Background to the creation of buttermilk rusks:
The South African karringmelk (buttermilk) rusk can be compared to American biscotti, but they are, in fact, only distant cousins.
The S.African rusk evolved from early Cape settlement and from the pioneers making their laborious and dangerous trip inland from the coast via ox-wagons. They are extremely hard, almost inedible unless dipped (or dunked) in hot coffee.
In Returning to Amanda, she starts every day with a buttermilk rush and a cup of coffee.
So now let’s make some buttermilk rusks!
Sorry the ingredients are metric, but that’s our method of measurement in SA.(See Conversion Table here.)
3kg self-raising flour
2 x 500g butter
2 x 500ml buttermilk
8 eggs (beaten well)
1 desert-spoon baking powder
2.5 cups sugar
2 teaspoon salt
Mix self-raising flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
Melt butter and sugar together slowly (body temperature ONLY).
Pour the melted mixture into flour mixture.
Add beaten eggs.
Press into oven pans about 1.5cm high.
“Cut” into rusks about width and length of adult middle finger by pushing a long flat object (eg. ruler or egg lifter) into the dough to separate the dough. Do not try to cut with a knife – the dough will just drag.
Bake for around 1 hour in a 165 degree Celsius preheated oven. Stick a toothpick in and if it comes out clean, they’re ready. If not and the rusks are browning, cover with foil and bake longer.
Once baked, remove and break into separate biscuits along pressed lines.
Place back into the oven pan, stacking biscuits loosely and dry overnight in a 70 degree Celsius oven.
Make sure to wedge something in the oven door that will keep the oven open fractionally—about a centimeter—so that there is airflow to dry the rusks slowly.
How to eat a rusk:
Once rusks are ready, grab a cup of coffee, dunk and enjoy! There’s a knack to dunking. Dip the rusk too long and it’ll break off in your hot drink. Too short and you could just break a tooth! Dip twice before popping the end into your mouth. And keep a teaspoon handy to fish out any errant pieces that bob to the surface of your drink.