Koesisters are little fried dumplings that are a Cape Malay twist on the more traditional South African pastry "Koeksister".
The Cape Malay community is a vibrant ethnic group that call most of the Western Cape region of South Africa home. They are originally of Javanese descent, brought from modern-day Indonesia as indentured labourers. Their culture and ethnic traditions have left an indelible mark on present day South Africa, from the influence of curry in South African cuisine (and their trademark stamp "Bobotie" almost a national dish of SA) to the presence of Islam as one of the main religions in the area.
Malay "Minstrels" performing at a Street Parade - Pic from Whalecottage.com
Brightly Colored Malay houses found in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town (Malay Quarter) - pic from South Africa Tours and Travel.com
The Koesister is a yeasted fried cake which is seasoned in spiced sugar. The little dumplings fry up beautifully and are puffy and airy within, but it is the heady scent of the spices that delicately coat it that makes it a delicious treat.
Another variant without the sugar coating, known as "Fat Cakes", were sold piping hot outside our school gates and even our college "tuck shop" for cents. Some would have a jam filling or cream icing, there were certainly several ways to dress up these treats.
The recipe I used comes from Chef Marcus Samuelsson's beautiful cookbook "The Soul of A New Cuisine". Instead of rolling the koesisters in brown sugar as instructed, I opted for powdered white sugar because I found the brown sugar did not "stick" to my liking.
Koesisters (adapted slightly from The Soul of a New Cuisine: A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa)
6 Tbsp warm water
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 cups All Purpose flour (plus extra flour for handling dough)
1 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
5 Tbsp milk
2 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom
About 4 cups canola or vegetable oil
1. Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Place in a warm area for about 10 minutes. Yeast should bubble up.
2. Add flour and salt to the yeast mixture and combine.
3. Beat in egg yolks , mixing well after each addition.
4. Heat butter and milk together until butter melts. Pour butter mixture into flour mixture and mix well. Dough will be very sticky.
5. Cover bowl with damp cloth and leave for about 40 minutes. Dough should double in size.
6. Punch down dough and divide into 20 ping-pong size balls (I found the dough to be very sticky, and so I used more flour to manage this task). Arrange on a baking sheet and leave in a warm place to rise for about 20 minutes.
7. In the meantime, mix all the ingredients for the coating and keep aside.
8. Heat oil over medium heat and fry the dough balls till golden brown, should take about 3-4 minutes per koesister. Do not let the oil get too hot, else the koesisters will burn and the insides will not cook through.
9. Remove koesister from heat and roll in coating sugar.