Manitoba Canola Growers
Red River College Baking Competition
As soon as the photoshoot is over, a dozen hands dart at the cakestand and snatch one of the glistening braided treats piled high and pretty. It’s surprising, considering these are students in the professional baking program at Red River College and you’d think they get their fill of treats on a daily basis. But, like everyone else, they can’t resist the koeksisters.
Koeksisters, a syrup-drenched, slightly spicy, crunchy fried donut, grabbed one of two blue ribbon handed out at the Creative Canola Bake Off sponsored by the Manitoba Canola Growers Association. Most of the students in Red River College’s professional baking program competed.
Since winning the top prize, baking student Anna Badenhorst has had to explain—more than once—the pronunciation and origins of the South African recipe that helped her win.
“This is something I grew up with,” said Badenhorst. “It’s a very popular thing all over South Africa.”
Here in Manitoba however, koeksisters are a rarity and that’s why Badenhorst will gladly whip up a batch for special orders. If you can restrain yourself from eating the entire batch in one sitting, they keep very well in the freezer.
For the competition, Badenhorst started with her mother’s recipe then experimented with about 30 other recipes to get just the right mix of spices. The final recipe includes nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. The dough is cut into seven-inch strips, braided, deep fried, then dunked into an ice-cold syrup flavoured with ginger and cinnamon. The crispy treats are best served cold and with tea or coffee.
In South Africa, koeksisters are fried in sunflower oil but Badenhorst uses canola oil because of its health properties. “It performs exactly the same way,” she said.
Badenhorst, a professor with the human ecology faculty at the University of Manitoba, sells koeksisters at the Selkirk Farmers’ Market throughout the summer. She says once shoppers get a taste of the samples, they can’t leave without making a purchase.
“You would never buy just one. These are always sold by the dozen,” Badenhorst said, hinting at the addictive nature of these South African goodies.
Some day in the near future, Badenhorst would like to open a coffee shop, modeled after the shops in her homeland. “The French and Dutch had a lot of influence in the shops of South Africa,” she said. “I would like to offer light meals with the focus on tea and coffee service with baking.”
Koeksisters (printer friendly version)
Koeksister (pronounced cook-sister) comes from the Dutch word koekje, the diminutive of koek meaning “cake”. It is a South-African syrup-coated doughnut in a twisted shape. They are very sticky, sweet, taste like honey and best eaten cold.
Yield: 50 koeksisters
8 cups sugar (2 L)
4 cups water (1 L)
2 cinnamon sticks (2 )
1/2 tsp ginger (2 mL)
1 tsp tartaric acid (5 mL)
Mix all syrup ingredients in a large saucepan. Heat the syrup over high heat, while stirring, to dissolve the sugar.
Stop stirring as soon as the syrup begins to boil. Boil for 10 minutes, constantly cleaning the sides of the pot of sugar crystals with a pastry brush dipped in water.
Remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until syrup is very cold.
5 cups cake flour (1.25 L)
2 Tbsp baking powder (25 mL)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (7 mL)
1 tsp ginger (5 mL)
1/2 tsp all spice (2 mL)
1/4 cup canola oil (60 mL)
2 cups buttermilk (500 mL)
For the dough, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and all spice into a large mixing bowl.
Mix in the canola oil to form a texture that resembles bread crumbs.
Add buttermilk and mix to form a soft dough, adding more buttermilk if needed.
Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour.
Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, to a thickness of ? inch (4 mm). Cut in 1 ½ inch (4 cm) wide strips. Cut strips in lengths of 2 ¾ inch (7 cm). Cut three legs into each strip – keeping the top ? inch (4 mm) intact. Braid the three legs and secure the ends by pinching ends together.
Place on parchment lined baking sheet and keep covered to keep koeksisters from drying out.
Meanwhile, heat canola oil in deep fryer to 375°F (190°C). Fry koeksisters 5 at a time until golden brown.
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined tray. Immediately submerge in cold syrup.
Let sit in cold syrup 1–2 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to drain excess syrup.