Buttermilk Rusks

Buttermilk Rusks on a plate | Buttermilk Rusks | Discover Delicious

UPDATE: this recipe will be veganised very soon, promise. I wrote it before I was un vegano. Soz.

When I was in South Africa, I came across certain foods that I learnt were deeply embedded in South African culture. For instance, a South African 'braai' (barbecue) is something of an art form and not to be messed with - the suggestion of using a gas-powered barbecue is actually insulting out there! Secondly, Rooibos (AKA red bush) tea: the go-to standard cup of tea is brewed with leaves from the Rooibos plant which produces a caffeine-free, earthy, slightly fruity beverage. And lastly, rusks. The English have their digestives, the US has Oreos, the French madeleines and the Scots shortbread. South Africa has rusks. How they haven't become a cupboard staple in the UK or Europe is a mystery to me. My good friend, who grew up in Durban, told me that she'd have a rusk and a glass of milk every day after returning home from a long day at school. Sound comforting?

A word about the biscuits themselves. Raisins, nuts and seeds provide a contrast in texture while buttermilk gives them their distinctive tang and buttery flavour. Drying them out after baking makes these biscuits wonderfully crunchy making them perfectly suited to dunking. What's more, they are way lower in fat and sugar than most cakes and biscuits with no sacrifice in flavour. Seriously: 90g of sugar is all that's needed for a whole batch of around 20 rusks.

buttermilk gives them their distinctive tang and buttery flavour

Since I've returned home from my South African trip there's always been a box of these kept by the kettle. My family and I like them so much that my recipe has been seriously fine-tuned over the batches I've made. Have a look at the trial and error...

Recipe

Buttermilk Rusks

Yield:
20 rusks
Hands-on time:
40 mins
Hands-off time:
5 hours+

Ingredients:

500g self-raising flour
90g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
cups bran flakes, roughly crushed
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¾ cup raisins
cup hazelnuts
1 large egg
100g butter, melted
275ml buttermilk

Process:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (fan)/350°F. Grease and line a baking tray (mine was 33cm x 18cm (13" x 7")) that has relatively tall sides. Seive the flour into a large mixing bowl and combine with all other dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, butter in a separate bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Mix well using a wooden spoon, then when it becomes too sticky use your hands. Make sure there is no dry flour left.
  4. Press the mixture into the lined baking tray and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Take the tray out and remove the foil. Let cool for 5 minutres (this makes it easier to cut) and put the square of dough onto a large cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into oblongs the size you would like your rusks to be. I like mine to be around 10cm x 3cm (4" x 1").
  6. If desired, now is the time to eggwash. This will give the rusks a lovely shiny sheen. Whisk an egg in a bowl and, using a pastry brush, brush a light layer of egg over the tops of the rusks.
  7. Spread the rusks out on the baking tray. Re-cover with foil and return to the oven for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the foil from the tray and bake until the rusks are a nice golden brown (my oven does this in ~10 minutes).
  9. Now turn the oven down to 50°C (fan)/120°F for 3 hours or up to as long as overnight to dry the rusks out. Turn the oven off, open the door (so the rusks don't steam as they cool), and leave the rusks in there until it's completely cool to dry them out even more. Store in an airtight container.