Rusks

I baked 11 dozen sweet rolls for an Easter fundraiser at church to raise money to send our bell choir to New York in November.  The rolls were either cinnamon, raspberry, or blueberry filled, and were lavishly iced. I had 3 dozen left at the end of the day, and brought them home and made them into rusks. That involved cutting them in half, brushing them with melted butter, and baking them at 275 until they were crispy/chewy. They store really well.

I brought a bag of rusks to work on Tuesday. My coworkers  thought they were delicious,  but only one  had ever eaten anything like them before and knew what rusks were.

This puzzled me greatly, since I assumed that everyone would know rusks. I grew up with Zwieback and Dutch rusks.  Dutch rusks came in round packages with windmills on the paper covers, and my grandparents would pour broth on them to soften them up.  My coworkers are of German Russian and Czech heritage, and many of them grew up on farms, and I thought they would be familiar with a fine way to extend to life of stale bread.  The only one who knew rusks was a coworker of Danish heritage.  She said her grandmother used to butter stale bread and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar and bake it. She didn’t know they were called rusks.

You would have thought I had brought in the most exotic pastry imaginable. I looked up rusks on the internet, and found that there are examples of twice-baked bread from the Philippines to Greece. I think that it was used extensively to extend the shelf life of bread on sea voyages. There are loads of rusk recipes in the Nordic Baking Book my son and dil gave me for Christmas. Perhaps rusks are more common the closer you live to the Baltic or North Seas. In any event, they demand more rusks at work.

What family or ethnic foods do you have a hard time explaining to other people? 

56 thoughts on “Rusks”

  1. very cool renee
    no knowledge of rusks
    cook em up at 275 after slathering in butter and rejuvenate with broth sound like the most inviting tasre adventure i can imagine
    my sweet tooth is a sleeping giant and rarely rears its head but raspberry and cinnamon sweet rolls transformed to jerky (is the mental picture i’m getting) calls out to me.

    passover happened in sync with easter this year. when i was growing up my parents (i think my moms heritage) celebrated with a passover meal of matzoh a salad with endive and bitters
    applesauce with cinnamon hot candies added to symbolize something about mortar and a lamb cake made in a mold. a reference to whatever it was that was done with the doorways marking to let the spirits know that we lived in the house and abided the passover was noted
    i had forgotten all about it. my kids have never heard a peep about it.
    a tradition that died with me (so far🐏) wouldntvthey be surprised if i restarted it next year.
    passover is an interesting historical rememberence

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    1. Amen, wessew. You took my answer. Lutefisk as food simply defies all logic and description.

      Chris in O-town (who thankfully only ate lutefisk once or twice in his young life . . . but I now live in a town with a sizable Scandinavian population and lutefisk dinners around Christmastime are still quite popular. Even reading about lutefisk makes me shake my head in wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. The much maligned lutefisk! With enough butter sauce and akvavit to wash it down, lutefisk isn’t exactly a favorite of mine, but it’s certainly edible.

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    1. I thought I was the only one! I put mini chocolate chips on top too.
      And you can make them with Ritz Crackers to be appetizers.
      I haven’t had them in a while… maybe lunch tomorrow. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rise and Try a Bite Baboons

    Of all foods, I think lutefisk is the hardest to explain—after all, the Norwegians in Norway won’t touch the stuff!

    Some of my Grandma’s food traditions were tough to understand as a child. Her Radish Sandwich (with white radish) or Onion Sandwich (pungent) were something I just could not fathom, but she loved them.

    Mush—corn meal mush-the recipe for which starts with “go choose 6 good ears of corn from the bin” was pioneer survival food. I still make it occasionally for myself. You make a lot, Then form the mush into bricks and refrigerate so it gels. Then slice it, fry it in butter, then serve with more butter and honey. Yum.

    This is known as polenta in Spain and Italy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My husband loves corn meal mush. I don’t like it but I like polenta. I believe the polenta i like has parmesan cheese in it.

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        1. Thanks for asking, PJ. The plan is that we will move to the Twin Cities in early June. I don’t believe that is possible, but don’t say so. Announcing my skepticism couldn’t help those who must make all the critical decisions. We need one or two places to live, one or two jobs (full-time of part-time), a good elementary school and a good medical center. These things should be in more or less the same neighborhood. If we could fill in the blank on one or two of these needs, it would be easier to work out the rest of the puzzle. So far, we have made zero progress on any of the things we seek.

