I found out just over a year ago that I have relatives in Australia. Woo hoo! My aunt posted on Facebook a copy of the recipe, “1914 Anzac Biscuits.” I had to try it out. There is a lot of history behind these biscuits, which immediately drew me in. ANZAC stands for the “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps” (ANZAC). The name was coined in 1915 to refer to Australian and New Zealand troops during World War I. Since 1916, ANZAC Day is celebrated each year on April 25th in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate the troops landing on Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula on April 25, 1915.
To raise funds for troops away at war, women’s groups made and sold tons of these oat-based biscuits. The biscuits were also sent to troops fighting abroad. The biscuits were made with rolled oats, sugar, flour, butter, golden syrup, and baking soda dissolved in boiling water. No eggs. Eventually coconut was added to the recipe. The biscuits were crisp and could lie around for a month or two without going bad.
I really wanted to make these special biscuits, but the original recipe calls for golden syrup. That’s a problem for me because golden syrup is not commonly used in American baking. I recently checked out my local mega grocery store and found that they do carry golden syrup, but it’s a little pricey. I found that replacing the golden syrup with honey gave acceptable results. I also replaced white sugar with brown sugar so that there would be a slight molasses flavor.
Another thing: While the biscuits are tasty when crisp, the soft and chewy type are a family favorite. The only change to the recipe so that the biscuits would be soft and chewy was to bake the cookies in a hotter oven at 350°F/180° for a shorter period (about 10 minutes). To make them crisp, bake them at 315°/160°C for 20 minutes.
Following is the recipe. After the recipe, join me for step-by-step, illustrated instructions.
The biscuits are not just a favorite of my kids to eat, but also to make. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180° for chewy biscuits or 315°/160°C for crisp biscuits. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Mix dry ingredients together either using an electric mixer (like I did) or whisk by hand (like most people do): 1 cup oats, 1 cup coconut (or another cup of oats), 1 cup flour, and 1 cup brown sugar.
In a small saucepan, melt 4 1/2 ounces of butter with 1 heaping tablespoon of honey (or golden syrup). Take the saucepan off the heat after the butter has fully melted and before the mixture comes to a boil.
In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda into 2 tablespoons of boiling water.
Stir the baking soda mixture into the butter mixture. The mixture will fizzle.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well-combined. Here, I’m cheating and using an electric mixer to do the mixing again.
Form the dough into balls (about one tablespoon) and place on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches around each ball to allow for spreading while baking.
Bake for about 10 minutes for chewy biscuits (in a hotter oven) and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Bake for about 20 minutes for crisp biscuits (in a slower oven) and let cool on the baking sheet.
These biscuits are fun to make, delicious, and, most importantly, a taste of history.