South African plant-based bran rusks
As a baker, there is a point when you realise people are not only being polite to accept your delicacy but are genuinely, absolutely crazy about your creation.
When you reach this point, don’t take it personally. Instead, take pride in knowing that you have found a keeper of a recipe.
When I turned mostly vegan in July, the first food I set out to vegan-ify was my sister-in-law’s bran and cream rusks. What I thought would be simply: “Replace the 1 litre of cream with a plant-based cream”, turned into months of experimentation and countless rusk batches.
South Africans love rusks. There is no doubt that this plant version would be a hit with Safas no matter what it’s made of. Despite the approval of my countrymen, I only really knew I nailed it when I noticed dozens of rusks disappear over three days in the house I shared with Italian and Romanian colleagues. The number of rusks consumed was impressive even by South African standards.
I consider these rusks a healthy treat because they are packed with nuts, seeds, plant fats and bran (fibre), but take care since they do have sugar and are easily overindulged.
I have these for breakfast on the train before a day in the Alps. They taste great dipped in a train station bought almond-milk cappuccino. In South Africa they work well for the times I left the house at 5 am for a 7 am race start. Simply make a quick coffee for the road or cross your fingers for a gourmet coffee truck next to the registration tent.
It’s also perfect at the office for the days following a very long run when your stomach starts to growl at 9:45 am.
Let me know below how you got on if you make them!
A few notes on the recipe:
- This recipe is extended family sized. Even the biggest mixing bowl you own might not be big enough to fit all the ingredients. Though each batch is a lot of work and keeps the oven on for 10 hours, I recommend making half the recipe the first time to get a feel for it.
- When you line the pan with baking paper, it’s easier to get the paper in the shape of the pan if you thoroughly wet the paper first.
- The original recipe had 1 litre of cream. You cannot replace this with the same amount of plant cream since plant-based creams generally have a lot less fat in them. Less fat makes the rusks fall apart when you cut them, so I mix the soy/cashew/coconut cream with oil to get the right fat percentage.
- If the rusks make a lof of crumbs as you cut them, put the crumbs in a pan in the oven to dry too; this makes for delicious nutty granola.
- If you are in a part of the world that has self-raising flour, definitely use that. If not, the alternative below works well too.
South African plant-based bran rusks
- 1 kg Sieved self-rising flour (or 60 ml baking powder, 940 g flour and 15 ml salt)
- 4 cups Wheat or oat bran I usually use wheat
- 500 g Margarine (I've also had success with vegan butter)
- 2 cups Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Desiccated coconut
- 1 cup Sunflower seeds
- 1 cup Roughly chopped pecan nuts
- 1 cup Almond slivers
- 1/2 cup Sesame seeds
- 1 cup Pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup Raisins
- 800 ml Plant-based cream I have used soy, coconut, cashew or Orley whip. Just make sure it’s thick and preferably intended for baking, not cooking.
- 200 ml Oil of choice I use Canola; most oils should work but not coconut oil.
- Preheat the oven to 180 C.
- Line a large metal pan (35 x 28 x 4 cm) with baking paper sprayed non-stick baking spray.
- Combine the flour, bran, sugar and salt in a giant mixing bowl.
- Add the margarine and use your fingertips to rub the flour and margarine together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until well combined.
- Add the cream and oil and stir until thoroughly mixed.
- Pour the mixture into the pan and put it in the preheated oven.
- After 45 min, test to see if the rusks are cooked through by inserting a skewer or a knife in the cake. Place it back in the oven 10 minutes at a time until the skewer/knife comes out dry.
- Let the rusks cool down completely so that they are easier to cut.
- Cut into rectangles not bigger than 9 x 3 x 2 cm. Don’t worry if they are slightly different sizes but keeping them uniform, keeps the drying time the same.
- Lay the cut rusks on an oven grill and put them back in the oven at 100 C. I prop the oven open with a wooden spoon through the night to make sure they have enough ventilation. They will need about 6 to 8 hours.
- Once the rusks are dried throughout, allow them to cool before packing them in airtight containers.
- Enjoy dipped in coffee or tea.