The first time I saw an ANZAC biscuit was a few of years when Unibic came to India with their varieties of biscuits/ cookies. They came endorsed by the great cricketer Don Bradman, which was perfect marketing strategy (hopefully) in a cricket mad country!
If you happen to be in the U.S., then read "cookies" for "biscuits" here, but in the Commonwealth countries of the world, and India for sure we still like to call them biscuits even though I'm slowly seeing cookies taking over.
ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC Day is celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on the 25th of April, originally in 1916 to commemorate the first anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC troops at Gallipoli but consequently every year in the memory of all their soldiers who have fallen in wars.
Traditionally, an Anzac biscuit was a very hard biscuit made of rolled oats, flour, shredded coconut, sugar, butter, golden syrup, baking soda, and boiling water. The original Anzac biscuit was savoury and known as the Anzac tile or wafer, and were given to soldiers as rations during the war. The later gave way to sweet biscuits and recipes could be found in Australian cookbooks in the early 1900s under the name of “rolled oat biscuits” and “soldier’s biscuits”
The modern version of the Anzac first made its appearance sometime during the 1920s, and today they range from chewy to crisp in texture. The Anzacs we know are buttery, full of oats and flavoured with coconut.
The story goes that Anzacs were created by wives and girlfriends of soldiers in the wars overseas, to send to them. However, there is a suggestion that the majority of these biscuits were actually sold locally at fetes, parades and such public events to raise funds for the war effort.
The Anzacs that the soldiers got during the wars were very hard and they had to find ways to soften them before the biscuits could be eaten. Apparently, these measures included grating the biscuit and making that into a porridge with boiling water, or soaking them in water, then smearing with jam and baking them into a “tart” of sorts!
The original Anzacs were made the way they were because there was a paucity of ingredients during the wars. Also, the biscuits had to keep for a long time. Eggs were not easily available so treacle (nowadays replaced with golden syrup) as used as a binder and baking soda for leavening. butter, treacle (now golden syrup), and baking soda were used as the leavening agent instead, but they made for a very hard biscuit.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.
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.You can use either kind of sugar, white or brown, except that brown sugar results in a darker biscuit.
- Ina 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 water and add 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 compared to the average American cookie dough but you should be able to roll it into balls that hold shape. 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.
- If your dough feels sticky, add a little more flour, and if it is too dry, add just a bit of water to get the right dough consistency.
- Take about a tbsp of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a large walnut. Flatten it somewhat with your hand or the back of a fork to form a round that is not too thick or thin. The dough will not rise too much while baking.
- Place the flattened biscuits on a lightly greased or parchment lined tray and bake at 170C (325F) for about 12 to 15 minutes till they look dry and brown. These biscuits tend to brown very easily (especially if you use brown sugar) so 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 2 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 150C (300F) for 3 to 4 minutes.