ANZAC Biscuits (1927) ★★★★★Today is ANZAC Day!
Okay, so two days ago I found out what the whole ANZAC business is about. For anyone else still in the dark, this acronym stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. ANZAC Day in particular, is a nation-wide celebration in both countries, honouring those who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War One (although the day now serves as a more general memorial). ANZAC biscuits - cookies to us North American folk, but never call them that! - have come to play a crucial role in the celebration of this holiday, and are often used in fundraising efforts by the Royal New Zealand Returned Services' Association (RSA) and the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL). These biscuits are very much a part of Australian society and culture. By preparing and eating these cookies, Australians and New Zealanders create a connection to ANZAC Day, often seen as the birth of the Australian nation, and to their fellow countrymen. This is one example of the scholar Benedict Anderson's theory of nations as imagined communities - members of a community imagine their peers participating in the same rituals as themselves, thus creating and perpetuating a specific culture. I'm getting a little bit scholarly on you here, but it is certainly a fascinating topic to consider!
However, the ANZAC biscuits which are baked today are quite different from the original recipe.
The original recipe is quite simple, so it is anyone's guess as to when it was "created". However, the earliest known use of the term "ANZAC" as a recipe is an advertisement for the 1915 copy of St. Andrew's Cookery Book, from Dunedin, New Zealand. But this recipe was for a cake, not biscuits. In Australia, a Sydney cookbook called War Chest Cookery Book included a recipe for Anzac Biscuits in 1917, but the ingredients do not correspond with the recipe known as ANZAC today. The 1917 recipe was contributed by an "Alice Anderson from "Oakdale" N. Sydney" and includes rice flour, spices, and eggs. Oddly enough, there is a recipe in War Chest Cookery Book which is extremely similar to ANZAC biscuit recipes published later, but in this case it is called Rolled Oats Biscuits. By 1921, Rolled Oats Biscuits finally became Anzac Crispies (published in the 9th edition of St. Andrew's Cookery Book) and in 1923 the recipe finally became Anzac Biscuits in Mrs H. W. Shaw's Six Hundred Tested Recipes. Coconut was introduced to the recipe in 1927. Therefore, the recipe can currently be traced back to New Zealand, where the recipe for Rolled Oats Biscuits was first published.
ANZAC biscuits reflect the circumstances in which they were created. The lack of eggs reflects food shortages during wartime years, specifically the lack of poultry. The hardness of the biscuits indicates that they were a good choice for baking and sending to soldiers abroad. While the origins of ANZAC biscuits certainly dates to the beginning of World War One (if not earlier, under a different name), it was not until after the war that they really began to take off as a cultural and culinary product.
I decided to go with the 1927 recipe, since this is the first time the recipe for ANZAC biscuits appeared as it is made today.
Take a quarter of a pound of butter and one tablespoon of golden syrup. Place in a saucepan and melt. Add two tablespoonsful of boiling water in which is dissolved one teaspoonful carbonate of soda. Add three-quarters of a breakfast cup of flour, one breakfast cup of sugar, one breakfast cup of desiccated coconut, one breakfast cup of oatina, and a few almonds finely chopped. Place in teaspoon quantities on a cold slide, and bake in a moderate oven. Leave on a tray for a few minutes to harden before removing from slide, but not too long. A knife slipped under each biscuit will readily remove.
So for my first try, I used 1 teaspoon of baking soda. The cookies were really tasty and very chewy, but they spread a LOT and were a bit wonky. They were also a little greasy and the almonds didn't want to incorporate into the dough. Oh, and I really didn't want to go and buy a whole can of golden syrup when the recipe only called for 1 tablespoon, so I substituted 1/2 tablespoon honey and 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup (I know, I know - sorry!). Despite any issues, these were very tasty. Mr. Man said that he was pleasantly surprised, as he doesn't like chewy cookies.
I decided to try again, this time with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. I also used just a bit less than 1/4 lb of butter and went with a slightly different mixing method. This time the recipe turned out much better, but it was a tiny bit dry, so I think the full amount of butter should be used. This attempt tasted very similar to the first batch - chewy and delicious.
(Adapted from Terrace Tested Recipes, found at New Zealand Listener)
Yield: ~16 cookies
1/4 lb UNSALTED BUTTER
1 tablespoon GOLDEN SYRUP
2 tablespoons BOILING WATER
1/2 teaspoon BAKING SODA
3/4 cup FLOUR
1 cup SUGAR
1 cup DESICCATED COCONUT
1 cup ROLLED OATS
1/4 cup ALMONDS, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and golden syrup. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, coconut, oats, and almonds until well combined.
3. In a small container, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water and pour it into the melted butter. Stir, remove from heat, and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix well.
4. Take tablespoon-sized chunks of dough and roll into slightly flattened balls. Bake about 10 - 12 minutes.
"Anzac Biscuit." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anzac_biscuit>.
Fleming, Kylie. "Kiwis or Us - Culinary Historian Allie Reynolds Traces Origins of Anzac Biscuits." The Australian. N.p., 20 Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/kiwis-or-us-culinary-historian-allie-reynolds-traces-origins-of-anzac-biscuits/story-e6frg6n6-1226624784496>.
Gofton, Allyson. "The Anzac Biscuit Myth." Allyson Gofton. N.p., 15 Apr. 2006. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://www.allysongofton.co.nz/index.php/page/articles/pi_articleid/57>.
Rae, Fiona. "Anzac Biscuits 1994-2000." New Zealand Listener. N.p., 22 Apr. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://www.listener.co.nz/from-our-archive/anzac-biscuits-1994-2000/>.
Supski, Sian. Anzac Biscuits - A Culinary Memorial. Humanities: Research and Graduate Studies, Australia at War and Peace. Curtin University, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <http://research.humanities.curtin.edu.au/groups/awp/pdf/ANZAC_BISCUITS_G2015.pdf>.