As soon as the photoshoot is over, a dozen hands dart at the cake stand 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 doughnut, grabbed one of two blue ribbons 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.
Someday in the near future, Badenhorst would like to open a coffee shop, modelled 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.”