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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Baking Sweet White Rusks with a Sourdough Starter (alternative options given)

It is not news to regular readers of the blog that I am nurturing a sourdough starter. The problem is that we are in the middle of a heatwave that has temperatures sky rocketing to record highs. This is not the ideal climate to bake in. The result is that my starter has now grown to phenomenal proportions and I took advantage of the first break in the weather to bake. In today's blog I will show you how I adapted an ages old recipe for Sweet White Rusks so I could use my sourdough starter. However, since I know that everybody does not have a starter ready, I will also share the use of alternative raising agents in the blog.

I take the basic recipe from the trusted Kook en Geniet, but adapt it to shorten the time as well as to make it possible to use my sourdough starter.

Start by adding 2,5 kg cake wheat flour, 500 ml (2 cups/500 g) white sugar and 12.5 ml (1 tablespoon) salt to a large bowl. Mix the dry ingredients well.
Option 1: Instant Dry yeast - Add one packet to the dry ingredients and mix it well.
Option 2: Active Dry Yeast - Sprinkle 10 ml on (750 ml) the tepid water with 12,5 ml sugar dissolved in the water. Let it sit for about 10 minutes and add it with the wet ingredients.

Adding 12,5 ml aniseed is optional and according to taste. If it is added, it should be mixed in with the dry ingredients.

Melt 250 g butter/margarine.

Add 2 1/2 cups of your sourdough starter to a mixing bowl and add the cooled down melted butter to it. Boiling hot water or butter will kill the cultures in the sourdough and therefore we are always working with lukewarm items, that creates the ideal growth conditions for the cultures. Keep a jug with tepid water at hand (the water with the active dry yeast, if you are following this option). You may very well need more water, so be prepared.

Add all of the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Add more lukewarm water if necessary.

Keep on kneading and folding the dough until it becomes an elastic ball. By this time it will come off your hands and the side of the bowl as well, leaving your hands clean enough to work the camera without needing to wash up. Or is that just me?

Cover the dough with a plastic sheet. I needed the shallower bowl for something else and transferred my dough to a deeper one. Feel free to keep your dough in the bowl you used to mix it in, provided it has enough space to allow the dough to double in size. This could take a couple of hours, depending on the raising agent you used.

Wrap the bowl in a blanket and leave it in a warm dry place to rise. I put mine outside in the sun as it was still warm out.

Once the dough has risen to double in size, you can knead it down again.

Lather your hands in margarine/butter to keep the dough from sticking to it. This will also make a thin film of oil/fat between the balls, making it easy to separate them when baked.

Roll the dough into small balls and place them tightly in a pan that has been treated with non-stick spray.

Stack them rather tightly.

Cover the pans with plastic.

Wrap everything up in a blanket and allow to rise in a warm dry place.

I went to bed and when I returned the next morning, it was clear that the rusks had risen too much. This would mean that the dough balls would loose its distinctive parting. When this happens, you can knock the dough back again and leave to rise all over again, or you can bake it as is and simply cut the rusks apart when it is baked, the same way you would slice bread. I opted for the latter option. I stuck the pans in a preheated oven at 200°C and baked it for just under an hour.

In the meantime, I dissolved about 2 tablespoons (25 ml) of sugar in 1/2 cup milk.

With the rusks baked, you can see that my assessment was right and that it does not have the distinct roundings of the balls.

Brush the still hot rusks with the milk and sugar mixture. This gives it a nice shine at the top and that distinctive sweet taste that you find on the heads of the rusks.

Turn the rusks out after about 5 minutes, or as soon as it releases from the pan. This could also happen immediately. Allow it to cool on a wire rack.

One of my pans still had some of its lines left at the bottom and I will show you how to separate them if you are not going to cut them.

Carefully break along the lines.

These are not the prettiest rusks, but you get the idea.

Once you have cut/separated the rusks, space them slightly apart on the oven rack so the air can travel freely through them. Place in the oven at 100°C for a couple of hours until they are dry right through. They will last for months in a sealed container once dried.

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