April 25th is ANZAC Day, commemorating the landing by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps at Gallipoli on April 25th, 1915. Nowadays it is a day of remembrance where we honour the memories of those who have served and died in all military operations. The spirit of ANZAC is one of courage, mateship and sacrifice, according to the Australian War Memorial website.
The history of the ANZAC biscuit (cookie for you my North American friends) actually predates World War I and can be traced back to Scotland, famous for its oat cakes. I remember learning about them in school, however that was a very long time ago so the following information was found at the most excellently named Digger History website – sadly no longer active but you can see some info from the site on Wikipedia too (a “digger” for those of you who don’t know, is the Australian and New Zealand military slang term for a soldier).
During World War I, mothers, wives and girlfriends would often send care packages to their men, concerned for their nutritional welfare. The problem was that the ships carrying the packages would sometimes take in excess of two months to arrive, so any food had to be edible even after that long without refrigeration. The ANZAC biscuit not only met the nutritional requirements of these women, but also contains only a few ingredients, none of which spoil quickly. These were dubbed ANZAC biscuits after the landing at Gallipoli.
Image from the Australian War Memorial website.
You’ll notice there are no eggs in these recipe. During the war, eggs were scarce, so the binding agent is the golden syrup. To make sure the biscuits stayed crisp on the long voyage, they were packed in tins such as airtight Billy Tea tins (I happen to like my ANZAC biscuits chewy so I wouldn’t have minded had they arrived not so crisp!)
ANZAC biscuits are one of the few things that are able to be legally marketed in Australia using the word ANZAC which is protected by Federal Legislation.
They are a forgiving biscuit; indeed, I made these when I was extremely distracted and forgot to mix the baking soda with the water before I added it to the melting butter and golden syrup. I also forgot the flour (!) and added it in after the wet ingredients, but they turned out ok. They’re temperamental and unpredictable, turning out very differently each time you make them – sometimes crunchier, sometimes chewier – but always so tasty.
These are for my Poppa and my Uncle Andrew, who both served with the armed forces (Holland and Australia). xoxo
UPDATED RECIPE FROM 2015 below!
- 150 g (1 cup) all-purpose (plain) flour
- 100g (1 cup) large flake rolled oats (not instant)
- 100g (3/4 cup) desiccated coconut
- 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 113g (1 stick/ 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup (or sweet brown rice syrup)
- 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F.
- Line two baking trays with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Sift the flour into a large bowl. Stir in the oats, coconut and sugar.
- Melt the butter and golden syrup in a medium saucepan.
- Mix the boiling water and baking soda in a small cup.
- Add the baking soda mixture to the butter (it will froth up a bit - don't worry!)
- Pour the butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Roll the mixture into balls (I used around 2 tablespoons of mixture). It might feel a little crumbly but it should come together if you squeeze the mixture in your hands. You can also add a drop or two of hot water if you find it too crumbly.
- Place on baking trays, roughly 5cm apart.
- Press gently with a fork or the back of a flat spatula to flatten slightly (don't press too hard!). Bake for 13 minutes until golden brown. They will be still soft to touch.
- Remove trays from the oven and allow the biscuits to sit on the trays for a few minutes, then carefully transfer them (still on the parchment) to wire cooling racks and allow to cool completely.
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