On 196 flavors, we focus on food but also on history. The name of ANZAC biscuits itself refers back to its history.
What is the origin of ANZAC biscuits?
Indeed, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Anzac Day is one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s most important national commemorative events. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during WWI.
On April 25, 1915, the ANZAC forces set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. The objective was to open the Dardanelles to the allied navy ships and to capture Constantinople, Turkey (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and an ally of Germany at the time.
After landing on Gallipoli, the ANZAC forces met fierce resistance from the Ottoman army. Unfortunately, the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the allied forces, including the ANZAC forces, were evacuated. Both sides suffered heavy casualties, including more than 8700 soldiers from Australia and 2700 soldiers from New Zealand who lost their lives. The next year, on the 25th of April 1916, ANZAC day started to mark the commemoration of the start of the campaign and the sacrifice of those who lost their life in the war.
During the war, the friends and families of soldiers as well as community groups sent food to the forces. Due to the delays in getting those food items to the front lines, the food that was sent had to be non perishable, or at least still be edible without refrigeration, while providing a high nutritional value. The ANZAC biscuits were born.
Actually, their original name was simply soldiers’ biscuits. The first published use of the name ANZAC in a recipe was in fact an advertisement in the 7th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book in 1915. The association of the name ANZAC and the recipe that we now know as ANZAC biscuits first appeared in the 9th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book in 1921. At the time, they were called ANZAC crispies. They were eventually renamed ANZAC biscuits.
How to make ANZAC biscuits
Eggs were originally excluded from most recipes. Not only were they rare and difficult to find as a large number of farmers were on the frontlines, but they also impacted the shelf life of the cookies.
This is the reason why ANZAC biscuits were prepared with a combination of butter and Golden Syrup (aka treacle or molasses) that could act as a bonding agent in the absence of eggs. That recipe, which was based on a Scottish recipe, includes rolled oats, flour, coconut, sugar, and baking soda.
Golden Syrup, which is widely used in English cuisine is a syrup obtained after the processing of brown sugar. It is amber and has a strong sweetness. Although its taste is not very pronounced, it nevertheless adds a unique flavor that is distinct from honey or maple syrup which could still be used as substitutes.
To maintain the crispiness of ANZAC biscuits during shipping, they were often stored in metal tea boxes such as Billy Tea tins.
ANZAC biscuits, a registered name
The name of ANZAC biscuits is protected by Australian as well as New Zealand laws and may lead to prosecution for fraudulent commercial use, as Subway discovered when they tried to commercialize cookies under that name in 2008. These biscuits are still distributed to soldiers, and the ones that are sold in the days before ANZAC day typically help raise money for various veteran associations.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup desiccated coconut
- ¾ cup sugar
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
Put together butter and golden syrup in a saucepan and melt at low heat for a few minutes. Combine 4 tablespoons of boiling water and bicarbonate soda, and add to butter and golden syrup mixture.
Incorporate this mixture to the dry ingredients. Add a little more water if necessary, in order to form balls with the preparation.
On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop dough balls of the size of a ping-pong ball. Flatten them with the palm of the hand to obtain 1-inch circles. Leave enough room between cookies so they can spread during cooking.
Bake the ANZAC biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.