Sweet Rusks for Dunking

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Preparation info

  • Makes

    36

    rusks
    • Difficulty

      Complex

Appears in

The Modern Baker

The Modern Baker

By Nick Malgieri

Published 2008

  • About

This type of rusk, called a beschuit in Dutch, is a breakfast and tea bread. It is as common in South Africa as it is in the Netherlands, a remnant of that country’s original Dutch settlers. If the Dutch name sounds like biscotti, it’s for good reason: Rusks of all kinds, whether yeast risen or baking powder risen as the ones here, are first baked, then cut or separated and baked again, just like the toasted Italian cookies. This recipe comes from Reina Teeger, via her sister, my friend Kyra Effren. It seems Reina was able to pry the recipe from the chef at a game reserve in South Africa that she and her husband once visited. Unlike biscotti, which are crisp and penetrable with normal teeth, rusks must be dunked in tea, coffee, or (preferably warm) milk to soften them. They are much too hard to be eaten dry.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cold, cut into 12 pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • One 9 × 13 × 2-inch (23 × 33 × 5-cm) pan lined with buttered foil, plus 2 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil for drying the rusks

Method

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse 10 to 12 times to finely grind the oatmeal.
  3. Add the butter to the bowl and pulse about 12 times, or until the butter is completely worked into the dry ingredients, but the mixture remains cool and powdery.
  4. Whisk the egg and buttermilk together and add to the bowl. Pulse until the dough is evenly moistened but does not necessarily form a ball.
  5. Invert the bowl to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade. Gently knead the dough a few times until it is smooth.
  6. Squeeze and roll the dough into a cylinder about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Cut the dough into thirds and roll each third into a cylinder that is 12 inches (30 cm) long. Use a bench scraper or a knife to cut one of the pieces of dough at 1-inch (-cm) intervals to make 12 equal pieces. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough to make a total of 36 pieces.
  7. Between the palms of your hands, roll a piece of dough into an even sphere. Place it in the pan starting at the top left corner. Continue rolling the dough into spheres and arranging the spheres in the pan so that you have 4 pieces of dough across the 9-inch (23-cm) side of the pan and 9 pieces of dough across the 13-inch (33-cm) side of the pan, touching each other. The pieces of dough will automatically form little rectangles as they press against one another.
  8. Bake the rusks until they are well risen and deep golden, about 40 minutes. Cool the rusks on a rack in the pan until they are cool enough to handle.
  9. While they are cooling, readjust the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds and decrease the heat to 250°F (120°C). Leave the oven door ajar for a minute or two to cool.
  10. Lift the rusks out of the pan by using the foil lining and place them on a cutting board. Break the rusks apart where they touch each other—they should come apart easily. If not, use a small paring knife to cut them apart from one another.
  11. Arrange 18 of the rusks, cut side down, on each of the prepared pans. Bake the rusks until they are very dry and crisp, about 1½ hours.
  12. Cool the rusks in the pans on racks.

Serving

Serve the rusks for breakfast or tea; they are not a dessert.

Storage

Keep the rusks between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. If they soften, bake them again as in steps 11 and 12.

Variations

Substitute Muesli cereal or another whole grain breakfast cereal, such as bran flakes, for the rolled oats.