A flop-proof Cape Malay Potato Koesister recipe is like a pot of gold. It will result in fragrant and aromatic sweet yeasted doughnuts spiced with powdered cinnamon, cardamom, mixed spice and ginger and uplifted with the heady scent of aniseed and naartjie peel (mandarin orange or tangerine peel).
In the Cape Malay community koesisters are synonymous with Sunday mornings and although one can eat them at any time, we feel that a Sunday without koesisters is not Sunday. Although a favorite on Sunday mornings, they are also welcome addition to any morning or afternoon tea.
Cape Malay koesisters recipes are all very similar but differ slightly in the amount of spices used; whether or not they add mashed potato or whether they stuff the koesister with cooked sweetened coconut or sprinkle with dessicated coconut.
Although many Cape Malay families have their own go to koesisters recipe, our tradition was to buy Sunday morning koesisters from the koesister lady. When I was a child every neighborhood had a few homes where they sold koesisters and we could go with our own bowl to buy hot syrupy koesisters to have with coffee for breakfast.
Aunty Seera who lived in the cul-de-sac at the end of our road was the spicy koesisters recipe maker. My father would drive me down to Aunty Seera’s house and I would run up to the house with a heatproof glass bowl and come out a few minutes later with my treasure. The minute it took from Aunty Seera’s house to our home felt like a lifetime, before I could finally get my hands on a warm soft pillowy koesister.
Before I learned how to make koesisters, my father’s childhood friend Uncle Daglaan would bring over a bowl of piping hot koesisters bought from their next door neighbour on a Sunday morning. After my father passed Uncle Daggie would still pop in sometimes to bring us koesisters for Sunday breakfast.
Read more: Cape Malay Cardamom bollas recipe
The first time I tasted a koesister recipe that included mashed potato in the mix was when my Aunty Josie served them after dinner one Saturday afternoon. I must confess I was smitten by the soft pillowy texture and have loved Potato Koesister recipes ever since. I did not get her recipe before she passed away, and have tried to recreate my own Potato Koesister recipe from my memories of watching her make them.
My potato Koesister recipe has all the warming spices familiar in South East Asian cooking. The fried spiced doughnuts are boiled in hot sugar syrup for a minute or two then strained and topped with a scattering of fine desiccated coconut.
Although one can now find Koesister pre-mixes available in certain supermarkets, it is so easy and much more flavorful to make your own from scratch. There are no special ingredients required excepts perhaps the naartjie peel.
I love the flavor of the naartjie peel in any koesister recipe but over the years have found that I always forget to dry the peels before the time or my cleaner throws them away. I tried fresh naartjie peel and while grating it I realised why the older generations dried it first. The naartjie peel is much softer than an orange or lemon and has less white pith so it can disintegrate very easily if it is manhandled. If you have a microplane that would be ideal!
Cape Malay Koesister recipe vs. Koeksisters recipes
- Koesisters are pillowy spicy doughnuts from the Cape Malay community whereas Koeksisters are plaited vanilla flavored doughnuts drowned in cold sugar syrup that are a speciality of white South Africans of Dutch colonial descent. That being said, my Aunts Gadija and Doreen both made delicious koeksisters and I am going to try to recreate the perfect koeksister recipe as my next project, in shaa Allah.
- Koesisters are spiced doughnuts containing warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and mixed spice whereas Koeksisters contain little or no spice although some recipes include a small amount of nutmeg in the dough and fresh ginger root in the syrup.
- Cape Malay Koesister recipes are leavened with yeast and sometimes baking powder, whereas only baking powder is used in Koeksister recipes.
- Koesisters are deep fried then cooled completely before they are boiled in hot sugar syrup for a few minutes, then strained and sprinkled with dessicated coconut. Koeksisters are fried, drained and plunged into ice cold syrup white still hot.
- All versions of koesisters may be eaten at breakfast on a Sunday morning. Koeksisters are usually served after a braai or for a sweet snack for afternoon tea.
How to make Cape Malay Potato Koesisters
- The first thing to do is peel, cube and boil the potatoes until soft, then strain and toss them in the dry pan on the stove for another 5-10 seconds to release any excess water.
- The potato is then mashed or put through a potato ricer and the butter is added.
- The warm milk and water is added to the mashed or riced potato and mixed to combine. Do not add cold milk to the potato as it will not melt the butter and the potato starch will become gummy and sticky.
- Lastly a beaten egg is added to the mash and then the liquid is mixed in slowly into the dry ingredients. You can use a electric stand mixer for this part if you are doubling the recipe but for this amount it is easily mixed by hand.
- The dough is kneaded until it is smooth and elastic and placed in a well oiled heat proof bowl. I rub a little oil over the top of the dough to prevent it sticking and cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish cloth and then leave it to rise in a warm place.
- In the past I’ve wrapped my covered koesister bowl in blankets and duvets during winter or on cooler days with mixed results.
- I discovered it’s much easier and more consistent to put it in a warm oven. I set the oven to 100 degrees celcius and then turn off the oven after 5 minutes.
