For the soaking syrup (start the day before):
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- Zest of 1/2 a small lemon, in large pieces
- 3 large slices peeled fresh ginger (slices should be about the size of poker chips and about 1/4 inch thick)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the koeksisters:
- 2 cups cake flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup milk
For the soaking syrup:
- Combine ingredients in a heavy saucepan; boil together over medium heat for 10 minutes. When cool, transfer to a storage container and chill overnight.
For the koeksisters:
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.
- Add the milk and mix until a smooth dough forms. Wrap dough in plastic and allow to rest for at least 2 hours.
- Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 5 x 14 inch rectangle with a thickness of about 1/4 inch.
- Cut the dough into strips about 5 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Twist pairs of strips together, pinch the ends, and allow the koeksisters to rest, covered with a clean dishcloth, for about 15 minutes.
- While the koeksisters are resting, heat about 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, pour some of the syrup into a small container so that it's at least 3 inches deep. A small loaf pan is ideal for this. Keep the loaf pan filled with cold syrup in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- When the oil is hot but not smoking (about 350 degrees) put in a test koeksister: cook it until it swells and is evenly golden brown.
- When it's done, remove it from oil, allow excess oil to drip off, then plunge it immediately into the cold syrup. Keep it completely submerged in the syrup for about 10 seconds, then remove and place on a rack set over a cookie sheet so that any excess syrup can drain off.
- Break it open: if it's cooked all the way through, the oil is at the right temperature and you can continue frying and soaking the remaining koeksisters. If the outside is browned but the inside is raw, turn down the heat.
- Continue frying and soaking the koeksisters as directed in 8 and 9, adding more cold syrup to your soaking container as needed. Serve with coffee and conversation.