About the Recipe
Twice-baked bread rusks are made from the festive bread (roska) dough and, like reshikas, are typically always available in Sephardic homes. Rusks are delicious for breakfast or at teatime served with kashkaval or feta cheese and plump marinated olives. I loved watching my parents’ friends dunk these rusks into Turkish coffee just long enough that they wouldn’t disintegrate and crumble! You have to work quickly in this recipe when shaping the twisted ropes of dough, so be prepared. Rusks keep for months but will probably be eaten within weeks!
For the starter: 4 tsp active dried yeast (rapid-rise) 11⁄2 cups warm water (about 55°C/130°F)
1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
For the dough: 5 large eggs, at room temperature
11⁄2 cups caster sugar 3⁄4 cup vegetable oil, plus extra for coating the bowl and brushing 1 tsp orange blossom water 2 cups warm water 11-12 cups unbleached plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted, with 1 tsp salt, plus extra flour for kneading
For the egg wash: 2 egg yolks mixed with 1 tsp milk
For the topping: 1⁄2 cup sesame seeds
You will need: 2 rectangular deep straight-sided baking pans, about 35x28cm (133⁄4x11in), lightly oiled
Prepare the starter: Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar in a small bowl. Stir, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 5-10 minutes until frothy.
Prepare the dough: Using a heavy-duty electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the oil, the yeast starter, orange blossom water and 2 cups warm water and blend.
Remove the whisk attachment and fit the mixer with a dough hook. Turn the mixer on medium speed.
Mix in 11⁄2 cups of flour. Then gradually add flour, 1 cup at a time and knead until the dough holds together and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
Divide the dough into 60g (21⁄2oz) pieces and roll each piece into ropes 1cm (1⁄2in) thick.
Take 2 ropes and twist together. Arrange twisted ropes in lengths close together and lay them side-by- side in the pans with any excess dough hanging over the edge. Oil lightly between each row as you go. Continue until you have used all the dough. Cut away any overhanging rope so each row fits snugly in the inner edge of the pans. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. As the dough rises the twisted ropes will come together.
Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven on. Invert the baking pans onto a wire rack. When cool enough to handle, carefully separate each row of baked twists, either with 2 forks or with your fingers. With a sharp knife cut into 7.5cm (3in) length rusks.
Lay the soft rusks flat on 2 baking trays and return one tray at a time to the oven for about 5-8 minutes, until pale gold. Reduce the oven to 110°C (225°F). Pile all the rusks into one large deep baking pan and return to the warm oven for about 1 hour, until completely dry and crisp. Turn off the oven, leaving the rusks in to crisp for another hour taking care that they remain golden brown. Store the cooled rusks in an airtight container.