A RECIPE: South African rusks


I came across this recipe whilst sorting through stacks of scribbled papers headed for the recycle collection last July. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the warm months (which are quite a bit longer on this side of the pond than I’m used to) longing for the cooler months to arrive if only so that I could leave the oven on all night in order to bake these crunchy little South African biscuits. Now of course I’m desperate for the summer months to break the cold so that I can buy decent tomatoes again and discard my North Face Eskimo-style coat. I put the recipe in a ‘safe’ place but low and behold it managed to get lost in the wire-works a second time during our move in November. I tore my hair out(and the little that Don has) over what disorganised lives we lead and in doing having torn through every notebook and file I own, I noticed it right in front of me- posted to my pin board. Fortunately, this was prior to my recent lovers tiff with my oven, which resulted in its tragic and untimely death by cookies I managed try this recipe for rusks (phew). I can only urge you to do the same before the summer comes or worse yet your oven has enough of all the hard work it does and ups and leaves you too.

Don’t be deceived by the name, which makes these biscuits sound like something you would eat to get your bowels moving and I assure you they are not (healthy that is- I won’t comment on the results of their fiber content). Think of them as the biscotti of Africa- though a little less sweet and rough at the edges. Of course, you can add more sugar, raisins and nuts but for me plain and simple dunked into a steaming cup of PG tips is the best way. The recipe was given to me by the chef at the Tuningi lodge we stayed in in Madikwe Game Reserve, who I haranged all week in order to get a copy. The measurements were a little funny so I simplified them and I cannot tell you how smug I felt when these came out tasting just how I had remembered them! For some reason my Thai and Indian culinary ventures haven’t come out with the quite the same authenticity.


South African Rusks (Tea Time Rusks)

If you like something crunchy or a biscuit perfect for dipping into your afternooon brew then these are for you. Please don’t let the long cooking time put you off, distract yourself with somethingelse- like sleep perhaps and wake up to the glorious smells of homemade goods! This recipe is easily doubled (but hold back on the salt and baking powder) for those who can’t wait another day for a new batch. Store in airtight containers out of sight!

Adapted from the Tuningi Game Lodge recipe, South Africa

Difficulty: patience is a virtue

450g/ 3 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups bran flakes

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

125g/9 tbsp butter

140g/ 3/4 cup sugar

125ml/ 1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola oil

250ml/1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/ Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Mix together in the flour, bran flakes, salt and baking powder in a large bowl.

2/ Melt the butter, sugar and oil in a saucepan. Stir the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved

3/ Beat the eggs with the buttermilk and add to the melted butter mixture. Add the butter and buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. fill your greased loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until lightly golden a skewer comes out clean.

4/ Turn out the pan and allow to cool. Turn the oven down to 100C/200F/Gas 1. Cut into finger shaped rusks, about 1 inch thick. Place cut side up on a baking tray (preferably one with holes) and place back into the oven overnight, or for 8 hours.

Other recipes you might life

Almond & cherry chocolate biscotti

Chocolate hobnobs

Gluten-free biscotti

Whole nut &chocolate biscotti

Malted oat shortbread

18 Responses to “A RECIPE: South African rusks”

  1. 1 Anticiplate March 17, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    This looks great! It looks like a healthier take on biscotti with the bran flakes. And the cooking time isn’t that bad. You just have to make them at night, and have them for breakfast in the morning:)

  2. 2 Nikita June 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    hmmm…glad to see that people from other countries love our rusks! You can find a few on my blog too and I have a delicious one which I will blog this coming weekend with all the others on my blog… and you have to enjoy them with tea/coffee and please, not milk like one American tried… he bought it from a SA shop in the US and had it with milk…hehe…those bran rusks can be eaten as a breakfast..that’s what I do! πŸ˜‰

  3. 4 Vivh April 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Nothing like a good rusk dunked in morning tea. You can dolly them up with whatever takes your fancy – dates, dried apricots, raisins, dried cranberries, orange/lemon zest, nuts…Yum. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. 5 dawnielle July 28, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Quick question – does the oil get mixed in with the butter, eggs and buttermilk? First time Rusk maker for a SA friend πŸ™‚

    • 6 Anna Helm July 28, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      Hi Dawnielle
      Add the oil to the butter and sugar when you melt the butter. Let me know how you get on….I LOVE these things. If it wasn’t so hot outside I’d have some in the oven right now!

  5. 7 Lee July 29, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Delicious, delicious–and I have not even made them yet. Just looking at the link to the lodge made me imagine sitting out in the early morning, listening to the birds in the bush while dunking my rusk in my tea. I’ll have to settle for sitting in a safari folding chair under the zebra hide on my living room wall, but the rusk I can actually have tomorrow morning. Thanks!

  6. 8 Pam October 22, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    These rusks look delicious. I’m a South African and have many recipes for rusks. I started a blog a week or two ago and have one rusk recipe up if you want to check it out.


  7. 9 Magda December 11, 2009 at 7:18 am

    These rusks are fantastic and my South African partner any myself really enjoy them. The texture is perfect, they are hard (as they should be) but not as tough and rock hard as some can be. This means that they are lovely for adults and I can even give them (as an occasional treat) to our 18 month old to chew on.

    Thanks for taking the time and for your generosity in sharing this recipe so as an English woman, I can make authentic comfort food for my homesick South African partner.

  8. 10 Nora March 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I Can’t WAIT to make these rusks! I just got back from spending 6 weeks in Jo’burg, Kruger, and Cape Town, and I am rationing one bag of rusks that I brought back with me to the States. The best rusks I had down there were from a little SA chain shop called Melissa’s. I think they’re mostly in Cape Town.

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