Buttermilk Rusks, South African

"This needs a little explanation. We South Africans are very partial to rusks with that first cup of morning coffee! It's what the US calls "double-baked": the end result with this recipe is a hard, chunky sweetish "rock" which you dunk in your coffee or tea to soften, then bite off. It doubles as a quick breakfast or an afternoon bite with tea and coffee. It's an all-purpose snack and most houses are never without a tin of them. There are all kinds of variations including health and muesli rusks. They date back to the time when people trekked with oxwagons into the interior, when they needed foods that would keep."
photo by AcadiaTwo photo by AcadiaTwo
photo by AcadiaTwo
photo by urzilacarlson photo by urzilacarlson
Ready In:
1hr 10mins




  • Oven: 350 deg F.
  • Grease 2 flat, large cookie tins.
  • Use the coarse side of a grater, and in a large bowl grate the butter into the flour.
  • Then use your hands to rub it in until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add the salt and sugar.
  • Add the vanilla to the beaten eggs, and stir into the flour mixture (just roughly).
  • Add enough buttermilk to mix to the consistency of scone dough, i.e. soft and somewhat sticky, but not wet. You should need about 6 cups, but it could be more or less.
  • Have a bowl of quite warm water ready, and dip your hands into it. Now form large balls of dough, but do so lightly.
  • The balls should be about 1/3 smaller than tennis balls (sorry, hard if you can't demonstrate!) Pack these, touching one another, on the greased tins. Do not pack close to the edges of the tins, as the dough will rise considerably.
  • Baking time depends on a few variables such as the size of the balls -- generally about 45 mins - 60 minutes The rusks should be well-risen and golden-brown on top. Do peek, and don't let it burn. Test with a skewer.
  • Cool in tins, but they don't have to be cold to proceed:

  • Use a serrated knife (some people simply break up the soft rusks) and cut into shapes convenient for handling -- about 3 inches in length and 1 1/2 inches in width. But you will never be able to cut these rusks neatly!
  • They crumble a lot -- don't worry, it can't be helped. Put out the crumbs for the birds.
  • Using the same tins, stack them very loosely and at an angle, one row supporting the next.
  • Dry overnight in a cool oven of about 170 deg F, with the oven door wedged open a crack. They must dry out completely.
  • Next day make sure rusks are dry, cool well, and keep in airtight tins.

Questions & Replies

  1. This recipe is fantastic! I am a S. African living in Canada and really miss rusks. I would like to point out that SA self-raising flour doesn’t contain any salt so this recipe adds salt and uses salted butter. In the US, self-raising flour already contains salt. I used the recipe of one cup all-purpose flour to 2 teaspoons Baking powder and it worked perfectly. Thanks Zurie for a taste of home!
  2. I made the rusks yesterday and dried them overnight. They are beautiful to look at and have the right texture. However, they are salty and have a sour taste !! The next batch, I will not add salt or use salted butter. I'm not sure what to do about the sour taste, though. Any suggestions ?
  3. If I can’t get self raising fluor what can I use ?
  4. Please advise as to how to add buttermilk to the rusk(already baked without buttermilk)I just bought from our local Supermarket. Your prompt response will be greatly appreciated as to make them tasty. Thanking you in anticipation. Let us Be Blessed and Stay Blessed. Kind Regards. Charles. (South Africa)
  5. New to rusk making. My dad was from South Africa and this one sounds great. Am I supposed to put 13 cups of flour?? That is what I am finding when converting flour measurements. Anyone? Thanks!!!


  1. WOW! Another great recipe from Zurie! Since my daughter's BF is from South Africa and living full time in the USA he had been trying to replicate rusks from his childhood memory. So when I was looking through Zurie's recipes I was happy to see that she had a rusk recipe posted. I devided the recipe in half. I also had to create my own self rising flour which I found a recipe for on this site. I made a mistake and added too much buttermilk to the dough so I could not form the dough into balls. So instead of adding more flour, I decided to run with it and pour it into a baking dish. I cooked it for an hour and it smelled heavenly. I then popped it out while it was still warm and it slid out perfectly. I reduced the the temp on the oven and sliced the bread cake in half and then in slices again. We tasted it and it was delicious. I then proceeded in using half of the in this state. The other half I baked in the oven at the 170 degrees for the time suggested with the door propped open like suggested. The rusks came out similar as biscottis but not as dense. They are quite tasty. I actually like them better in the intermediate state which I love plain, whereas DH and MIL both tried them with butter. In the hard state they are good with tea or coffee. Made them for the Cookathon in memory of Zurie's DH, January 2014.
  2. I fell in love with rusks when I travelled South Africa the second time. I have longed for the same rusks as I enjoyed on my vacation. I ran across this recipe I gave it a try. I shared some with a couple of South Africans here working for the summer. They loved them so I knew immediately this was the long lost recipe I was looking for. My family has come to love rusks as well now. Making them again! And again!!!
  3. I used to live nexxt door to south africans for a bit over a decade from when i was like 4 till 13 and they would always be giving us south african goodies like biltong and rusks. im glad i found this recipe for my daily dose of nostalgia.
  4. I was given some of these rusks as a gift and wanted to try to make them at home myself. I halved the recipe and added 1/4 cup of wheat bran. It only needed 1 cup of buttermilk as well. Took only a half hour to cook. They’re delicious right out of the oven after they cooled!
  5. With this recipe, all fab memories from South Africa are awakening. Easy to follow. Thank you!


I'm a widow, retired, and I love cooking. I live on the coast in South Africa and I love seafood. You're welcome to my recipes (all kinds, definitely not just seafood!) Just remember that no recipe is ever cast in stone -- adjust to your taste! The photo was taken at a rustic seaside restaurant on our West Coast, approx 1 year ago (2016).
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