Rusking It: South African Breakfast Cookies

Cookies are often considered snack food, something to down with a glass of milk before bed or with a cup of tea as an afternoon pick-me-up. But in South Africa, there’s a special kind of breakfast cookie known as beskuit, or the rusk.

Rusking It South African Breakfast Cookies

Originally made as a dried bread to take on long journeys, the rusk has evolved into more of a dried cake. In many countries the rusk is used for teething babies to gnaw on, but in South Africa, it is most definitely for those who already have their teeth. Similar to biscotti in the sense that it is first baked then dried, the rusk is different in that it is full of fiber-rich bran, seeds, and nuts. Rather than shaped into an oval and sliced into oblong pieces like biscotti, rusks are baked more like a sheet cake then cut into squares or rectangles or broken off into chunks. Their dense yet porous structure makes them ideal for dunking into a mug of coffee or a steaming cup of rooibos.

One of the great things about rusks is you can let your imagination run wild with variations. The basic recipe is a simple dough of flour, sugar, bran flake cereal, baking powder, salt, eggs, buttermilk, and butter. After that, you can mix and match flours, substitute coconut milk for buttermilk, and add in nuts, seeds, fruits, and spices to suit your mood.

You might try rusks studded with almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans and flavored with maple or vanilla. Or spice things up with cardamom and dried cranberries or star anise and black currants.

Over a holiday, a Dark Chocolate Orange Rusk would be just the ticket for making mornings special. Simply stir in chopped dark chocolate and the zest of one or two oranges for a truly decadent breakfast cookie.

Rusking It: South African Breakfast Cookies

Buttermilk Rusks

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups bran flake cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups seeds or nuts (poppy, almonds, sunflower, hazelnuts, linseed, etc)
  • handful dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, currants, apricots, etc)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
  • 1 cup butter, melted

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 9-inch by 13-inch pan with baking paper and set aside.

In large bowl mix dry ingredients together.

In small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter, then pour into dry mixture and stir well until it forms a dough.

Press dough into oven dish, making sure it goes into all the corners. Place in oven and bake 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 180 F.

Invert cake onto large cutting board, and cut or break into desired shapes. Return pieces to baking dish (you may need a second dish to enable air to circulate freely between pieces), and place in oven for 8 hours until rusks are dried out. Prop oven door open slightly with a metal spatula to allow the moisture to escape during the drying process.

Remove from oven, allow to cool, and store in airtight container.

Rusking It: South African Breakfast Cookies

Dark Chocolate Orange Rusks

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups bran flake cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice)
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1-2 Tablespoons grated orange zest

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line 9″ by 13″ pan with baking paper and set aside.

In large bowl mix dry ingredients, including dark chocolate, together.

In small bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, orange zest, and melted butter, then pour into dry mixture and stir well until it forms a dough.

Press dough into oven dish, making sure it goes into all the corners. Place in oven and bake 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 180 F.

Invert cake onto large cutting board, and cut or break into desired shapes. Return pieces to baking dish (you may need a second dish to enable air to circulate freely between pieces), and place in oven for 8 hours until rusks are dried out. Prop oven door open slightly with a metal spatula to allow the moisture to escape during the drying process.

Remove from oven, allow to cool, and store in airtight container.

Photos are courtesy of the author.

Rusking It: South African Breakfast Cookies

Krista Bjorn

Canadian born Krista Bjorn has been traveling and exploring for over 20 years and loves every crazy, embarrassing, and wonderful moment. She's lived in Russia and Portugal and now makes her home in beautiful Queensland, Australia, saving her pennies for her next trip. Her food, photography and travel blog is Rambling Tart.

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