher Internationaler Sachertorte-Tag! Our festive tour continues throughout central Europe, stopping off in Austria for a sl...