- The covered koesisters are placed in the center of the oven to rise until they have doubled in volume. This normally takes between 60-75 minutes.
- I used to cover my counter with a light sprinkling of flour before making the dough balls and leaving them to rise a second time. However, I don’t like the flour burning in the oil and leaving a black sediment at the bottom of the pot.
- I found that it is also less messy to rub the counter with a very light film of vegetable or cooking oil to prevent it sticking. Alternately you can cover trays with plastic wrap and spray or rub a light film of oil before placing down the dough balls.
- After the first rising, I gently knock down the dough and fold it over itself until all the oil is mixed in.
- I usually weigh the dough to get an idea of how many balls I can get from it and how heavy they should be. I break off golf ball sized pieces of dough of approximately 40 grams each and roll them between my palms to get a smooth ball then put them down to rise a second time.
- When the oil is hot enough I take one ball at a time and gently stretch it into an oblong shape then place it into the hot oil. I turn it when it reaches a nice golden brown. When the second side is the same color as the first I remove it and drain on a cookie sheet lined with paper kitchen towels.
- When the koesisters are completely cooled you may bag them and freeze for later use, or give them a syrup coating and sprinkling of dessicated coconut and serve with freshly brewed coffee.
- The fragrant and aromatic smell may tempt you to syrup these beauties before they are completely cooled but that would result in very doughy clumpy koesisters. The cooling allows the cooked dough to relax and soak in the syrup a little.
Cape Malay Potato Koesister recipe (spiced doughnuts)
- 160 grams potato approximately 1 large potato, peeled, cubed and boiled
- 65 grams butter approximately 4 1/2 tablespoons
- 125 ml lukewarm water approximately 1/2 cup
- 125 ml lukewarm milk approximately 1/2 cup
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 500 grams cake flour approximately 3 2/3 cups, firmly packed
- 5 ml baking powder approximately 1 teaspoon
- 10 grams instant yeast approximately 1 sachet
- 7.5 ml salt, divided
- 50 grams sugar approximately 60 ml or 1/4 cup
- 7.5 ml cardamom powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 7.5 ml cinnamon powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 7.5 ml ginger powder approximately 1 1/2 teaspoon
- 5 ml aniseed, whole approximately 1 teaspoon
- 5 ml mixed spice approximately 1 teaspoon
- 7.5 ml grated fresh clementine peel, optional approximately 1 1/2 teaspoon
- 750 ml cooking oil, for frying the doughnuts approximately 3 cups
- 400 grams sugar approximately 500 ml or 2 cups
- 375 ml water approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 5 ml butter
- 10 ml lemon juice
- 125 ml desiccated coconut, fine shredded not sweetened
Making the koesisters
- Peel and cube the potato and place it in a small pot with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover with water then boil until soft.
- Strain the potatoes and place back in the pot on the stove for 5-10 seconds to dry out any excess water.
- In a small bowl, mash the potatoes or put it through the fine mesh of a potato ricer, ensuring there are no lumps or big pieces.
- Add the butter to the mashed potato and mix until combined.
- Add the warm milk and water then add the lightly beaten egg and mix to combine. If using, grate in the fresh naartjie peel.
- In a large bowl, sift the cake flour and add the baking powder, yeast, remaining salt, sugar, and spices.
- Add the milk and potato mixture to the dry ingredients and knead until smooth and elastic, approximately 5 minutes.
- Scrape the bowl clean and rub the inside with oil then put the dough back into the bowl.
- Cover the dough with cling wrap / plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 60-75 minutes or until doubled in size.
- When the rising time is completed and the dough looks springy and light to the touch, knock it down gently. Fold it over itself a few times to incorporate the oil.
- On a clean dry surface, rub a thin layer of vegetable oil.
- Weigh the dough then break off equal size pieces, approximately 40 grams each. This amount of dough will yield exactly 25 koesisters.
- Roll the dough pieces into balls between your palms and allow to rise a second time on the oiled surface, not longer than 15 minutes.
- Heat the oil in a medium pot or fryer and fry the koesisters until golden brown.
Making the syrup
- Boil together the water, sugar and lemon juice together for 10 minutes until it becomes slightly sticky.
- Add the butter and boil for another 2 minutes before adding the koesisters.
- Boil the koesisters in the sugar syrup for 2 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon and toss in fine shredded dessicated coconut.
- Serve for Sunday breakfast or tea time with big mugs of coffee or tea.
- This is one of the few times when I will use full fat margarine instead of butter for cakes and bakes.
- My preferred brands are the regular full fat Cordon Bleu, Blossom or Marvello Professional margarine bricks and never the low or medium fat spread in the tubs.
- Do not use cold milk and water to mix into the mashed / riced potato as it will make the starch in the potato sticky and gummy.
- During winter when there are no warm places in the kitchen, I usually let the dough rise in the oven. Switch on the oven and set the temperature to 100 celsius, then and turn it off after 5 minutes. Place the dough in the center of the oven to rise.
Disclaimer: Nutritional information for the recipe is an approximation and varies according to the ingredients and products used.
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