Rusks: the best coffee companion and the best recipe.


We had travelled from South Africa to England to Canada in about 52 hours. I don’t know how many time zones we crossed, but after the last leg from London to Vancouver (via Fort Hope/Dallas and a delayed flight), breastfeeding my daughter to sleep and dealing with American Airlines in their varying capacity to make a flight unpleasant, I was absolutely exhausted. I had that trampoline feeling as I walked away from the airport into the
freezing early Spring of British Columbia at 11pm. As my five month old daughter began to stir as the fresh cold air touched her face, I knew nothing short of the elixir of the Gods was going to make me feel good.

And there it was. We arrived in Squamish to our home for the next few weeks, and I found on the bench, in a beautiful and enormous glass jar, what looked like thousands of home made South African rusks. We had “swapped” our house in Australia with old friends for this one in Canada (at that moment those friends were enjoying our pool while we sat by their fire) and Leanie had left us these life affirming, heart warming rusks. We had coffee, and dipped these delightful little morsels in, letting the warm liquid soften the hard biscuit and turn into mouthfuls of wonderfulness.

Rusks are a hard biscuit. They can be flavoured with aniseed and every South African has their favourite recipe – yep-  those crazy Safas are mental about other food , not just barbequed meats!. I generally make them in Winter, but I’ve been known to crack out a batch for any old time. Warning: these are addictive and this makes a large amount. Don’t make them when you’re on a diet. Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe:


1 kilogram (7 cups) of plain flour
4 tablespoons baking powder
1 ½  cups of white sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 cups of All Bran flakes
1 cup of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
500 ml butter and oil (250gm stick of unsalted butter melted, top up to 500 ml with Rice Bran Oil)
500 ml buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Grease 2 20cmx30cm lamington sized trays.
  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a bowl. Mix with the All Bran flakes and sunflower/pumpkin seed mix.
  • Melt butter and add to oil to make 500 mls, then add buttermilk and vanilla extract.
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Divide mixture between pans and push into the corners, making sure it is an even spread.
  • Cut out rusks into 1cm x 4-5cm slices.
  • Bake for 30-40 mins or until top is light golden and skewer comes out clean.
  • Decrease oven temperature to 110 degrees.
  • Allow to cool (enough to handle) then cut out the fingers again- firmly this time.
  • Prise out with an egg flip and carefully lay on a rack with each rusk slightly apart from each other. Place in the oven to dry out completely. Check after four hours and every hour after that. (You’ll have to eat one to make sure it is completely dry.) If I make them at night, I’ll dry them til I go to bed, turn the oven off and then turn it back on in the morning to finish

What’s your favourite snack to have with coffee?

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