I have been wanting to make these beauties for years, but their reputation of being tricky to get just right has put me off - I'm not one to take on a challenge I don't feel confident I can overcome. I didnt just want them to nice, they needed to be perfect. I like them crispy on the outside and completely soaked on the inside.. they must not be doughy! So with all of this in mind, I called my mum for the recipe I have been reading over and tempted by it since I was in junior school. Yes - my obsession goes back that far.
Gifts and Goodies for Fetes and Fairs - published in 1989, probably the same year my mum bought it. I have made lots of the crafts from it over the years, the mustard sauce recipe is great (I intend on making it for our christmas hampers this year) and I have always read and reread the koeksister page. I have never acted on it. Until now...
This weekend while on skype to Mum and my sister in the US, I begged Mum to give me the recipe. She references this particular book for me so regularly that Im now on the hunt for a copy of my own, just to give her a break! I dont know that she has actually even made anything from the book herself to be honest. Anyway.
After making these, I can confidently say that if you take the time necessary (an afternoon would be good) and if you can rope in a second pair of hands (Mike to the rescue), with the right tools and adequate time and preparation you should have no trouble getting great results.
This recipe makes 50 medium koeksisters, or 70-100 mini koeksisters. I have adapted it quite a bit from the original as we dont need 400... and their syrup recipe was a little too thin.
Helpful equipment: Large pot for syrup, can be washed and used for frying later. 2 medium bowls for syrup mix, pref not plastic as syrup will be really hot at first. A slotted spoon for fishing out pastries. A pair of tongs to turn pastries and moving them while hot as coals. A sugar thermometer to check your oil temp (helpful, not essential). Paper towel, a cooking rack, greaseproof paper and a sink of hot soapy water to wash your hands in - if you lick your fingers you will feel so SO sick. Just take my advice on that one.
Ideally made the day before ... but life's not always ideal, is it?
Place 1.5kg of white sugar into the biggest pot you have. At this point, I realised I dont have any very big pots - must rectify this asap.
Add 1L of water, and 250ml of golden syrup. Yes, that much. And this is just the start...
Add 1tbsp of ginger powder, if you dont find it abhorrent. And by that I mean, put it in unless you absolutely can not stand it. It really comes through so subtley you wont even know its there, but it does make a difference! Also add 12ml of cream of tartar.
At this junction let me draw your attention aside to my spice draw...
I keep coming to find my spices have opened themselves and are having a party in the draw together. I was perplexed as to how this was happening until yesterday, when I watched Levi open the draw, stick his little hand up and over like and ellie trunk and grab a bottle. He took it out, loosened the lid, and put it back. Enough said.
Stir the mix over a medium heat until it starts to bubble. When it starts to bubble, stop stirring and leave it to boil for ten to fifteen minutes. Keep and eye on it, as if it gets too hot it bubbles over. You dont want to be cleaning that. Ask Mike.
When its done, divide the syrup evenly between two bowls. Cool to room temperature and then rest in the fridge until ice cold - preferably overnight. I didnt do this, I dont have the patience to bake over days... So I popped mine in the freezer to speed things up!
Mix 500ml of water with 50mls of condensed milk to make a sweet milk mix, then take a rest and eat the remaining 200mls with a spoon, or your finger if you insist! Rub 75g of butter into 750g of flour, sieved with 25ml of baking powder plus 7ml of salt and then stir in only 400ml of the milk mix to make a dough. If it is too dry, add a little more milk mix. Rather add in milk mix little by little that have to add flour to pull a sticky dough together as this could mess with the quantities of the other ingredients.
Once it looks like this, knead it for a few minutes and then leave in a bowl, covered with a clean, damp cloth for and hour or two. Here again I cheated, only left it for 40 mins max! Woops..
Roll it out on a well floured surface to 5mm think and cut into 10x1cm strips. For easier cooking and soaking later, cut them to 7x .75cm strips for mini koeksisters. They nearly double in size when you deep fry them.
Now comes the folding part. Did you ever make those woven paper chains as a kid at christmas time? Well, this is supposedly called plaiting, but given ive decided that there arent going to be three pieces of dough per koeksister (who want to put in that much work, really?) I cant call it that, so I will call it folding. My recipe, my choice.
Move your strip of dough onto a well floured surface.
Rather than starting with two pieces and sticking them together at a 90deg angle, I start with one, and fold in the angle, as above. If there is a quicker way of doing something, trust the mum of two under twos to figure it out...
Fold your bottom piece over the corner to the right.
Fold the top piece over the bottom piece.
Right strip back over to the left.
Bottom strip back over the top. I guess you get the idea now. Carry on folding until you run out of dough.
Pinch the loose ends together.
Carry on folding strips until you have used up as much of the dough as you can be bothered to.
THE DEEP FRY
I never expected that I would ever, ever deep fat fry ANYTHING in my life. Alas, I lay this expectation aside and heated up 1L of oil to between 180-190 deg C in a medium saucepan. I used a sugar thermometer to keep track of the oil temperature. It was invaluable. That said, im not pro with deep fat frying. SO, apparently you have reached the right oil temperature when a blob of dough rises to the top in 10 seconds when dropped into the hot oil. If its too hot, the outsides burn before the insides cook, if its too cool they just take forever. Use the dough you haven't been bothered to fold rolled into little sausages to test. Start at a lower heat and work your way up until they go golden in about 3-4 mins. Turn them over half way through to be golden on both sides.
I used a cast iron pot to keep an even temperature. Or maybe because the oil got too hot in the other pot and i needed to cool it down by transferring it. You will never know....
(imagine a picture of koeksisters in syrup here... I forgot to take one. Once you have made these and experienced the "rush" of the syruping process, you'll know why. Woops)
Remove them with tongs once they are browned and drain for a second on some kitchen towel. By a second I mean, a second (hence no pic of this step). Then pick them up (once again with tongs, bearing in mind they have just come out of 190 deg oil!) and drop them into your ice cold syrup. Keep them submerged in the syrup for two minutes before lifting out onto a cooling rack (with wax paper under it to catch the draining syrup). Keep your bowl of syrup in a bowl of ice to keep it cold, and keep the second one in the freezer. Alternate between bowls of syrup regularly to ensure your syrup stays nice and cold.
Its helpful to have one pair of hands for the frying, and one for the dipping and draining or it might get a bit overwhelming. You need to work quickly to get the koeksisters into the syrup and keep them there for their minutes. The hot pastry contracts when dipped into the ice cold syrup, creating a vacuum as its cooled that sucks in the syrup. This is why its SO important to have hot pastries, and cold syrup!
Leave them to cool completely before transferring to an airtight container in the fridge. From what I understand these guys have a significant shelf life if stored at a low temperature (a month or so?) but if you intend on holding on the the for that long, they are suitable for home freezing.
They are delicious. A delight to make - a real get stuck in project - and even better to eat.