Breads, Dessert

South African Buttermilk Rusks

I’m a South African by marriage.

Well, sort-of.

To clarify, I don’t actually have citizenship, and in total honesty, I’ve still yet to visit. However, in my semi-qualified opinion (hey, I’ve lived with a South African for 10 years now) there are 2 staples of a South African household: Rusks and Rooibos tea. Rooibos tea, or red bush tea, is extremely healthy, and has similar health benefits to green tea. But unlike green tea, it tastes wonderful (does anyone really like the taste of green tea? If you’re out there, please help me understand..). Add a little milk and a bit of honey and I’m in rooibos HEAVEN.

I love me some tea.

Why am I writing about tea, rooibos tea specifically, when my post is about rusks?
Well that’s because a rusk without rooibos tea, is like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without jelly. A bit bland and not so enjoyable. But together they’re perfect partners. They bring out the best in each other!

Rusks are similar to biscotti except they aren’t as sweet, so you could almost describe them as bland. I know that’s a horrible way to describe something that I actually really enjoy, and that I’m taking the time to share with you, but its the truth. NEVER eat a rusk by itself! They’re made to be dunked. They transform into something magically addictive when dunked in honey-sweetend rooibos tea.

If you’re looking for a sweet dessert treat, this isn’t it. Rather go for a biscotti then. These would qualify more as a snack in my book, because they don’t have that sugary sweetness that most american treats have.

Here’s the recipe that we use in my house. Unfortunately, I can’t make them too regularly because my husband and I have so little self control when these little crunchy suckers are around the house. They become so hard to resist!

Here goes…

flour collage
Measure out your flours and add the baking soda, baking powder and cream of tartar.

Originally this recipe asks you to sift these dry ingredients together. But I have a mental block towards sifting, I don’t have the patience for it. This is my poker TELL, if you will, that I’m really not a baker at heart. I love to find shortcuts and skip steps, but in baking that can get you into real trouble. I’ve never had a baking catastrophe from not sifting though, and until I do, I’ll probably continue to be lazy and not sift.

I just take a wisk, or my fingers in this case, and just stir the dry ingredients around so they’re mixed together.
But if sifting is your thing, then sift the dry ingredients together so they’re evenly dispersed.

butter flour blend collage

Next cut up your cold butter, and add to your dry ingredients. Using your fingers, break up the butter with the flour. Then rubbing your hands back and fourth, break them up some more until its kinda sandy, its ok if there are still some pea size pieces of butter. You could also pulse this in the food processor until it reached that same sandy consistency. I just hate doing more dishes, and actually really enjoy the feeling of the flour in my hands.

Add to the dry ingredients whatever flavorings you like. I added sunflower seeds, raisins and currants (the sweetness of the raisins or currants is a must in my book) and some shredded sweetened coconut. Next time I think I’m going to try almonds and almond extract.

mixer with liquid
In a separate bowl, add all the liquid ingredients -buttermilk, oil, eggs, vanilla- to the brown sugar. Beat for a minute until well combined


Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Then knead for 3 or 4 minutes until nice and firm.


Press in an ungreased 9×13 baking dish and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.


Let it cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack, remove pan.

After another 30 minutes or so, cut in 1 inch thick slices. Then cut slice into fourths. My crude drawing should give you an idea…


Now lay them out on 2 baking sheets and dry them out in a 200f oven for 5 hours.

Happy dunking!

Buttermilk Rusks
2 lbs 12oz. flour, or about 9 3/4 cups unsifted flour, or 1.240kg
splitting the flour between whole wheat and white flour, aprox. 75% whole wheat, 25% white.
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons salt
9oz or 250g unsalted butter, or 1 cup + 2 tablespoons
1/2 to 3/4 cup raisins or currants
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded or flaked sweetened coconut
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup oil

1. Measure out the flours, add the baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. Stir or sift to evenly incorporate. Cut in the cool unsalted butter until mixture is sandy in texture, pea sized pieces of butter are fine.

2. Add the raisins, sunflower seeds, and coconut

3. In a separate bowl, wisk together the liquid ingredients and the brown sugar until well blended.

4. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir until blended, then knead a few minutes until firm.

5. Spread into a 9×13 baking pan. Bake in 375F or 190C degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

6. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack.

7. cut into 1 inch slices, then again into fourths. Lay out on a baking sheet and dry in a 200f or 100c degree oven for 5 hours.
Can last months in an airtight container.

Possible add-ons or variations: dried cranberries + pecans, dried apricots + golden raisins + almonds + almond extract. If you’ve made any other varieties, do tell!

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