Kids Make South African Buttermilk Rusks
A popular snack, buttermilk rusks–karringmelk beskuit in Afrikaans–are South Africa’s answer to Italian biscotti. The dough comes together very much like a traditional biscuit dough. But after the initial cooking, the biscuits are sliced into pieces, and then dried in a warm oven for several hours, or even overnight to crisp them.
Try them with tea or coffee, or even dipped into hot chocolate.
Original recipes call for using self-rising flour and, of course, buttermilk. Alternatively, recipes from the Afrikaans combine plain all-purpose flour with baking soda and cream of tartar. Since those are the same ingredients as in baking powder, we simply substituted baking powder.
A popular method for making the rusks is to roll pieces of dough into balls a little larger than golf balls, then pack them together on a baking sheet. I’m not sure what the point of that is. In our experience we simply placed the balls on the baking sheet, then flattened them a bit to end up with pieces that look more like biscotti.
Our original efforts resulted in biscuits that were a bit plain. So we increased the sugar a bit, and also added anise seeds. This recipe makes enough for a family. But the biscuits are meant to be stored, so feel free to increase the recipe if you like.
Prehead oven to 350 degrees.
For the dry ingredients, whisk together in a large mixing bowl 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons anise seed and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Into the mix grate 4 ounces (1 stick) butter. (Grating the butter may be the most fun part of making these biscuits. Our box grater definitely got a little messy, but just run it under hot water to melt the butter residue away.) Using quick, pinching finger movements, incorporate all of the butter into the flour mix until the mix is rather grainy.
In a small bowl, beat one egg, then mix in 1 cup buttermilk. Pour just enough of the liquid into the flour mix so that the dough holds together. Work the dough into a ball, but do not knead.
Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into balls a little larger than golf balls. Place the balls on a greased baking sheet and gently flatten them with the palm of your hand to a thickness of about 3/4-inch. Place in the oven and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the rusks comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool. At this point we trimmed off a small amount from both sides of the baked disks and then sliced them into two or three lengths, like biscotti. Line the sliced rusks on the baking sheet and place in a the oven set to 180 degrees for several hours, or overnight. When the rusks have cooled a second time, they can be served or stored in a biscuit tin.
For more great stories about how we are taking back our food system, read Fight Back Friday.