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Rusk and Biscotti Recipes
I suppose the “straight talk” definition of a rusk would be a dried out piece of cake that you dunk in your coffee or tea. But that’s not very appetizing, is it? The whole idea is that you deliberately dry out the sponge mixture so that it makes for good dunking in any hot drink. Rusks are known as “biscotti” in Italy, and the method of baking is a little different, but the result the same. Rusks are also made in Pakistan and again the method is a little different. Wherever you’re from, if you have a good rusk/biscotti recipe, why not share it with us?

Whenever I visit my home country, South Africa, I quickly fall into the habit of having a rusk with my morning coffee. There are so many different kinds. Unfortunately there is no recipe book just devoted to rusks, which is why I’ve started this blog.

Most times this blog is found on a search for “buttermilk rusks” (or Woolworth’s rusks!). You may be surprised to know that all rusk recipes use buttermilk 🙂  The closest recipe on this blog to Woolworth’s absolutely delicious muesli rusks is, in my opinion, the Nuts ‘n Seeds rusk.

I’d love it if you commented on recipes you’ve tried or send me one of your own. Also send me pictures of rusks you’ve made from this blog. I’ll share them with all the other rusk lovers who visit here.

Sharon

 

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  1. Michele
    March 30, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I have been searching for rusk recipes and was very happy to stumble across this. I will be trying a few of these recipes today and will let you know the results. Thanks for the recipes.

    • April 8, 2011 at 12:51 am

      I’m glad you found my site. It’s hard to find rusk recipes that are “different” from the usual buttermilk. That’s why I started this site. Let me know if you have any of your own recipes you’d like to share.

  2. cindy
    August 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I am looking for a rusk recipe that turn out being very hard. The ones I had at my sister in laws were a yellowy color, no additional seeds and such but were very hard–had to dip them to even bite them. I have tried several buttermilk recipes and they turn out more like store bought biscotti. I heard from a SA friend who told me how to make my own self raised flour with cream of tarter and baking soda and they turned out nice—but not hard. The ones I had, had a grain that was long and stretched looking almost like yeast bread. Any ideas?

    • August 2, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      Rusks are meant to be dipped in coffee, tea, hot chocolate or hot milk. So that they don’t fall apart when dipped, they need to be hard. Any rusk should get hard if they are dried out in the oven for long enough. To ensure they are completely dry they should feel solid when you squeeze them. Also, rusks are thicker than biscotti – at least two to three times thicker – that why they’re likely harder.

      As far as self-raising flour goes, you can’t buy it in all countries. I usually use plain flour, and use about 3 well-heaped teaspoons of baking powder for a kilogram of flour. I also came across a recipe for self-raising flour which requires 1 cup plain flour, 1.5 teaspoons baking powder, .5 teaspoon salt.

      As for the type of rusk you had in the past, I don’t really know what it could have been.

    • Uschie
      October 31, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      Not sure if you found your rusk recipe? It sounds like boere or anys beskuit. Both types are leven with yeast in a slow process with lots of kneading. Try searching for traditional aniseed rusk recipe with yeast

  3. Saskia Bateman
    July 11, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Ever come across rye rusk recipe?

    • July 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Hi there. I haven’t actually. If you come across one or if you substitute any of the ingredients with rye let me know how it turns out and we may be able to add it to this site to share with others.

    • August 24, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      Hi Saskia. Sorry for the delayed reply. I somehow lost sight of this. No, I’ve not come across a rye recipe. If you find one let me know.

  4. Denise
    August 24, 2012 at 2:13 am

    Hi – I definitely have to try making my own rusks. I live in Toronto and we do get self raising/rising flour here. Did you buy SA nutty wheat flour or Canadian? I think nutty wheat has a lot of white flour in it.
    I also have some old rusk recipes I brought with me and will have to check if it’s the same magazine as yours!

    • August 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Denise. Yes, us folks who no longer live in the mother country are seriously deprived of good tuisgebakte rusks from the local tuisnywerhuid or Woolworths! But it’s quite satisfying to make your own.

      To answer your question, in Canada I could buy nutty wheat from the local SA store, but I buy organic whole wheat flour instead, which works just fine.

