Last week I was wondering what to make, when the memory of some biscuits my gran used to make sprang to mind – syrupy chewiness, oatiness and something else. Just what I like. Only I couldn’t think of what they were. Luckily, my mum has been ringing me fairly often of late as she has a new tablet and wanted some first line support so I was able to ask her if she could have a look through gran’s old cookery book and let me know.
“Oh, do you mean Anzac biscuits? She used to make those a lot …”
Brilliant! So off I set to find a recipe. It seems that there are two variants – a chewy version and a more crisp version. I definitely wanted the chewy one.
The apocrypha states that these biscuits received their name during WWI when they were sent to members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps serving abroad.
In a speech to the East Otago Federation of Women’s Institutes, Professor Helen Leach, of the Archaeology Department of the University of Otago in New Zealand, stated that the first published use of the name Anzac in a recipe was in an advertisement in the 7th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1915). This was a cake, not a biscuit, and there were no mixing instructions. A recipe for “Anzac Biscuits” appeared in the War Chest Cookery Book (Sydney, 1917) but was for a different biscuit altogether. The same publication included a prototype of today’s Anzac biscuit, called Rolled Oats Biscuits. The combination of the name Anzac and the recipe now associated with it first appeared in the 9th edition of St Andrew’s Cookery Book (Dunedin, 1921) under the name “Anzac Crispies”. Subsequent editions renamed this “Anzac Biscuits” and Australian cookery books followed suit. Professor Leach also said that further research might reveal earlier references to the name and recipe in Australia or New Zealand.
You’ll be glad to know that this recipe contains no lemon and no chocolate. Although it does, Ina Garten-like, start with a whole heap of butter. And golden syrup. How bad can that be?!
A supremely simple recipe that gives great-tasting results in under 20 minutes.
- 1 cup/125g plain flour
- 1 cup/90g rolled oats
- 1 cup/90g desiccated coconut
- 3/4 cup/150g dark brown sugar
- 1 stick/125g butter
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat oven to 160C (320F).
Sieve the flour into a bowl and stir in coconut and sugar until mixed.
In a saucepan melt the butter and syrup over a medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda. Watch it foam (because science*).
Pour the foamy syrup butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir together until combined.
Be warned – this is a very dry mix, and at times you’ll probably think that there’s no way it’ll all come together. It will. Don’t worry.
Take tablespoons of mixture and squeeze together in your hands to form balls. Place these on a baking sheet that is either non-stick or covered in parchment.
My yield was 20 (well, 19 but it could easily be 20 if there was some kind of quality control on the size of the rolled-up mixture!).
Flatten slightly either with a fork or the palm of your hand and bake for approximately 10 minutes.
They will be soft, even soggy, when you take them out. Leave them on the tray for 5 or so minutes and they will firm up (not too much!).
Leave to cool completely on wire racks or scoff immediately.
You could also sex these up with a little ground ginger, or some chocolate chips, or even go a bit decadent and paint half with some melted dark chocolate.
(*Bicarbonate of soda is a carbonate alkali – mixing it with the acidic golden syrup mixture causes a chemical reaction to occur and carbon dioxide is produced – ergo the foam. This is often used as a form of chemical leavening in baking.)