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The sweet taste of these plaited dough cakes makes them a great favorite in South Africa. The secret of their success, some claim, is in preparing the syrup a day ahead and chilling it before dipping the koeksisters.



For the syrup:

1 kg sugar 500ml (2 cups) water 2 pieces fresh green ginger (each 5 cm), peeled and crushed 2ml ( teaspoon) cream of tartar A pinch of salt Grated rind and juice of lemon
For the dough:

500 g flour 2ml ( teaspoon) salt 30ml (2 tablespoons) baking powder 55 g butter, grated 1 egg 250-375ml (1-1 cups) milk or water Sunflower oil for deep-frying
To make the syrup, put all the ingredients in a saucepan. Heat (stirring) until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cover the mixture and boil for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan lid and boil the syrup for a further 5 minutes, but do not stir it. Remove the syrup from the stove and allow it to cool for at least 2 hours in a refrigerator, or preferably overnight. To make the dough, sieve together the dry ingredients and rub in the grated butter with your fingertips, or cut it in with a pastry cutter.

Beat the egg, add 250ml (1 cup) of the milk or water and mix lightly with the dry ingredients until it forms a soft dough. Add more milk or water if the dough is too stiff. Knead well until small bubbles form under the surface of the dough. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to stand for 30 minutes-1 hour. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 1 cm, then form koeksisters in either of the following ways: Cut strips 1 cm wide and twist 2 strips together, or plait 3 strips together, cutting the twisted, or plaited lengths at 8cm intervals and pinching the ends together. Alternatively, cut the dough into 8cm x 4cm pieces. Cut 2 vertical slits in each piece, reaching to 1cm from the end. Plait the 3 strips that have been formed and pinch together the loose ends. Heat 7-8cm deep oil to 180-190C a cube of day-old bread should turn goldenbrown in a minute. Fry the koeksisters for 1-2 minutes, or until golden-brown, then turn them over with a fork and fry until golden-brown on the other side. Remove the koeksisters with a lifter or slotted spoon, drain them for a moment on paper towel and then plunge them into the cold syrup for 1-2 minutes. Stand the container of syrup in a bowel of ice so that the syrup will stay cold. Remove the koeksisters from the syrup with a lifter or slotted spoon, allowing the excess syrup to flow back into the basin, then drain them slightly on a wire rack. VARIATIONS: For a lighter dough, use sour milk or buttermilk, or add lemon juice to the water. For a more cake-like texture, add 2 wellbeaten eggs to the milk and 2ml ( teaspoon) grated nutmeg. Without eggs, the koeksisters have more of a doughnut consistency. Adding 5-10ml (1-2 teaspoons) glycerin to the syrup will give the koeksisters a shiny appearance when coated.