An early German settler, Michael Rodenkirch, wrote from “Westkonsin” to his family, who were about to emigrate in 1846, “For your sea voyage, make your own ‘Zwieback’ and take along sufficient oatmeal and wheat flour.” Zweiback means “twice-baked” to make bread dough drier, lighter, more durable, and therefore more portable. The French called their twice-baked dough biscotte and the English, “rusks.” The word “zweiback” (spelled variously, according to the degree the speller was Americanized) entered the American language late in the nineteenth century, when many German food and drink words were assimilated. In her first edition Fannie Farmer distinguishes between French rusks and “rusks,” or zweiback. The French rusk was shaped like a Parker House roll, according to Fannie, whereas the zweiback rusks were made from finger-length rolls, baked once, and then cut into thin slices and browned in the oven.
The rusks of my childhood were called “Holland Rusks,” a trade name for a package of uniform slices of crisp toast that had the reputation in my family of being “good for you.” It never occurred to me that you could make rusks or zweiback at home until I looked at
Heat milk with the butter. When the liquid has cooled to 110° or 115°, dissolve the yeast in it. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt, beat in the liquid and eggs, add anise, and mix well. Put dough in a buttered bowl and let rise until tripled, 2 to 3 hours. Punch dough down with your fist and divide it into 5 loaves. Shape each loaf by rolling and stretching it with the floured palms of your hands into
Bake at 350° until lightly browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the loaves on a rack and when they are cold, slice them vertically Vi-inch thick. Toast the slices at 325° about 5 minutes a side.
© 1986 Betty Fussell. All rights reserved.