The theme for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge (co-hosted by ‘Lavender and Lovage’ and ‘What Kate Baked‘) is “Summer Fairs & Fêtes and Cake Stall Cakes & Bakes.” I like to put a South African spin on my challenge entries if I can but as a summer fête seems such a quintessentially British pastime, initially I was struggling for ideas.
But then I remembered that I have been to a couple of Afrikaans country festivals which certainly share some similarities with a British summer fair. Stalls full of food, games for the kids, someone singing slightly off-key soft rock songs in a language I don’t understand. OK, maybe scratch that last one!
Between the delicious braai meats, the syrupy koeksisters and the fiery mampoer, there is one foodstuff that is guaranteed to be found in abundance at an Afrikaans country festival and that is rusks. Now in the UK a rusk conjures up images of a dribbling baby sucking gummily on a soggy biscuit. But here in South Africa, a rusk is like a rather rustic version of the Italian biscotti i.e. so hard that it is only edible when dunked in liquid. It is not difficult to see why the rusk evolved here as, short of nuclear Armageddon, they are basically impervious to destruction. So probably the ideal provision for the Dutch settlers back in the day when they navigated South Africa in their ox wagons in the intense heat, dodging wild animals and Zulu warriors.
To be honest, I am not the biggest fan of rusks, principally because of the sludge they leave at the bottom of a perfectly good cup of tea. But the OH? He loves them and has been on at me to make him some rusks for ages. Thus I thought that this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge would be the perfect excuse to break my rusk duck.
Despite my vast array of cookbooks, I don’t actually own a rusk recipe so I found this one on Pinterest. Inadvisably, I didn’t really read the recipe thoroughly in advance. If I had done so, I would have realized that it was initially published in an Indian women’s magazine and as a result the English is rather quaint. This presented its own challenges but did at least make me smile. And I quote: “This scrumptious yet healthy Muesli Rusk recipe served with hot chocolate or coffee can make your evening memorable. This South African healthy recipe is famous worldwide. The romance between muesli and butter adds the required taste to move your mind. Eggs and Flour adds necessary calorie to your body.”
I have rewritten the recipe for you below as to be honest, the original instructions were a bit scant and it took a bit of trial and error to get things right. It produces a fairly traditional plain rusk, typical of the sort found all over South Africa. They don’t actually contain any sugar only condensed milk and as a result, my OH reckons they weren’t quite sweet enough. They tasted OK to me but then who am I to argue with the rusk aficionado?
If you fancy a rusk with a little more bling then I suggest heading over to my fellow South African blogger Tandy at Lavender and Lime. The very same day I made my rusks, Tandy posted this delicious looking rusk recipe containing cranberries, nuts and other delicious goodies. I haven’t tried it but I am sure her rusks are even more amazing than mine
Muesli Rusks (adapted from Jagran Sakhi)
- 725g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 500g muesli (the baked kind not the floury Alpen kind – if it contains raisins, nuts etc. so much the better)
- 175g sunflower seeds
- 500g butter, melted
- 500ml buttermilk
- 1 tin of condensed milk
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a large roasting tin (about 3-5cm deep) with butter.
2. In a very large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Mix all the wet ingredients together and add to the dry mixture. Beat firmly with a wooden spoon until you get a stiff, crumbly dough.
3. Place the mixture in the roasting tin and press down firmly, smoothing the top as best you can. Using a small, sharp, wet knife cut the dough into rectangles about 3cm x 8cm. Bake for at least an hour until golden brown on top and the dough is cooked in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before turning out and separating into individual rusks. Leave to cool completely on wire racks.
4. Transfer the racks to a cool oven (about 100C/80C/gas ½ ) for about 5 hours until the rusks are completely dry and crisp.