Boerebeskuit (Farmers rusk) – In most countries rusks refer to pieces of bread which have been dried out in the oven, a process which produces a nutty flavour as well as a crisp texture.
In South Africa they are more likely to be made from specially prepared dough, which may be flavoured with spices and slightly sweetened.
Yeast doughs are left to rise in the usual way, then shaped into small balls, arranged close to one another in a large bread tin so that they rise shoulder to shoulder and cook to a fluffy white texture with a dark brown cap. When split into individual lengths, they are oven-dried and baked into a brown rusk.
Another type of rusk is made from a sweetened scone-type dough, moistened with buttermilk. The dough is shaped into small buns and baked at a fairly high temperature until golden. When cool these are split in two and dried in a cool oven.
Rusks can be made of cake flour or wholemeal flour, or a mixture of both; favourite traditional flavourings include the addition of aniseed and raisins although muesli and honey are also used nowadays.
It was the French Huguenots who first introduced this type of rusk made from sweetened buns or mosbolletjies. These were served with a cup of steaming hot coffee at daybreak. Many households still partake of this tradition. Boerebeskuit are also tucked into lunch boxes, served at picnics, as padkos (food for the road), to be dipped in tea or coffee as a welcome snack at any time.
How to Dry Boerebeskuit
Separate boerebeskuit if necessary and arrange in one layer on an ungreased baking tray and place in a preheated slow oven, 150°C (300°F), until they are completely dried and crisp and several shades deeper in colour. The time needed will depend on the type and thickness of the boerebeskuit. Check frequently, turning the pieces over when the upper side is crisp and rearranging them as necessary to colour evenly. Do not allow to become too dark or the flavour will be spoiled. Cool on a rack and store in an airtight container.
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