We bake a few traditional items for our shop, and one of those are rusks. We have a variety but the most popular ones are my mum’s health rusks and the buttermilk rusks. I often make both, especially when my mother is too busy dealing with online orders, deliveries and helping customers. Today my mom asked me to bake the buttermilk rusks again as she prefers how neatly I roll them into little balls before placing them into the baking tray.
A few weeks back I realised that the recipe she uses for these rusks is the same recipe I used to bake my rusks back in 1999! I noticed my handwriting on the now well used piece of paper, and couldn’t believe that my mom kept it all these years, never the less using it for the past 5 years to sell in her shop. I remembered the day I baked these for the first time. I was home alone, had the kitchen all to myself and decided now is a good of a time to teach myself how to make rusks. Baking was also a temporary distraction from the poisonous bulimic thoughts I struggled with at the time.
I always felt intimidated with baking rusks, because my ouma use to bake them by the dozens and I thought that only an experiences and seasoned baker can attempt them. I wrote the recipe out in a way I will understand it, read it carefully and started making them. I particularly enjoyed rolling out the dough into neat little balls and tucking them tightly next to each other into the baking tray. The house smelled like freshly baked bread when they were done, but they are not yet ready to eat. You first have to cool and then dry them. For a young inexperienced baker this waiting and lengthy process was torture. My mother was very impressed when she arrived home from work to find a large container filled with rusks and she couldn’t wait to take them to work the following day for her colleagues to taste. I dreaded this as I was doubtful of my baking ability and was scared they wouldn’t like it. The following afternoon I went to my mother’s work after my counselling session, and I only received praises from them over the rusks. I felt slightly embarrassed, but was genuinely relieved that they approved of my baking.
So today I’m putting these little soldiers into their oven bed to bake so that others can enjoy them as much as we do.