Growing up in the country, I found my love of baking through finding ways to pass the time. With nothing much else to do around town, I would often spend my time creating, making things and baking.
The added challenge was of course not having a grocery shop. If we were out of something it wasn’t really a possibility to just duck down to the shops – you would just have to work around what was in the pantry.
Lucky for me, mum always had a pantry stocked with most things you could use to create something delicious. ANZAC biscuits are one of those things that takes basic pantry ingredients and turns them into the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.
Using basic ingredients is not a coincidence though. You will find in many war time recipes, think those of our grandparents and great grandparents, that they will make the most out of the little they had available at the time.
These biscuits were designed to last. They would be baked and sent to feed the troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who were serving in WWI. The fact that there are no eggs in these biscuits ensured that they would not spoil and would be safe to eat on arrival – however long that took, as well as due to the decreased availability.
For me, when I think about these biscuits I think about the women left at home. The mothers and the wives who would wait for news from the front line and would do whatever they could to support the soldiers and the war effort. Baking these biscuits to send among the care packages and to raise money was one way in which they could contribute. And we see that still being the case today with funds from biscuit sales often going back to support returned servicemen.
As ANZAC day approaches on April 25th, I thought it was time to share this classic recipe here on my blog. This recipe is the traditional combination of ingredients, however I did make a couple of small adjustments.
Firstly, the ANZAC biscuit debate is between whether they should be soft and chewy or hard and crunchy. Generally store bought biscuits will be crunchy, and I would think that that may have been the way they were originally made to ensure that longer shelf life. I however love the soft and chewy, and that is exactly what this recipe produces.
I used brown sugar instead of white for these biscuits to up the golden syrup flavours and add to the chewy texture. I also substituted butter with a dairy-free spread, which I realised afterwards actually made these biscuits vegan. The good thing about this recipe is that it can be adjusted and the ratios will remain the same. If you do not have the dietary restrictions that I do, use regular butter, and use either white or brown sugar dependant on what you have available. I do love the taste with the brown sugar though.
The first time I made these, the biscuits spread so much. They ended up just really flat. As I said, I love chewy biscuits and to achieve this you do need the thickness. What I realised is that I was adding the melted butter to the mix straight away and it was just too hot. The next time, I allowed it to cool to room temperature first before adding it and I had a much better result. I also just placed the balls of mixture on the tray and baked rather than pressing it down which produced the thickness I was after.
ANZAC day is a really important day of remembrance for our nation, and one that I think we need to work harder to make sure we acknowledge and appreciate the men and women who have fought and given their lives to create the nation we love, and to acknowledge those who continue to serve and protect our freedoms.
We have our own duty, particularly as a younger generation moving through to ensure that these traditions are never forgotten.
So while baking biscuits is the lighter side of a sombre day of remembrance, I think for me it is one that reminds me of my family, and of my grandfather who made sure we understood the importance of the day from a young age. Growing up in that small country town, everyone would gather together on ANZAC day, and after the conclusion of the service they would join together to enjoy freshly baked treats and a coffee or tea in a true display of community.
These biscuits are part of an Australian identity, they are something that everyone I know genuinely loves to eat, and they become another little reminder about our past.
Oh, and they are ANZAC biscuits, never cookies. We have pretty strict laws that govern how the word ANZAC can be used in Australia, and one of those is that these biscuits can only be called so as long as they do not ‘substantially deviate from the traditional recipe and shape’ and must never be called cookies.
We take our biscuits pretty seriously here.
Double check your pantry, got everything? I think it’s time to bake some biscuits.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup plain flour
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup desiccated coconut
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- ½ cup (125 grams) dairy-free spread*
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda**
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- Pre-heat oven to 160°C or 140°C fan forced and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, melt dairy-free spread and golden syrup together in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove. Once it is melted, set aside and allow it to cool to room temperature before proceeding.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and coconut together and mix with a spatula ensuring there are no lumps. Make a well in the center.
- Add bicarbonate of soda and water together in a small bowl and stir, then add straight away into the melted dairy-free spread and syrup mixture. Add this then to the dry ingredients and mix until everything comes together.
- Roll about a tablespoons worth of mixture into balls and place on a baking sheet a few centimeters apart to allow for spreading. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tops are golden. The biscuits will still be soft when you pull them out but will harden as they cool. If you want crispier cookies, bake for another 5-10 minutes as desired.