South African Rusks (Beskuit)

As you may or may not know, I am a South African who immigrated to Canada. Merely a year after becoming a citizen, I married my Alberta-born husband. So we are a multicultural household. Food wise though we are very much an Afrikaans home. I mostly cook South African food at home, and when I do cook ‘Canadian’ it is usually with an SA slant. And we have chutney with everything. It’s on our birth certificates.

One of the foods my Canadian husband has gotten accustomed to, is rusks. This is a dried bread type item that you have first thing in the morning with your coffee before breakfast. It is important to have it with tea or coffee, as you DUNK the rusk in there, to get it to soften up. Don’t eat a dried rusk without dunking! And provide a spoon for broken off pieces.

A good hostess will often leave a tray of coffee and rusks by the guest room door, so your guests can have something to eat while they get ready. It was developed hundreds of years ago by our forefathers who needed a way to preserve bread for long journeys.

*Not to be confused with biscotti, which is Italian and a more cake like item. Which I also make, and love, and cover in chocolate*

Most rusks are hearty, with bran, dried fruit and seeds in it. The recipe I am sharing is our favourite, and my own adaption of a recipe in a cookbook. I adjusted it by using granola instead of bran, so it’s not as healthy, but twice as delicious instead. Below is my original recipe. And yes, it’s in Afrikaans. Because the best SA food recipes are.

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This makes approximately 9 dozen (it keeps for a long time) and we eat 2 pieces each in the morning. So don’t be alarmed by the amount of butter. Or be alarmed. Haha. I always give half my batch away to a lovely South African friend I have, and she values it more than gold I am sure.

Almond Granola Rusks

  • 1 pound block of salted butter melted (I put it in a pyrex in the microwave)
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk (full fat if you can find it)
  • 3 XL eggs

Whisk together in a large bowl

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In my mixer, I mix together:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 6 tsp + 1 TB baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups almond granola (for a healthier version you can substitute All Bran cereal)
  • 1 1/4 cups oats

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Now even though I currently own the largest Kitchenaid Stand-mixer the home cook can own, it’s not big enough. You need a BIG bowl for the next step. I shamelessly use my roasting pan. Double duty! Dump the dry mix in there, and add the wet in. Use a large spatula to stir together.

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Plop in 1/2 cup of raisins. At this point you may need to use your hands to combine everything.

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Scoop the mixture into 4 greased loaf pans. Even out the tops. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes at 325F.

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Loosen from edges. Carefully lay out on the wire rack. You will worry about your burnt fingers later. My husband at this point has wandered into the kitchen because of the unbelievable smell. I put him to work slicing the loaves into fingers using an electric knife with the ‘bread’ blade. That’s him slicing. Even his fingers are handsome. I am so lucky. Sigh.

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Place the rusks on cookie sheets. As many as will fit into your oven.

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I switch on my oven’s ‘warming’ setting, which is 170F. They will stay in at that temperature until we go to bed, at which point (without opening the door) I turn the oven off and leave them in over night. So approximately 6 hours @ 170F and then leave them until they are cool. This method keeps the raisins from becoming black, hard and burnt, something I always hated in some store bought varieties.

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Pack them into airtight containers the next morning, and enjoy for weeks to come. I packed some into a pretty cookie jar as a gift for my friend Eileen.

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