I'm not a terrible cook just a reluctant one. And a little too impatient with the whole reducing of somethings, deglazings of something elses, double-boiling this and triple-dipping that.
—Meira Cook, author
I don't know many mothers who love one child more than another but I know quite a few authors who -- whether secretly or brazenly -- favour one of their characters over the others. I confess to a sneaking partiality for one character in my recent novel, The House on Sugarbush Road.
Dhlamina Mopede is an ebullient and comely domestic worker in the new South Africa. I admire her wayward and unruly spirit, her famous love magnetism, and her resourcefulness. But what I envy about Dhlamina, envy in the way that makes me wonder why someone couldn't write me that way, is that she is a splendidly talented cook.
She wasn't always that way. She had to be hit on the head with a falling recipe book which was the beginning of her long culinary apprenticeship. But my feeling is that many recipe books might rain down upon me and all I would acquire would be a bump on the head. Bruises rather than epiphanies. Well, some fictional characters get all the luck!
Anyway, I'm not a terrible cook just a reluctant one. And a little too impatient with the whole reducing of somethings, deglazings of something elses, double-boiling this and triple-dipping that.
I'm in my forties now and my life is bigger, my definitions roomier, and my outlook ever so much more grateful. I'm grateful for my lovely husband who patiently and without banging crankily on appliances bakes us rusks every week.
are a South African sort of biscotti. They are double baked and meant to be hard so that you can dunk them in your morning coffee or your afternoon tea. The trick is to calculate the exact moment of rusk-dissolution so that the dear little biscuit doesn't become irretrievably soggy and break off to settle at the bottom of your cup where you will find it swaying like seaweed in the undertow of your morning dregs. A horrible prospect.
I've included an old family recipe along with my own bossy amendments. We always double the cinnamon content because what is life without too much spice? And we add raisins on the grounds that any recipe without raisins is even better with raisins.
I think Dhlamina would approve.
Dhlamina's Cinnamon Raisin Rusks
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup of raisins
½ cup melted butter
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix all dry ingredients together. Combine wet ingredients and then mix into dry ingredients. Stir until thoroughly mixed.
Turn the dough onto a breadboard dusted with flour. Cut rusks into biscuit size rectangles (the best rusks are less symmetrically shaped and more free-form).
Set rusks on greased baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes.
After 25 minutes take rusks out and give a hot, soft one to your beloved with a nice cup of tea.
Turn oven down to 200 degrees and replace remaining rusks. Bake them for at least two more hours at 200 degrees until they are dry and hard.
Keep in a airtight container beside the kettle.
Meira Cook is signing her book The House on Sugarbush Road on Saturday November 24, from 1 - 3 p.m. at McNally Robinson.