The Anzac biscuit is a simple biscuit made of a handful of readily available pantry items that include rolled oats, flour, golden syrup, sugar, butter and bicarbonate of soda. Unlike the pavlova that can divide any friendly Aussie and Kiwi when speaking of its origin (which remains a matter unsettled - ask Aussies if a pavlova is Australian and they will say so even if it is topped with kiwi fruit, idem for Kiwis), the Anzac biscuit brings these two friendly nations together, in kindred spirit even.
When we speak of big national events, it’s inevitable not to talk about their food traditions - just think dumplings for Chinese New Year, or haggis for Burns Night just to mention a couple. And on Anzac Day, we have Anzac bikkies.
For those not familiar with Anzac Day, it is the day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that coincides with the anniversary of the day that the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) landed in Gallipoli, Turkey on April 25, 1915. The day was originally conceived to honour those troops that served in Gallipoli during the First World War, but evolved to commemorate all Australia and New Zealand servicemen and women past and present who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.
For many Australians and New Zealanders, April 25 every year starts with a sunrise ceremony, called the “Dawn Service”, to honour these people. But ANZAC Day is also about celebrating camaraderie. And no one can call themselves a true Aussie or a Kiwi if they haven't given a gunfire breakfast a go (that's coffee with rum, as the soldiers were known to wake up to in Gallipoli), played two-up with mates (a gambling game illegal on all other days of the year) or baked Anzac biscuits.
Here’s where we come back to the story of Anzac biscuits. You are forgiven if you thought that they were the biscuits eaten by the ANZAC in Gallipoli. Those were actually called Anzac tiles or Anzac wafers, ration staples to the soldiers known to be so hard they had to be soaked in water to be made edible.
Anzac biscuits were the sweet oat biscuits sold at public events and fetes to raise funds for military efforts. Most would have heard of the story of how these biscuits were sent by wives and women’s groups to their men in Gallipoli. According to the Australian Government's Anzac Centenary program and New Zealand's National Army Museum this latter story is also true but not as common as many believe.
Anzac Biscuit Recipe
The recipe for these wartime fundraiser biscuits started showing up in cookbooks in the 1920s. This traditional Anzac biscuit recipe is known for its lack of eggs, a scarce resource during the war. Being eggless also made these biscuits almost non-perishable, enough to last a two month voyage over the seas.
The more popular Anzac biscuit recipe nowadays includes desiccated coconut on top of the traditional list of ingredients. It is still made the way it was back in the 20s, with golden syrup added as the binder instead of eggs.
Anzac biscuits are very easy to make. In fact, it’s probably one of the very first baking projects for any kid growing up as an Aussie or a Kiwi. Sure, they are easily found in supermarket shelves, but making them yourself will reward you with satisfaction levels that you won't ever get from the shops. You will most likely have all the ingredients for Anzac biscuits in your pantry already:
- rolled oats
- plain flour
- desiccated coconut
- golden syrup
- baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
The recipe comes down to three components. The first is mixing together the dry ingredients. The second is melting the butter and syrup together over low heat, then third, stirring together the bicarbonate of soda and hot water. All three are mixed together to form a rough dough before it is spooned and placed onto a parchment lined baking tray.
There’s no need to chill the dough as it won't make a huge difference in the final biscuit, but if you wish to bake at a later time you can wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate overnight until you are ready to bake. Scoop and bake as usual in the oven at 160C/325F for 8-10 minutes until deep golden in colour.
See the full recipe here.