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        2. So sorry, Steve. What a stressful situation to be in for all of you. That’s a tight puzzle to have to navigate, and with very limited room for error. Hoping for a lucky break in at least one area, and soon.

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        3. Replying to PJ: Thanks. The stress is not my problem. I don’t have much of a role to play here. The worst burden is on my daughter. My son-in-law is extremely stressed by his current job. My grandson doesn’t even know this is sure to happen, so his stress levels will probably peak when he gets the full story. He loves it here.

          Jacque: My son-in-law is a manager, which is a fuzzy sort of concept. His work has mainly been to manage quality control teams in mid-sized manufacturing plants. My daughter is a superb human resources manager/adviser.

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  3. Renee, I think we need to have a baboon Rusk-Tasting Party – if you can’t come, mail us a dozen. : ) If this doesn’t happen, I may have to try making them – this sounds SO delicious.

    I suppose I should have lutefisk once just for the experience, but we use boxed salt cod for our holiday meals. When I was a kid, we regularly had canned Fish Balls in a white sauce on potatoes, I can now only find them in Scandinavian specialty shops:
    https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=canned+fish+balls&id=2CCEF5345E5337ACC2F7F486F116B9E4E85ED6C5&FORM=IQFRBA

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    1. They carry them at Ingebretsen’s.

      Dad would sometimes make fish balls from leftover cod, also served with a white sauce. (Now that I think about it, Danes have any number of “all white meals.” That can easily be fixed with a little sprinkle of parsley!)

      Other times he would make fiskefrikadeller, fried fish cakes. My sister lives near a fishing harbor that has a really great fish monger. When visiting her we’ll often swing by and pick up some fresh catch of the day to cook for dinner, and perhaps a couple of fiskefrikadeller for next day’s smørrebrøds lunch. I miss being. able to do that.

      Here’s a link to a recipe for fiskefrikadeller:
      https://www.bbc.com/food/recipes/danish_fish_frikadeller_98237

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  4. I love your food blogs, Renee, and as you have probably already discovered, I can, and do, go on and on about food.

    I’m well acquainted with “rusks.” I put them in quotation marks because, to me, they’re not quite right. Their shape is wrong, and they’re not sufficiently crunchy. They’ll do in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the real thing, which are tvebakker.

    Danes distinguish between tvebakker and kammerjunkere; the latter are sweet, the former are not. Tvebakker, which literally means twice baked, are used in warm and cold fruit soups. They’re also served in chilled buttermilk soup and other old fashioned foods that are rarely served these days. Kammerjunkere are meant to be nibbled with a cup of good coffee.

    There’s a third iteration of this phenomenon which are called kryddere. They’re commonly served for breakfast slathered in butter, perhaps with a slice of stinky cheese on top.

    A fourth iteration of the technique of twice baked bread to drive out as much moisture as possible is “beskøjtere,” a rock hard cracker sailors took along on long voyages in the old days. They were best enjoyed if they had been dunked in rum first.

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    1. I wonder if one of these is like what my dad used to get from his home town of Roland, IA (basically a Norwegian colony near Ames) – kavring (kaavring?) – a half of a rye bun that had been twice baked. He would dip it for just a second or two into boiling water (using tongs) – just long enough to soften. Then put in a bowl and melt a pat of butter over it, top it with a poached egg.

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  5. My children love what they call “pasta with invisible sauce”, the sauce being 2 t. of chopped garlic browned in 1/2 c. of olive oil and 2 t. of salt and then poured over spaghetti and topped with parmesan cheese. It is delicious but when I describe it to people here they think it sounds odd and bland.

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  6. Krumkake: Our Norwegian Christmas treat. I make them every year to the delight of the family. For those who have never seen or eaten one they are an enigma. They are worried about eating them. Fine, more for us.

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  7. Me again! I’ve written about so many of the weird ethnic foods that I grew up with that most baboons probably think that I’ll eat virtually anything. I get such a kick out of the origins of some of these old dishes. They speak to creativity sparked by necessity in the pursuit of not wasting anything..

    Take øllebrød, for example. Traditionally a porridge made from scraps of stale Danish rye bread and sweet non-alcoholic beer. This was served for breakfast with a dollop of butter, a sprinkle of sugar, plain milk or cream, and if your were lucky, some sliced fresh fruit. A favorite way of enjoying this porridge was to omit the butter and replace it with a dollop of eggyolk whipped with sugar till the sugar had dissolved. This was a rare treat. Yum!