      Let me know how they turn out. Geniet!

  5. Denise
    August 24, 2012 at 2:18 am

    PS I had to run to my recipe file to check. Yes, I have the same prize winning recipes from Your Family. I also have a recipe (with pics, just like in modern food blogs lol) from Your Family May 1986 – Step by step buttermilk rusks.

    • August 24, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      How amazing! Those recipes from the Your Family that I’ve tried (I’ve not tried all) are fabulous, however, I find that one can seriously reduce the amount of butter/marg and sugar for our healthier sensibilities these days, and not impact the overall rusk. I usually use 300g butter – older recipes call for 500g. And I reduce the sugar by half. You can check out other tips on this blog, and send me some of yours! 🙂

  6. Kelley Wright
    September 26, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Hi.
    I am an American living in Germany, and I do living history/reenacting, as well as do a bit of hobby cooking. I am trying to find an authentic recipe for boer biscuit. Exactly like the ones carried in the saddlebags. Nothing fancy. Buttermilk is universal and I am sure that there was a lot of canned milk taken from the Rooinekke supply trains, but were raisins and nuts and other stuff used back then? Thanks.

    • September 29, 2012 at 3:16 am

      Interesting! I don’t know, it was before my time 🙂 Try and connect with Margaret Visser, a food historian and author. She’s South African but lives in Europe now.

  7. Jodie-Ann
    February 8, 2013 at 2:55 am

    This it Awesome. My son is sick sucking on store bought rusks, so I’ve been looking for some new flavours to make him. I’ve got a dehydrator, so I’ll use that to dry out the rusks, that will keep my oven free for making more rusks! I might even experiment with some fruity ones 🙂

    • February 8, 2013 at 3:57 am

      Let us know how the dehydrator worked out. Thanks for writing!

  8. Cynthia Desch
    June 1, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I just returned from South Africa and of course fell in love with rusk! Thanks for the guide!

  9. Mike Schnell
    August 17, 2013 at 5:14 am

    One of my favourite flavour combinations is coffee and marmalade (slightly bitter), so I have been making biscotti and replacing the “cranberries etc” with the peel extracted from marmalade together with some chopped rind from grapefruit. I reduce the sugar in order not to make the biscotti too sweet. My problem/question is that the resultant biscotti are not very absorbant when dunked. I want a more “open” texture and I’m not sure whether butter or egg yolk, or the sugar have much influence on the texture, or perhaps, a little buttermilk? Some recipes have no butter at all. I have tried increasing the baking powder. Do you have any ideas?
    Mike Schnell, Cape Town

    • August 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      Sjoe! That sounds like a delicious flavor combo. I’m not that familiar with baking biscotti as I am with rusks. I’ve adjusted the rusk recipe quite a bit with success so long as I don’t reduce the fat content more than I recommend on the tips page. But I often reduce the sugar and add my flavors. May I suggest you base your combo by making adjustments to the cranberry orange rusk recipe? Let us know how it turns out and if its good send me the recipe and I’ll add it to the site so others can enjoy it, too.

      One more thing…I am quite sure you can roll the rusk dough and cut it the same way as biscotti is cut though I’ve never actually tried.

  10. Carol
    February 7, 2014 at 12:46 am

    I’m delighted to have found you!! As a South African just arrived in Australia, I find Ouma rusks in the SA shops but nothing beats homemade rusks. I bake All Bran rusks but need fresh ideas. Generally the Aussies don’t know what rusks are. I’m told one can freeze rusks – is that possible?

    • February 7, 2014 at 12:49 am

      I’m glad you found this site, too! And happy baking once you start. Nothing like a good ol’ rusk to remind you of home. I believe rusks can be frozen like most baking but I’ve never tried. If you do, let me know your experience and I’ll share it on this site.

      • Babs Putar
        April 30, 2014 at 8:35 am

        Why bother to freeze rusks. If dried properly and put in a ‘koekblik’ (cake tin) it will remain fresh for a long time. However I am sure the family will devour these homemade rusks very quickly

  11. Sumaya
    March 9, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Hi there, love this blog….I’m a South African living in Germany and really missed the woolies rusks.So glad that I stumbled on this blog when searching for rusk recipes.I’ve tried the seed and bran rusks, they were amazing.I’ve passed the recipe on to many as everyone who’s tried it just loved it .Thank you for taking the time to share your recipes on this blog.

