I have a deep affinity for South Africa – beautiful country, warm people and terrific shopping. It also has similarities to Kenya not the least of which is the amazing wildlife.
Nairobi and Johannesburg are separated by nearly 4,000 kilometres. Google maps tells me that’s a 50 hour drive in Saturday traffic. Some of my fondest food memories from childhood are centred around Ceres litchi juice, Tennis biscuits and Bokomo rusks, not to mention sweet juicy apples, grapes and kiwis. Kenya being on the equator, these fruits were a rarity and we had to ‘make do’ with a variety of pineapples, papaya, bananas, mangoes. How I miss my tropical fruit now.
There is a sizeable South African expat population here in Oz and so, while Jo’burg is more than 10,000 kilometres away from where I am sitting right now, it’s not unusual to find some biltong and Spar Letta creme soda in your local supermarket. At any given time, I have a box of breakfast rusks and a bottle of All Gold tamatiesous (tomato sauce to you) kicking around in my food drawer at work. Emergencies, you know!
So my life was pretty much complete until I discovered something better than buttermilk rusks. Homemade buttermilk rusks!
Rusks (not baby rusks!) are a cousin of biscotti. They are a traditional dry biscuit, twice-baked to endure transportation over long distances across southern Africa. Beskuit (as they are called in Afrikaans) are much loved breakfast food and best eaten dunked in the hot beverage of your choice.
On a visit to New Zealand, my fate was sealed when the void in my hungry stomach was filled with said homemade rusk. See, my dear cousin’s mother-in-law (who is incidentally, originally from Zimbabwe) bakes these golden delights regularly. And the last of her last batch found its way to me. It was perfect. A sublime balance of sweet and spice from a smattering of caraway seeds. And with a suitable crunch that made it all the more moreish. I had to have the recipe and she graciously obliged.
It’s an easy enough recipe to follow and it yields a decent sized batch (even if you share, which you wouldn’t want to). I’ve tried to reproduce it faithfully here, albeit with a minor tweak or two. Hope you like it.
(makes 32 rusks)
You will need
- 1 cup buttermilk*
- 500 grams self raising flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 225 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 cup brown sugar/ raw sugar
- 2½ cups bran buds (you can use bran flakes instead)
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- 5 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ cup coconut flakes/ dessicated coconut
- ½ cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
*UPDATE: You can substitute out the buttermilk. See how here.
- Preheat oven to 170°C/160°C (fan forced)
- Grease and line two long loaf tins with melted butter and baking paper. You can use a shallow slice tin if you prefer finger-cut rusks
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whisk the buttermilk to get it a little frothy
- Meanwhile, sift flour into a bowl
- Add sugar and melted butter to the buttermilk and mix well (the sugar won’t dissolve completely, that’s ok)
- Combine the seeds, nuts, coconut, baking powder and salt in a bowl then add to the sifted flour
- Add the bran buds and stir to combine well
- Tip the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl with the buttermilk, sugar and butter. Let the machine knead the mixture lightly
- You will now have a sticky wet dough. Tip this out onto a lightly floured surface
- Knead the dough lightly and pat in the seeds to ensure they are secured into the mixture
- Shape the dough into long blocks so as to fit the tins
- Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. Each oven is different so check the temperature when baking to ensure they aren’t cooking too quickly
- Let the loaves cool in the baking tins, covered overnight
- The following day, preheat oven to 150°C and line two baking trays with parchment
- Slice each loaf into rusks approximately 1½ cm thick with a sharp knife. I found mine crumbled a fair bit. Don’t worry, those bits are the most delicious and I save them for snacking on
- You should have about 16 slices from each loaf
- Bake for 25-30 minutes on each side until golden and dry. Mine turned out a little sunburnt but were still scrumptious
- Serve with hot milky tea/ coffee for dunking or store in an airtight container
The next time I made these, I replaced half the caraway seeds with fennel seeds. That only made the rusks more irresistible
Do you like rusks?
Would you make these at home?