Baking rusks in Germany

In German rusks are called ‘Zwieback’, however it is far from the real thing when it comes to the South African expectation of a crispy Muesli-buttermilk Rusk dripping with coffee in the morning.

No, it resembles a small piece of dried white bread, the official description even calls it a slightly sweet white bread type of product baked twice. I have actually never seen a grown person eat the stuff – it’s usually given to babies to gnaw on during teething.

So after the craving for some good old ‘Beskuit’ became a little overwhelming I decided to try my hand at baking it myself. For those who are in a similar pickle – overseas and cut off from their rusks supply, I have added my adjusted recipe below.

So I pulled out my trusty cookbooks and started looking at which Rusk recipe I could easily convert into something I could use here. The lovely thing about South African rusks is one can play around with the ingredients to make something quite unique and your own.

So the first big challenge came with the Self-Raising flour thing, the Germans have lots of interesting baking ingredients that one does not find in South Africa, but self-raising flour is not one of them. Interesting side titbit: Self-Raising flour seems to be a product mainly available in the English Speaking countries: UK, US and / or any country apparently from the British colonial empire. There are a lot of recipes online for Self raising flour – some use an incredible amount of baking powder per cup which is a bit excessive. The best solution I found was the following: for 1 kg of flour use 3.5 Tablespoons of baking powder, some say to add a bit of salt too but I would make this dependant on the recipe.

The next challenge, if you want to make the lekker Bran rusks is finding any kind of All Bran Flakes. Although Kellogg’s seem to have a solid market share over here they focus more on a smaller range of products. You can always try to order online, which usually gets sent from the UK, OR any UK goods shop should also stock it.

For a truly local version ‘Dinkel flakes’ is an interesting (and cheaper!) substitute than getting it shipped in from the UK, and a bit healthier than local Muesli’s. The Germans like their Muesli, there are quite a number of options available, another oddity over here is that even the basic Muesli versions have chocolate pieces in them. If you do decide for Muesli in your rusks try to avoid the chocolate versions you get over here… it gets a bit sickly sweet. 😉

To get more creative with your own version, exchange the ‘Optional’ ingredients with other ingredients – Some other ideas that I have found this side instead of the Bran Flakes: ‘Dinkel’ Flakes, ‘Haferfleks’, Cornflakes, Weetabix, Fruit Muesli’s or ‘Knusper’ Muesli. Some similar to what one finds in SA, some not at all.

Rusks

Buttermilk Rusks ala Germany

  • Pre-heat Oven to 190° C, grease and line one big deep pan (minimum 10-15 cm deep), or two loaf pans.
  • Over a low heat, slowly melt 500g Butter / Margarine, 200 ml Sugar, 15 ml Salt and 500 ml Buttermilk together. Ensure the mixture mixes well and the sugar is completely melted.
  • In a BIG bowl mix together:
    • 1 kg flour
    • 4.5 Tablespoons baking powder (this includes the calculation for the Self Raising flour above)
    • 5 x 250 ml (Cups) ‘Dinkel Flakes’ / Muesli (See other options above)
    • Optional – 250 ml desiccated coconut (Fruitier: dried cranberries, apricots, dates, raisins etc.)
    • Optional – 250 ml sunflower seeds (You can also add linseeds, different kinds of nuts or other seeds)
  • In another, smaller bowl beat 3 eggs together with 60 ml Oil and add to the slightly cooled butter and buttermilk mixture. Mix well.
  • CAUTION: Now it gets a bit messy 🙂
  • Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix well. You may use a big spoon but getting your hands dirty works well too. Make sure everything is mixed thoroughly.
  • Spoon the mixture into your pan and bake for 45-60 mins
  • Reduce the heat after about 20 minutes to 180°C. Test with a needle to see if it is baked through – when done take out and cool slightly.
  • Cut the rusks in around 2cm thick slices and lay out on a couple of trays so that it has the opportunity to dry properly. A good rule of Thumb – cut your rusks in so-called ‘Coffee Mug’ slices, i.e. so you can easily dip your Rusk in your coffee without it being obstructed by your mug. 🙂 It’s an art I tell you!
  • Dry out overnight in an oven at 100°C while keeping the oven door slightly open for the moisture to escape.
  • Keep in a big airtight container

Enjoy with a freshly cup of brewed coffee in the morning.

For anyone looking for a comprehensive South African recipe book with detailed and easy to understand explanations of all South African recipes, Cook and enjoy from SJA de Villiers is in my opinion the book to have.