  12. Janet Arendt
    March 11, 2014 at 2:59 am

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR RECIPES ON THIS BLOG, I’M MEXICAN BUT I DID LIVE IN S.A AND LOVE THE RUSK AND IT’S SO NICE TO MAKE THEM HERE IN MEXICO AND SHARE IT WITH MY PEOPLE THANK YOU SO MUCH.

    • March 11, 2014 at 3:12 am

      Thank you for your kind words and for visiting my blog. Sharon

  13. Mary Galea
    June 7, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    I’ve just come back to Australia from SA and miss my morning (and afternoon and evening!!!) rusks very much. You’re right, the Woolies ones are good, but I loved the ones made by the local baker in the OK supermarket in Swellendam! They were just delicious. So I’m on a mission to replicate them and will let you know how I go. Love your blog.

    • June 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

      I’ve been to Swellendam many times but never tried OK’s rusks! Next time. Please do share your recipe if it turns out well. Good luck!

  14. Mary Galea
    June 8, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Swellendam is my second home…I lived there as a Rotary exchange student in 1972, and I have been back there twice. I plan on making the risks this week, so will let you know how they turn out!

    • June 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      My mom used to live in Swellendam and we loved visiting her there.

  15. Mary Galea
    June 8, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Oops, rusks, not risks!!!!! Auto-correct can be a pain sometimes!

  16. June 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you Sharon for this site.
    I’ve always loved rusks but have learned a lot about them through this blog.

    Having recently made a batch for the first time, I understand and agree with your sentiment a on how much tastier and healthier than store-bought these are.. Happy to share my recipe which you can find here
    http://machinegunmeow.com/2014/06/14/buttermilk-rusks-karringmelkbeskuit/

    I’m looking forward to branching out and trying different varieties and will be sure to try your recipes – one with muesli particularly appeals.

  17. Anne
    August 12, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Hi! Oh dear! My buttermilk rusks are in the oven and I totally forgot the 2 eggs? Not worth drying for eight hours?

    Help welcome!

    Best, Anne

    • August 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Bummer! I really don’t know what to suggest. Sorry!

  18. Claire
    November 5, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Any comments on freezing uncooked dough, and freezing baked rusks? Thanks

    • November 5, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Interesting request. I’ve never thought of freezing the dough or the baked rusks. I freeze other doughs – pastry and cookies – so there’s no reason why rusk dough shouldn’t freeze. I would, however, freeze it in smaller balls than just the whole quantity and that would be for defrosting purposes. If you try let us know how it turns out.

  19. Sur
    December 10, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    I like your blog. Nonetheless, I have been sifting the internet for a no fail eggless semolina rusk recipe. I haven’t had luck so far. I am hoping I have finally reached the right place where my query can be solved.
    Much thanks in advance
    Sur

  20. Paula Segrest
    December 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Sharon! So happy to of found your site! I lived in Muizenburg for 2 yrs and leaned to make and love rusks! Best dunked in hot tea 😉 I tried to email you but came up with nothing. I have a recipe much like one you have posted but I’ve converted the amounts for us US folks. If you’d like it, email me. I also have SUCH a funny story about my first time eating rusks. Cheers!

