Eat This While You Read That: Peter Grant

Koeksister: perfect with strong tea, or coffee.

I came up with a wild idea for my Sunday food blogs. What if I combined three of my favorite things into one place? Cooking, photography, and reading? It started with an inkling of an idea when a fellow author posted an exuberant review of a dish he’d made. It grew into a wild hare when I emailed a handful of friends to ask if they were up to sending me either a recipe, or a dish. And it’s coming to fruition with this, the first of a series of posts about food, books, and authors. Look for more Eat This While you Read That on upcoming Sundays, we have some very interesting recipes coming. And many thanks to Stephen Simmons for the title suggestion on the series.

One of the brave volunteers to send me a dish to try was Peter Grant. I have happily been reading his books since I met him and his lovely wife at LibertyCon 26. Peter’s space operas are light, feature a true-blue hero (to my delight) and have been getting better with each release. I’m really looking forward to his next book, the 4th in the Steve Maxwell series, which will come out later this month. stand against the storm cover - blog size

While you wait for that book, if you are already a fan, you might want to try this South African treat. I know we had a lot of fun making them, and the First Reader’s verdict was “make them again SOON.”

Koeksister, or koeksusters, are a syrup-dipped African treat, whose name derives from either cake, or cookie. I was a bit worried at first they would be too sweet, but the syrup dries on the hot doughnut after dipping and draining, and comes out beautifully glazed. Also, there is no sweetener in the batter, so this could easily be manipulated to less-sweet. Although never low-carb, but that’s ok. They were decadently good, chewy, and yes, I will make them again.

Assembly for the dough: I use my tablet for internet recipes. 

I used the recipe from Fleur Hupston that Peter sent me, with some slight alterations.

Begin with the syrup:

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Place all ingredients in a pan on the stovetop and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, until it starts to thicken into a syrup. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool, preferably overnight (note: I cooled mine for about 3 hours, it was cool at that point).

  • 1 beaten egg
  • 6 tablespoons of yogurt
  • 6 tablespoons of butter
  • pinch of salt (as I was using unsalted butter)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
Soft dough ball stage.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until it is pea-sized. Add the egg and yougurt, mix until dough forms a soft ball. Add a couple tablespoons of milk if dough does not want to ball up and avoid overworking it. Once dough is in a ball, wrap it with saran wrap and refrigerate at least a couple of hours, and overnight if you want breakfast doughnuts (we had ours for dessert).

While dough is cooling, read some of Peter’s excellent War to the Knife.

dough rolled
Cutting the dough into braidable strips
braided dough
a doughy braid.

When dough is chilled, remove, and roll out on a floured surface until it is about 1/4″ thick. Cut into strips that are about 4″long. I figured out that making them about 1/2″ wide worked, but narrower might be better, even. Take three strips, and press the ends together, then braid. Press the bottom ends together to seal. Place carefully into a dutch oven (or fryer) with about 2-3″ of hot oil in it. I don’t have a fry thermometer right now, so I tested when it looked right with a strip of dough. I don’t recommend this if you aren’t comfortable with deep-frying, but I’ve been cooking this way for a long time, and sometimes I can get away with stuff. I do recommend a probe thermometer, they are a great multi-use tool. If your oil is too low, the dough will get greasy, if too hot, the outside will burn while the inside is raw.

Frying station
Fry station: Dutch oven, spider, and draining rack.

As soon as you pull the golden-brown on both sides Koeksister from the fat, plunge it into the syrup pan you pulled out of the fridge a minute ago. I used a large spoon to cover both sides of the doughnut, and then put it on a rack over a jellyroll pan to drain.

This recipe makes about 6-8 Koeksisters, depending on how big your braids are!

south african doughnut
Koeksuster, or Koeksister. Yum.
Nice structure internally after frying, the braid facilitates fast, even cooking.