Today’s recipe comes from Eliza Leslie’s book “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes & Sweetmeats”, published in Boston in 1828. It was the first of Leslie’s numerous books on cooking and other subjects, but I only own one so my options are limited here. She’s credited with being the first to use the term “cupcake”, but that’s not what I decided to make today. The recipe I went for this time around is for something called rusk.


Today’s ingredients.

Nowadays rusk refers to a hard biscuit or dried bread, sometimes used as teething food for children. Leslie’s rusk, though, looked more like something akin to a sweet, yeast-leavened bun.


After some calculations I went with the following ingredients:

110 g sugar

110 g butter

450 g flour

one egg

3,6 dl milk

30 g yeast

1 tablespoon of rose water

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

I followed the recipe fairly closely. Milk and butter went into a pan and got warmed up to a suitable temperature for yeast. 37 degrees C, to be exact, but since I didn’t have a thermometer I went with the traditional “that feels pretty warm when I stick my finger into it” measuring method.


Make sure you don’t stick your finger into anything scalding-hot.

I measured the flour into a bowl, poured the buttery milk in, followed that with the sugar (the addition of which is not mentioned in the recipe – I’m looking at your editor here, Miss Leslie), egg, yeast and spices. I used my hand to work the dough, rather than a knife. The amount of yeast was pure guesswork. One wine-glass should equal about 1,2 dl, which is way too much yeast in the form I know it. In Finland we bake sweet buns known as pulla, and I extrapolated what sounded like a suitable amount of yeast based on what I know of yeast-to-liquid ratios in pulla. I turned out to be on the money with the yeast, but where I went astray was the amount of flour. After 450 g, my dough looked like this:

This is not turning into little thick round cakes any time soon.

Either I had my measurement conversion wrong, or the rest of the flour was supposed to go in while kneading the dough on the table. I ended up adding more and more flour until I was happy with the consistency. I didn’t measure it, but I’m guessing about 200 grams more flour went in until I was satisfied.


I was satisfied.

I formed the dough into little round cakes about 8 cm across and 2 cm thick and set them to rise. They puffed up nicely, and about 12 minutes in an oven heated to 180 degrees C was sufficient to give them an appetizing colour. Opening the oven was a heady experience – the rose water gave the oven, and the finished rusk, a lovely fragrance.


This little fellow was a delightful new acquaintance.

The rusks were lovely. They were not overly sweet, the scent of the rosewater stimulated the palate already before you took a bite, and the taste of roses was subtle enough to complement rather than overpower the taste of the bun. Bravo, Miss Leslie!


5 thoughts on “Rusk

  1. These were delicious again, and the adventure of getting the recipe / ingredients sorted out was a grand old one. I’m also fascinated by how usage of the word ‘receipts’ has changed.


  2. Personally I’m surprised that the conversion rate from imperial eggs to metric eggs appears to be 1:1.

    Sadly, I’m much too distant to comment on the taste, but they do look tasty! I’ll have to point The Beth towards this blog – she’s into baking too, and I think History to some extent.

    Liked by 1 person

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