The first time I saw an ANZAC biscuit was a couple of years when Unibic decided to enter the Indian consumer market with their varieties of biscuits/ cookies. These were endorsed by the great cricketer Don Bradman, which was great marketing strategy (hopefully) for selling biscuits to the cricket mad Indian nation!
If you happen to be in the U.S., then read "cookies" for "biscuits" here, but in the Commonwealth countries of the world, these are still biscuits even though we also eat cookies now. .
ANZAC stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on the 25th of April every year in the memory of all their soldiers who have fallen in wars.
There are different versions on the origin of these biscuits. Some say that ANZAC biscuits are a variation of Scottish oatcakes, but the most popular one is this version which certainly put ANZAC biscuits on the world map.
ANZAC biscuits, originally known as Soldiers' biscuits, were made by the women back home to send nutritious food to their soldiers who were fighting in World War I. Made from the few ingredients available then, these slightly hard biscuits kept and shipped very well. It used to take about 2 months for the biscuits to reach the soldiers in those days!
Anzac biscuits also contain no eggs, unlike most biscuits/ cookies, as a large number of poultry farmers had joined the army and eggs were scarce.
I have seen many recipes for these biscuits and all of them use most of the ingredients listed here, only differing in the use of either white or brown sugar and the golden or corn syrup. I used honey as neither corn syrup nor golden syrup is available here.
I also read somewhere that the coconut used in these biscuits has to necessarily be dessicated. This makes sense as these biscuits were made to last.
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar (or regular sugar)*
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp honey (or golden/ corn syrup)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp very warm water
* I had run out of brown sugar and used half of white sugar and half of Demerara sugar as there are versions of this recipe suggesting the use of treacle or molasses. I also used only 1 tbsp of honey because of this.
Brown sugar also results in a darker biscuit.
In a bowl, mix the first five ingredients well.
Melt the butter in a pan. Take it off the heat, add the honey and stir well. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water and add it to the honey-butter mixture and stir well.
Now add the liquid to the ingredients in the bowl and mix well to form a firm dough. The dough will be somewhat dry. Take about a tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball and flatten slightly with your hand or the back of a fork. If the dough is of the correct consistency, you will be able to roll it into a smooth ball which doesn't crack when flattened.
With these proportions, my biscuit dough was perfect. If your dough is sticky, add a little more flour, and if it is too dry, add just a bit of water to get the right dough consistency.
These biscuits are meant to be a bit thinner than cookies so flattening them a bit is fine.
Place the flattened biscuits on a greased tray and bake at 160C for about 12 to 15 minutes till they look dry and brown. Mine took 12 minutes. These biscuits tend to brown quite a bit (especially if you use brown sugar) but do check on them after 10 minutes of baking to ensure they don't burn.
When taken out of the oven, the biscuits will be very soft. Let them cool on the tray for about 10 minutes, then remove them and allow to cool very well on a rack.
This recipe makes about 3 dozen ANZAC biscuits. They are slightly sweet, crunchy on the outside and somewhat chewy in the middle the day they are made but can get soft if not stored in airtight containers.
If they do soften, re-crisp them in the oven at about 130C for 10 minutes.