Perhaps I’m stretching the biscuit theme a little here, but when making Klejne I couldn’t help but be reminded of another treat which is similar in method, similar in flour profile, but quite different in result. Koeksisters are a South African treat which is essentially a friend, plaited dough drenched in syrup. Another treat enjoyed year-round particularly in their native home, but often reserved for important celebrations.

Once you make them you might realise why. This is not a treat that favours the waistline. The luxuriously soft donutty dough is lathered generously in a thick, sugary syrup; and its not exactly easy to stop and just one!

The syrup itself is an incredibly important part of the dish and you’ll want to make it well ahead. The hot donuts need to be dunked in cold sugar syrup so you’ll want to give it plenty of time to cool right down. I made mine a day ahead while making the klejne. Cinnamon and lemon bring an ordinary syrup to delicious new heights.

Next step is making the dough itself. 

The cold butter must first be worked into the flour. Typically you should rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, but boy do I hate doing it. It’s the one thing in the kitchen I hate doing so I always cheat and use a food processor.

As usual, you’ll make a well in the centre and gradually work in the eggs and milk using a butter knife. My dough was still a little too sticky at this point so I added a handful more flour. Recipes are great, but it’s always important to go by feel when making doughs.

Give it an hour to rest in an oiled bowl, but after this hour it can be refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

There’s a lot of ways you can go about plaiting the dough. I rolled it out and cut it into rectangles, which I then divided into strips. This helped me keep the portions as equal as I could.

As I was plaiting them I figured I should take some photos in case someone doesn’t know how to plait. And the moment I tried to slow it down I suddenly forgot how to plait! Eventually my brain was able to break down the process: you simply bring the piece from the outside into the centre, alternating from left to right. 

Give the dough a good pinch at both ends because it does like to spring apart when cooking.

This time you want the oil a little less hot at 170°C. They’ll take a little time to cook so you can alternate between cooking and braiding as you work. 

They look pretty enough right out of the fryer and I’m sure they’re crispy and delicious. Buy we’re not done yet!

While still hot they need to be dunked in cold syrup. 

Or drizzled over for one of those gratuitous foodporn shots.

If you can resist waiting for it to cool, leave them to soak up the syrup. Soft, crispy, sticky and sweet. This citrus and cinnamon rollercoaster of textures is the most wonderful combination of all the things you could want in a sweet pastry.

Treat them as you would any donut. They’re best eaten fresh, but can be stored in an airtight container for a week. They can be frozen for longer lasting treats or if you want to prep a huge batch before Christmas. They can be heated again and brushed with the remaining syrup to recapture the fresh cooked feeling.

Lets get to the recipe!


  • Servings: 24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A crispy, braided cinnamon donut slathered an a sweet citrus and cinnamon sugar syrup.

Dough can be made up to a week in advance before frying. Cooked pastries are best eaten on the day of but can be frozen to preserve freshness.


• 875g white sugar
• 375ml water
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2tsp lemon juice

• 435g self-raising flour
• 1tsp ground cinnamon
• 1tbsp caster sugar
• 50g butter, chilled and chopped
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten
• 250ml milk
• oil for deep frying


  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, cinnamon stick and lemon juice; stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for 5-7 minutes. Syrup should be thickened but not caramelised. Allow to cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, cinnamon, sugar and chilled butter. Rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively, use a food processor to pulse the mixture.
  3. Make a well in the centre; add the eggs and milk to the mixture. Mix with a butter knife, using cutting motions to bring the dough together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead for 1 minute or until smooth. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rest for an hour.
  4. Roll the dough into a large rectangle. Cut into eighths, then cut each of the smaller rectangles into nine roughly 10cm long strips. Plait 3 strips together, pinching the dough at the ends to seal. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. In a large saucepan or deep fryer, heat oil to 170°C. Cook dough in small batches for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Transfer to paper towel to drain the excess oil
  6. While still hot dip into the cold syrup, coating well for a few seconds, the transfer to a wire rack over a baking tray to collect the excess. Can be eaten soon after.

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