They say a South African abroad is homesick for 2 things: biltong (dried meat) and buttermilk rusks. I’m not a great fan of biltong, but I do love rusks. These double-baked cookies are eaten as breakfast or a snack. They are hard and crumbly and are usually dipped in a cup of coffee or tea to soften them. Rusks have been baked by Afrikaners in South Africa since the 17th century. They probably derived from the rock hard ship’s biscuits that the sailors of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) lived on. Rusks are very similar to biscotti but are less sweet. The basic buttermilk recipe is very plain, but in stores nowadays you can find all sorts of tasty varieties with dried fruits, nuts and seeds. The most famous brand is Ouma Rusks with the slogan doup’n ouma: ‘dunk a grandma’. And why not!
Rusk cookie from South Africa
for about 60 cookies
500 grams (4 cups) self-raising flour
175 g (¾ cups + 2tbs) sugar
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
125 g (1 stick + 1 tbs) cold butter, diced
250 ml (1 cup + 1 tbs) buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 175° C / 350°F. Mix the flour with the sugar, salt and baking powder.
Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips.
Beat the egg with the buttermilk and mix into a sticky dough.
Line a baking tin 20 x 20 cm / 8 x 8 inch with baking paper. Grease your hands a little using sunflower oil and form ovals of approximately 5 x 2 x 2 cm. Put them in the pan and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 160°C / 320°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cut loose the pieces. Cut each piece in half horizontally and vertically so that you end up with nice little rectangles. Turn the oven temperature down to 100°C / 200°F. Place the rusks on a rack and allow to dry in the oven for 3-4 hours or until they are hard and crisp. Leave the oven door slightly ajar so that moisture can escape. If that is not possible, open the door every 15 minutes to let out the moisture. Remove from the oven and cool on rack.
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