Gluten Free Rusks (grain free, high fibre, low carbohydrate)
Rusks are a very South African thing. In that sunnier part of the world, rusks are a real comfort food, and packets of the dunkable delights inevitably find their way into expat care packages. And, it is important to note – they are enjoyed by young and old alike.
Alas, rusks are a hard sell to any adult in the UK and Ireland, where they are only found in baby aisles and associated with teething. Pfft!
Rusks are basically thick, wholesome cookies – what’s not to like? Biscotti is not treated with such disdain…
The traditional, commercially available rusks in South Africa tend to be made from flour, sugar, buttermilk and eggs. They are baked until cooked through, then sliced and cooked further to dry out. These are the ones most locals will remember fondly dunking into tea or coffee morning, noon and/or evening. However, homemade rusks have always been better than the store-bought versions.
I’ve had my eye out for a decent gluten/grain-free version for a while and I was delighted when my mum introduced me to a gluten free recipe. We adapted it slightly and the result is happily very close to the traditional South African homemade rusks.
A bit of Sweet
The recipe calls for xylitol, which makes these rusks perfect for any one with blood sugar imbalance (but you can substitute with maple syrup if you like). I’m not a huge fan of processed sweeteners, but I do find that xylitol is the most palatable.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance found in the fibres of many plants. It is widely used to sweeten sugar-free chewing gum and mints. In the last few years it has been increasingly marketed as a sugar alternatives to diabetics – it has fewer calories and does not raise blood sugar levels.
However, there are a few watch-outs when using xylitol.
While it is a very handy sugar alternative, at the end of the day, xylitol is a highly processed substance. It goes through a process of sugar hydrogenation and much of the commercially available xylitol is made from corn which may be from genetically modified sources (i.e. check the label before buying).
Also, if you are following a low FODMAP diet, you’ll need to avoid xylitol as it could lead to bloating.
For those reasons, I only use it very sparingly when it’s absolutely necessary. I generally prefer to use raw honey or maple syrup (unprocessed natural sweeteners). However, there are some people who cannot take these simple sugars and xylitol is, in my opinion, the preferred natural alternative out there. For me, sweet treats are just that – treats. I’m not expecting people to be ingesting large amounts of xylitol, so a little in your baking it perfectly fine.
The Good Stuff…
All in all, this recipe turns out particularly nutrient-dense snacks. They are high in fibre, protein, vitamin E, zinc and good fats.
I have made this version dairy-free by using coconut milk, but you can substitute with organic cream or buttermilk.
These nuggets of home comfort are easy to make (great for kids to help out), but require a little patience. Like their Italian cousins, biscotti, they need time to dry out to crunchy perfection. They are worth waiting for – full of wholesome nuts and seeds, they are a guilt-free mid-afternoon snack, or a few will do you for a breakfast on the move.
Ingredients (makes 28 rusks)
- 120g coconut oil (or organic butter), melted
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk
- 4 organic eggs
- 1 cup milled flaxseeds
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- 1 cup ground almonds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup poppy seeds (optional)
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons aluminium-free baking powder
- ¼ cup xylitol or ¼ cup maple syrup
- Pinch of salt
- Whisk the butter, coconut milk and eggs together in a large bowl. (TIP: shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly before opening)
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix well
- Scrape the mixture into a greased 1kg loaf tin (or two smaller tins) and bake at 1800C (or 1700C fan) for 35-40 minutes until golden and firm (slightly less for smaller tins)
- Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack
- Once the loaf is cool to the touch (but not completely cold), cut into 1cm slices and then cut in half again, across the crease. Set the oven to 50-700C.
- Arrange the rusks on a baking tray (or directly on the wire oven shelf) and leave to dry for 6-7 hours or overnight
- Store in an airtight container. Delicious with a traditional rooibos tea!
Leftover coconut milk? You can use it in this recipe