Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Koesisters - Cape Malay "Doughnuts"

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

Brightly Colored Malay houses found in the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town (Malay Quarter) - pic from South Africa Tours and
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

For Coating:
1/4 cup icing sugar
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cardamom

For Frying:
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.
10. Resist the urge to pop them into mouth while hot!

These koesisters go to Meeta at Whats For Lunch Honey who is hosting Monthly Mingle - South Africa!

These little beauties are also off to Yeastspotting hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast blog.


AJ said...

Beautiful!! Thanks for sharing the recipe and the book!!

My Kitchen Antics said...

have been thinking about making these...but was waiting for some more inspiration and i think i got it now :)

Anonymous said...

Very informative post. Thanks for introducing us to a new cuisine!

Adele @ WillworkforBiltong said...

Yay! Koeksisters! LOVE them. Nice spicy coating. I also like it more when it's not just plain sugar. Then again, I won't say no if offered one of those!

Marisa said...

You should try them dipped in syrup and dessicated coconut - it's divine!

Will be checking out that cookbook...

Ann said...

Thanks all!
@Marisa - is it true that the difference in koe_sisters is it just has the sugar or spice coating, while the koeKsister is the pastry dipped in syrup? ahhh..but thats just another treat for me to try out! Thanks for the coconut tip =)

tasteofbeirut said...

These are so scrumptious and I want to taste them! at once!

Deeba PAB said...

Love these... how interesting. I tried to get to Meeta's table, but life had other plans for me. Gorgeous koeksiters!!

Anonymous said...

A beautiful dish. Great photos! Thank you for sharing these tasty treats. I like the bite-size. Great for snacking or hors d'oeuvres.
My blog celebrated Africa Day with a collection of recipes from across the continent. I would love your thoughts.

Pavithra Elangovan said...

Beautiful dish and really loved it... First time here wonderful space u have. Just peep in mine when u find time.