Anzac biscuits are a popular Australian sweet treat with a doze of history. These eggless biscuits/cookies are easy to make with a delicious mix of oat and coconut flavors - definitely worth enjoying soon.
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Unless you are from Australia or New Zealand, there's a good chance you are unaware of what Anzac stands for. I admit, I didn't come across the term until I was in my late 20s when an Australian friend explained when it was Anzac Day. With that day coming up again on 25th April, it seemed a good time to revisit this treat that is so associated with the day.
What does Anzac stand for?
"Anzac" stands for "Australia and New Zealand Army Corps" which was a division of soldiers during the First World War. As part of the British Commonwealth, both countries were automatically allies of Britain in the way and in 1915, sent forces to Europe to support the war efforts.
The original corps were deployed to fight in Gallipoli with the intention of taking Constantinople (now Istanbul). But they met with fierce resistance from the Ottoman soldiers, allies of Germany, and ultimately had to withdraw.
The Anzac soldiers suffered heavy losses, so much so that even as early as 1916, the date of that first military action was commemorated in Australia. Over the years, the day has taken on a broader meaning to commemorate lost military Australian lives in both war and peacetime missions. You can find out more about the history and traditions of the day here.
While the soldiers were at the front, many families back home wanted to send packages to supplement their rations. However, any food items had to survive a long journey to reach them. Two main recipes emerged as a solution.
The first was known as a "wafer" or "tile" which was a hard savory snack that was intended as a substitute for bread. Most soldiers, apparently, typically ground them and had them as a kind of porridge.
The other, better known, was these biscuits. Some would say that the name "biscuits" is simply what people call "cookies" in Australia and also the UK. However biscuits are often more crisp, like ginger nuts (ginger snaps) and digestives (similar to Graham crackers). Soft cookies like chocolate chip are often called cookies, at least in the UK, since they are that bit different in style.
These tasty bites would originally have been very crisp to last the journey, but these days can be made more chewy. In fact it's one of those ongoing debates on which is better. The good news is it's the same recipe, you just cook slightly longer to make them crisper. So make it twice (or take some out a little early) and compare, unless you already know your preference.
Ingredients in Anzac biscuits
There's a little debate in exactly what the original recipe is, but it's more about quantities than ingredients. The original ingredients were flour, sugar, oats, butter and golden syrup. At some point, coconut has been added to many versions and is now generally accepted as traditional. And I have to say, it is a lovely addition.
These don't have egg in them, mainly due to them originally needing to stay shelf-stable for so long. Part of the result is they are very sweet and crisper than some other cookies. But they do use a little baking soda which helps give them a slight lift as they bake. This means they don't taste too dense.
See how they come together in the short video!
Being a classic treat, I have tried to keep as true to early versions as I could. My only real change is making a smaller batch, as we tend to only need a small number, and I imagine we aren't alone. To me, it's easier to multiply up than split down, if you need more.
What is golden syrup?
Most ingredients for these are easy to find, but golden syrup is one you may be less familiar with outside of Australia and the UK. It's a sugar cane syrup, technically a light treacle and used in a few British treats as well, where it originates.
You can find it in the US, but you may need to search a little (it can be in the international section of larger supermarkets or else you can buy golden syrup online). If you can't find it, then maple syrup is probably the best alternative here.
These Anzac biscuits have a lot of significance for Australians, but they are also a wonderful treat that anyone can enjoy. You really get to enjoy all the flavors from the simple list of ingredients. They are sweet and tasty with wonderful crisp edges (and slightly chewy inside, if you cook them lighter). So bake some up soon.
Try these other easy sweet treats:
- Persian walnut cookies (nan-e gerdui, naturally gluten free)
- Lemon slice (another Australian treat)
- British scones
- Naturally sweetened oatmeal date cookies
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory and Australian recipes in the archives.
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup all purpose flour plain flour
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- ½ cup oats (old fashioned/rolled oats)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 4 teaspoon boiling water
- ½ teaspoon baking soda bicarbonate of soda
- 2 teaspoon golden syrup
- Preheat the oven to 355F/180C and prepare a large baking sheet/tray with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Melt the butter either in a small pan or in a microwavable dish (eg pyrex) for 20 seconds at a time, stir then repeat until just melted.
- Place the flour, coconut, oats and sugar in a medium-sized bowl and mix together.
- Measure the boiling water into a separate small bowl and add the baking soda. Stir to dissolve (it may not completely, and may fizz up but both fine). Add the golden syrup and stir to dissolve/mix (again may not completely). Add the melted butter and mix.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix everything so evenly distributed.
- Take roughly tablespoonfuls of the mixture and roll each spoonful in your hands into a ball. Place on the lined baking sheet with a good amount of space (around 3in/7.5cm) between each biscuit and flatten the ball slightly. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.
- Bake the biscuits for approximately 10 - 15 minutes until evenly golden. I found 12 minutes gave a nice balance of crisp edges and still slightly soft which became chewy in the middle. Nearer 15 minutes will make them more evenly crisp.
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