  21. Paula Segrest
    December 22, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    I have a funny story about my introduction to Rusks. I had been in South Africa for 3 mo. and was in need of a retreat. I lived in Muizenburg and headed east to a B&B near Worcester in a lovely vineyard. I was the only guest at the B&B, so it was just what the doctor ordered. After I got settled in, the couple who ran the place asked me if I’d prefer my breakfast the next morning in my room or the dining hall. I had a beautiful view of the vineyard from my room so I told them I’d prefer to have breakfast in solitude. We set a time and they left me to my thoughts. The next morning they brought me hot tea and a plate full of something I didn’t recognize (rusks). After the lady set the tray down and told me my proper breakfast would arrive in about half an hour, I poured myself some tea. And looked at this ‘stuff’ on my plate. 🙂 I tapped it on my teacup and thought, “Oh these poor people. All they have is hard dried bread.” But because I was hungry, I dunked it in my tea and bit into it. I swear I heard the “Hallelujah Chorus” go off in my head! I ate every bite. When she returned with my breakfast, I asked her what on earth that ‘hard bread stuff was’. She laughed so hard, and couldn’t believe I’d been in SA for 3 mo. and was yet to be served rusks. I couldn’t get enough of it. When I left the B&B, they gave me a tin of rusks and the recipe they used. I’ve been making them ever since And since returning to the US, I’ve introduced them to so many people.

    • Jen W-Smith
      March 22, 2015 at 2:08 am

      Brilliant story! I am a South African visiting America and because they are not sold here (I though I was going to cry) I’m trying to remake them. What degrees fahrenheit do you put your oven on when cooling? And also for how long? If you read this please know that I am so glad that you enjoyed my home country, especially because I miss it so much.

      • March 22, 2015 at 4:44 pm

        Jen, your home country is my home country, too! I dry my rusks on the lowest my oven goes, which is 170C. You can convert that to Farenheit online in any of the metrics converters available. I find I need to dry my rusks for 5 – 6 hours, depending on the recipe. I usually put all sorts of things like dried fruit, coconut and so on into my rusks so they take a little longer to dry.

  22. Lesley Morris
    February 15, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Hi I live in Saudi Arabia and not buttermilk here! Would it be possible to use Almond milk as a substitute?

    • February 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      No, unfortunately not. Try using plain yoghurt and dilute it with water, about 1:1. Hope that helps. I’ve made rusks with yoghurt before.

  23. Cynthia Hill
    June 1, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Im a proud South African living in the Uk. I have type 2 diabetes, so make my rusks using “sucralose or stevia in place of sugar and you really cann’t taste the difference. Simply delicious!

    • June 1, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Wow, good to know. Can you share with others what quantities of sucralose or stevia you use?

  24. Bobby Knell
    January 28, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Have several great rusk recipes. Been baking them for many years and love to experiment. How can I get the recipes to you. BTW, I love this blog. Thank you.

  25. Jessie
    April 20, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Hi! My husband is South African and we LOVE buttermilk rusks. I keep our house stocked with home made rusks at all times so we can dunk them in our Rooibos and Five Roses tea 😉 I have adapted a few recipes to make my own which we think is soooo similar to Ouma Rusks and we absolutely love them. The flavor is spot on, but they just aren’t as dense and hard as I would like. Any tips for how I can make them harder? Let me know how I can post my recipe if you want to assess it to figure out what can be done differently. FYI, my recipe has been converted into American measurements.

    • April 20, 2016 at 7:45 pm

      Great stuff! I’d love to know your adapted recipes so I’ll email you directly. Re your softer rusks – how long are you drying them out for?

  26. Daleen van Blerk
    June 7, 2016 at 8:15 am

    I am wondering why my daughter’s white buttermilk rusks, with no seeds or nuts or fruit added, are very dense. They seem not to rise to the extent that mine does, almost as if she did not use enough baking powder, even though she follows the same recipe. Does the way you handle the dough make a difference?

    Also, regarding the person living in Saudi Arabia who could not get hold of buttermilk: when we lived in a remote area of Namibia my mom used to make her own by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to 500ml milk and allowing it to rest for a few minutes.

    • June 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

      Daleen I really don’t know for sure why your daughter’s rusks are denser than yours. I find that some batches of my rusks are heavier/denser and I’ve wondered if the freshness or origins of the flour were different. I did recently start adding more baking powder to my rusks and have found that they are much lighter. I can’t get self raising flour where I live to I’m using about 20ml baking powder plus 20ml baking soda per 1kg flour.

      Thanks for the buttermilk tip, this website offers a similar tip. It’s good to know it works!

