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Homemade rusks

Apr 16, 2020 | Baking, Desserts, sweet treats & baking

Rusks are truly South African and nothing beats a homemade version. There are many, many different recipes and each person has their preference – like whether it should have raisins in or if that’s a no-no! Or other things like, which flour to use, how much sugar it uses and so the list goes on. I have been making this recipe for almost 20 years and keep adapting it according to my preference or the ingredients I have in the kitchen, but this is the standard to work from.

Mix & match
The combination of flours can be mixed and matched to your liking, as long as the total amount of flour remains 1,7 kg. Remember that if you use more wholewheat or rye flour, the mixture will require more liquid. I love using stone ground, but that also absorbs more liquid, so just be aware of that. Use any seeds you like, just use more or less the indicated amount in total. And yes, this recipe does not use any eggs – it’s indeed correct. Nor a huge amount of sugar, which is one of the reasons why it’s so popular. Once you get used to the taste of these rusks, it’s amazing how unnecessarily sweet other rusks seem, although you may never have thought that rusks are that sweet. The amount of vanilla essence in the recipe is also correct – it lends a delicious flavour.

Another tip: if you don’t have buttermilk, just use milk. Or freeze any milk that went sour and use for rusks – it’s perfect for this and then you don’t waste any milk and you will never taste it in the risks. Something that my mother taught me, is that rusks can be baked in almost any baking tin. These days rusks trays, with a measured cutter is popular, but I often bake rusks in baking trays or even cake tins, as you are going to cut them in anyway, before drying it out. This way, you can decide how big a portion should be. Just take into consideration that the size of the baking container, may affect the baking time.

Homemade rusks
Makes about 3 kg rusks

500 ml (500 g) butter

500 ml (2 cups) oil

4 x 250 ml (4 cups) regular oats

500 ml (2 cups) rolled oats

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

250 ml (1 cup) each sunflower, poppy, sesame and linseeds

800 g stone ground or ordinary wholewheat flour

600 g stone ground or ordinary rye flour (or use another 400 g wholewheat flour and 200 g cake flour, if rye is not available) 

300 g stone ground or ordinary cake wheat flour

80 ml (⅓ cup) baking powder

60 ml (¼ cup) vanilla essence

1-2 litres (4-8 cups) buttermilk or sour milk


1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Line and grease 2 large baking trays (about 30 x 36 cm each).

2. Place the butter and oil in a saucepan and slowly melt over a low heat until just melted. Take care not to let the mixture boil. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

3. Sprinkle the dry ingredients one by one over the butter mixture. Rub the mixture into the butter mixture with your hands until there are no visible dry lumps.

4. Mix the vanilla and buttermilk or milk together. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Mix with your hands to form a soft dough. Add a little extra milk if it is too dry or more oats if the mixture is too wet. The dough should be stiff enough to be able to scoop it easily into the baking trays with your hands.

5. Divide the dough between the trays and spread evenly. Mark rusks portions with a clean knife to make it easier to break into rusks once baked.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Turn out and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

7. Cut into fingers (if you have not done it before baking) with a bread knife or break into pieces. Place in a single layer on baking trays and dry out at 70-100°C for about 6 hours or overnight. Keep the oven door slightly open with a wooden spoon, to let the moisture out.

8. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

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