In this part of the world, Anzac Day always seems to bring a cool change to snap you out of your Indian summer daze. A day for fingers jammed into pockets at the dawn service, a day for the first smoky-fragrant lighting of the woodstove, a day perfect for baking the eponymous biscuits.
We were taught as kids that Australian women and children would bake and send these biscuits to our soldiers at the front in WWI. They’re made without eggs, so they wouldn’t spoil on the long journey to Europe or North Africa. Apparently soldiers were originally provided with “hardtack” biscuits AKA “Anzac tiles”, incredibly hard biscuits designed as a long-life bread substitute. In 1915 a Lieutenant A L Dardel cracked that “somebody will break his neck someday wandering round with his eyes shut and his teeth clenched on a biscuit trying to bite it through”. When word reached home about the biscuits, mothers, lovers and wives took matters into their own hands and adapted a Scottish oatcake recipe to send their boys more nutrients. Or so the story goes. Other research I’ve been looking at suggests the recipe was only first printed in the 1920s.
They’re still bloody yummy, anyway. Just don’t call them cookies, ok? Seriously. The term “Anzac” can legally only be used with permission from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Per wikipedia, “there is a general exemption granted for Anzac biscuits, as long as they remain basically true to the original recipe and are both referred to and sold as Anzac biscuits and never as cookies.”
- 1 1/4 cups plain flour
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 3/4 cup shredded coconut
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup*
- 150g butter
- 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Stir syrup and butter over low heat in a saucepan until butter has melted.
- Now the magic part. Mix the bicarb soda with 1 1/2 tablespoons of hot water, then add to the syrup and butter. It will foam up excitingly. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix together well.
- Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on baking trays allowing space for the biscuits to spread. You can flatten them with a fork a bit.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. The biscuits will harden as they cool.
There is widespread divided opinion on whether these are better chewy or crunchy. Apparently the more golden syrup you add, the crunchier the biscuit. I know I can never stop at two spoonfuls, if only from a spoon-licking perspective.
*I have made these in the US where I couldn’t find golden syrup… it is heartbreaking, but you can usually find a tin of molasses at the supermarket that will work as a substitute.