    • deniserootenberg
      July 26, 2016 at 1:45 am

      Where does your daughter live? I’m an ex-Zimbabwean who then lived in SA and now live in Canada. SA scone recipes are a disaster here, the proportion of baking powder to flour doesn’t work. The flour here is also different. I can only use a few of my southern African cake recipes here, otherwise I find it best to use Canadian ones. There are even differences between American and Canadian flour. I haven’t made rusks here yet but am wondering if your daughter lives overseas and you live in SA and that the problem is the same i.e. the quantity of baking powder or the type of flour.

  27. Bobby Knell
    July 28, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I now live in the US and make rusks all the time. Is the recipe one with yeast or is it Self Rising flour and baking powder?

  28. August 17, 2016 at 8:10 am

    Hi, I am new to baking rusks and tried it last night – it tastes wonderful, but I must have done something wrong as it crumbled in the oven into small pieces. Was the liquid not enough or too much flour. The recipe asks for lots of seeds and almonds and bran and I really followed the recipe religiously (is there such a word?). Amelia

    • August 17, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Hi Amelia. Wow, I’m surprised your rusks crumbled. I really don’t know why that is because my favourite recipe is the Nuts ‘n Seeds and the dough always holds together. You do have to be mindful when cutting them though. So I usually use a serrated knife – a fine serration is better. The one I use is a tomato-cutting knife. I also work with the tip of the knife, slightly angled so that the serrated part does hit the dough. I then “saw” up and down in short strokes and try not to let the knife reach an angle where a lot of the dough is reached at a time – especially when there are nuts and seeds in it. The knife has to be closer to upright when cutting. Might that have been the issue?

  29. Andrea
    September 6, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    use a pizza cutter to cut the cooled rusks. Works like a charm. How can I order this pan?

    • September 6, 2016 at 10:08 pm

      Great idea! Those rusk pans with the cutters are for sale online. I did a quick search on “rusk baking tray” and a few options came up.

  30. Ingrid kilgour
    March 25, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Can you please tell me how to get a harder bite on my rusks when they are dried out? They are completely dry but ‘break ‘ too easily when bitten

    • March 27, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      Hi. I really don’t know the answer. I have found that sometimes the flour I use has made the rusks a little more crumbly. Particularly a stone ground flour. Is that what you used?

  31. Bobby Knell
    March 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    It depends on the recipe you are using. Some recipes the risks are very crumbly, while others it will be more firm. I’ve noticed that a recipe that requires you to rub the butter into the flour, will turn out to crumble easily. Hope this helps.

  32. Bobby Knell
    March 28, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Risks should be RUSKS. I-pad’s fault. Sorry.

  33. Diana Musoni
    April 11, 2017 at 12:11 am

    Hello. I was actually searching for the shelf life of a rusk but landed here instead 🙂
    I have made some amazing rusks using :Brown bread stone ground flour, Yeast, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds, Linseeds, Pumpkin seeds, Raisins, Sugar, Himalayan salt and Raw honey. I simply bake using the process of non fermented bread. Then i take the “Bread” out after it is 3/4 done. I slice it and let it dry. I then place it back into the oven after coating it several times with raw honey. Untill it goes Creamy brown:) .All the best. Diana. Cape Town

  34. Lana
    September 12, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Hi! I have a huge failure with my rusks. I baked, then put the slabs in the freezer. When drying they caremelized, changed colour and taste. Is this telling me that I cannot freez the baked slabs. Please help with ideas , opinions and suggestions.
    Lana

    • September 19, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Lana. I’m not a huge expert on freezing and I’ve never tried freezing a rusk slab nor individual rusks. But I do wonder if perhaps cutting up the rusks first, drying them out and then freezing them might not be better. Sounds to me like moisture might have got into the slab but like I say, I’m not an expert.

    • Bobby Knell
      September 22, 2017 at 3:59 pm

      Why would you want to freeze them. The whole idea behind risks is that after you dry them they will keep for months. Essential that they are completely dry so break one or two of them open and check for any softness/moisture. You cannot over dry them so err on the safe side and leave them in oven overnight. If they start to turn brown they are either completely dry, or you have the oven too hot. I dry mine at 180 deg for 8 to 12 hrs.
      Hope this helps.

  35. September 22, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    That’s true, they do last for months once dried.

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