Anzac biscuits: quick history and simple recipes

This Friday the 25th of April is Anzac Day, the traditional day of remembrance for fallen servicemen and women in Australia and New Zealand.

Among the traditions associated with Anzac Day are the Dawn Service at the memorial, a game of Two-Up down at the RSL, and baking a sheet or two of chewy Anzac Biscuits:

Image source: Wikipedia

A brief history of Anzac Biscuits:

During the First World War, when many young Australians and New Zealanders were serving overseas, their families at home would send them care packages.  In addition to letters, photos and the like, packages from home would often include little edible treats, baked with care by loved ones.

Unfortunately, due to the travel time involved in crossing the oceans, any food shipped overseas had to be prepared with preventing spoilage in mind.  So the innovative people of Australia and New Zealand came up with the Anzac Biscuit, which used no eggs and was held together with thick treacle or golden syrup.

Basic Anzac Biscuit recipe:

It is not immediately certain which of the early Anzac Biscuit recipes from cookbooks of the 1910s and 1920s can be considered “the original”, so for a general baseline we’ll be sharing a recipe from the Australian War Memorial that was originally published in Rockhampton newspaper The Capricornian:

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbls golden syrup
  • 2 tbls boiling water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)

Method

  • Combine dry ingredients.
  • Mix golden syprup, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda until they froth. Add melted butter.
  • Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients.
  • Drop teaspoons of mixture onto floured tray, allowing room for spreading.
  • Bake in a slow oven.

The AWM link above also features a variant recipe from the Country Women’s Association that also adds a cup of coconut to the mix, and a recipe from Arnotts for Anzac Tiles/Wafers, a type of hardtack biscuit dispensed to the ANZAC troops of the day.

Anzac biscuit recipe variations:

The basic traditional Anzac biscuit recipe can be modified in many different ways to better suit your taste preferences and dietary requirements.  Here are a couple of examples from the Best Home Chef Community:

Cranberry & White Chocolate Anzac Biscuits by Melissa Darr

While traditional Anzac biscuits are certainly sweet and chewy, they can sometimes uses a little extra something to really make them stand out.  This recipe adds a little extra flavour to the basic Anzac biscuit, which is nice if you’re in the mood for something a little different.

Quinoa Spelt Anzac Biscuits by Judie Gade

Looking at Judie’s blog, it appears this recipe had almost accidental origins, with quinoa and spelt flour being substituted in place of coconut and wheat flour when the other ingredients weren’t available.  Handily, quinoa is a very versatile grain, and the result of the experiment certainly looks like something I’d like to try…

Anzac Biscuit Gluten Free by Maria Coulter

This recipe also uses quinoa, and substitutes a variety of gluten-free alternatives in place of some of the more traditional ingredients.  If anyone in your household is gluten-intolerant, this could be just the recipe you’re looking for.

Glory Ginger Cake by Camille Parsons

Okay, so this isn’t actually an Anzac biscuit recipe, but it is a handy method of using up any extra biscuits you may have left over at the end of the long weekend.  Bake this cake, crumble the biscuits and spread the crumbs across the surface to create a delicious topping.

Do YOU have a family recipe for Anzac biscuits that’s been passed down through the generations?  Or have you worked out an interesting variant on the traditional recipe?  In either case, we’d like to hear about them!

Mark Bristow
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Mark Bristow

Mark is the proud owner of an impractically large paella pan, and enjoys putting strange new twists on classic recipes. Google+

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