In a culture that has an over-used word for the act of being wasteful, it’s no surprise that the Japanese have taken this humble treat made with stale bread and turned it into a booming trend. It’s reached such a fever pitch, that upscale neighborhoods like Ginza have shops specializing in Rusk with people queue up to buy $30 boxes containing gold and silver wrapped slices of the upcycled bread.
Why the heck would anyone pay for stale bread you ask? Put simply… it’s delicious. In its simplest form, Rusk is a buttery crisp cookie coated in a latticework of caramelized sugar, but it comes in a variety of flavors and is sometimes even dipped in chocolate.
What I don’t get is why people are willing to wait in line and pay so much when it’s ludicrously simple to make at home.
First, you’ll need some stale bread. I like using baguettes, but I’ve seen rusk made with everything from expired chiffon cake to croissants. The key is that it needs to be stale. Stale enough that you can cut the bread into thin even pieces, but not so stale that it’s like taking a chainsaw to a sandcastle.
I’ve outlined a basic recipe below, but you can mix in almost any kind of powdered flavoring such as cardamom, cinnamon, coco powder, vanilla beans, freeze dried strawberry powder, etc. You can also reduce the amount of sugar and dip the finished rusk in chocolate.
Rusk is perfect for making use out of stale bread. It's fast and easy to make at home. Learn how to upcycle stale bread into a delicious, crispy appetizer in a full post from food blogger Marc Matsumoto on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 120 grams (4.2 ounces) stale baguette
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- Put your oven rack in the middle position and pre-heat to 350 degrees F (175 C). Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and place a wire rack on top.
- Use a bread knife and a sawing motion to cut the bread into even 1/4" (6mm) slices.
- Melt the butter and put the sugar in a separate plate.
- Use a pastry brush to brush a generous amount of butter onto both sides of each slice of bread. Dip both sides of the bread in the sugar and tap off any excess sugar. Place the bread on the wire rack.
- When you've coated all the bread, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the bread is golden brown (about 15 minutes). You may need to turn the sheet around half-way through if the bread is browning unevenly.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the rusk to cool completely. The rusk will keep for up to two weeks in a sealed container.
Yield: About 25 pieces
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.