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  8. Commercially-made rusks, or zweiback, small dry toasts sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, were what my mother gave me to gnaw on when I was a toddler. She called them rusks.
    In my family when I was growing up, when we had shredded wheat for breakfast it was always with hot milk and butter. I don’t know where that originated. I never realized until I was an adult that some people ate the biscuits with cold milk. I still have never eaten shredded wheat that way.

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    1. I’m confused, Bill (so what else is new)! “I never realized until I was an adult that some people ate the biscuits with cold milk. I still have never eaten shredded wheat that way.” Are you referring to the shredded wheat as biscuits? Or am I missing something?

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        1. peanut butter was a staple from my dad
          peanut butter and jelly peanut butter and honey, peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and cheese both slabs of cheddar and velveta have their own appeal. later in life a learned peanut butter and pickle , peanut butter and double chocolate chip ice cream, peanut butter and potato chip peanut butter and mayo, peanut butter maple syrup pancakes, peanut butter brown sugar lefse, then last addition was vietnamese and thai peanut sauces on egg rolls, noodles and wontons, dim sum and bok choy
          i sound like bubba in forest gump with peanut butter instead of shrimp
          i am like bubba… peanut butter on pretzels, hot fudge peanut butter malts, deep fried peanut balls
          reese’s peanut butter cups are always in packages with not quite enough in there. have to open one more … then another.
          saltines, graham crackers, peanut butter cookies were my favorite, aldis sells a can of peanuts that is about two cups for $1.79 i buy 3 every time i go in.
          i used to come home from school and have a tin roof sunday ( vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce with more peanuts than chocolate sauce. my daughter was upset i gave ari peanut butter when he was 2 months old way ahead of the damn doctors schedule . i told her peanut allergies come from parents like her who don’t just give them everything and see what they like. besides he’s a jones in there somewhere deep down
          he’s got to love peanut butter.
          when my dad died he said he wanted his ashes put in skippy jars and distributed to friends and family. my mom still has him in the closet in a box. i have my jar in the cupboard. i think it’s time to ask for an opening of the box so i can fill my jar and put him in a place of remembrance
          she and my siblings may be ready now too.
          i buy skippy two jars at a time at costco and when they go on sale i buy 3 or 4 2 packs for 6.99.
          a big jar lasts a week

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        2. I love the idea of your dad in a Skippy jar, tim. I suspect your “Jones family genes,” whatever they are, are responsible for “man” having survived on earth all of these years. If there’s any chance, and I hope there’s not, that that same gene is also responsible for the inexplicable love of DT, I hope the hell it’s eradicated soon.

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  9. Nothing ethnic about it but our family is the only one I know that has “Fox Burgers”. I know we’ve talked about it on the blog before; it’s spam chopped up and broiled on open faced bread. Mixed with cheese, catsup, butter, and spices to taste. Almost better cold than hot.

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  10. I sometimes make bread pudding. It’s just another way of not letting bread go to waste. I put the bread in the freezer, then bake it with milk and eggs and chocolate for a tasty dessert. If the bread has raisins in it, so much the better.

    I also slice stale baguettes into rounds and spread butter and a little garlic powder and parmesan cheese on them, toast them in a toaster oven till crisp. My mother used to use up bread that way.

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  11. Another delicious day on the trail! Thanks, Renee, for the inspiration.

    I sometimes wonder at the randomness of it all. My genetic roots are probably not too far removed from the “gnawing on whale blubber” genes of my ancestors. Perhaps that’s why I’m more open to lutefisk and other foods that some baboons find objectionable.

    I didn’t encounter peanut butter until I was twenty-one, and perhaps that’s too late it in life for it really to take hold? Liver paté, on the other hand, I’d consider a stable. Perhaps appreciating pickled herring was a precursor to liking sushi?

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    1. a favorite treat as a kid was braunschweiger
      i had a decade of loving intensively flavored meats
      bbq ribs, corned beef, braunschweiger, brats and kielbasa, breaded pork chops then beef stopped tasting good
      i backed way off steak and cheeseburgers and so when at 14 vietnam inspired vegetarianism quitting corned beef and ribs was hard kind of like wine and cigarettes but my underlying motivation never waivered , still hasn’t so now the spice collection i manipulate tofu sauces and veggies with is my love
      thanks renee raspberry jerky is in my future with vegetable broth as a emulsion to make it dance
      i can hardly wait

      Liked by 2 people

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