Anzac Biscuits

I know these biscuits are tasty and popular. However I was quite surprised to find this particular recipe in my Grandma Kay's cookbook. I was surprised because she was English and handwrote her little collection of recipes in London in the 2nd World War. (Her recipe is dated 29 March 1944.) I guess I had thought of Anzac biscuits being more of an Australian treat. However, my mother does remember that these were very popular in England only she didn't know exactly how they got their name. So I decided to find out.

I found out that Anzac Biscuits originate from the beginning of the First World War, about 1914-15. ANZAC is an abbreviation of Australian & New Zealand Army Corp. In Australia these are still a very popular biscuit and are often cooked to celebrate Anzac Day each year. This is on 25th April and is to remember soldiers from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who landed at Gallipoli (in Turkey) on that day in 1915.

There are three popular theories about how these Anzac Biscuits first came to be made:

1. (This is my favourite). The recipe came about from inventive women back home who were trying to find a treat (with some nutrition in) that they could make to send out to their loved soldiers overseas. But the journey could take a long time - even 2 months - so they needed a recipe that could keep a long time. Also, as it was wartime and rationing, it was hard to get eggs so they used bicarbonate of soda instead. The golden syrup also helped to bind the ingredients together and preserve the biscuit a little and give it a nice flavour and texture.

2. That the Troops in the trenches put together ingredients they had to try and invent something more interesting to eat, and relieve the tedium of endless same meals.
(I must admit this theory sounds less likely to me but please do write and tell me if I am wrong and I apologise in advance).

3. That they originated from Scottish Oatcakes (and you can see the biscuits do contain the basic oatcake ingredients).

I believe that even today Anzac biscuits are still sometimes used in Australian military ration packs.

Here's my Grandma's Anzac Biscuits recipe:

4 oz (115g) Self-Raising Flour
4 oz (115g) oatmeal
3 oz (85g) margarine (or butter)
3 oz (85g) sugar
3 fl oz (90ml) golden syrup (use hot spoon to measure)
1/2 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons (30ml) hot water

- Cream together the margarine and sugar
- Add syrup.
- Stir in dry ingredients
- Dissolve bicarbonate of soda in the hot water. Stir in.
- Form into 30 balls
- Place well apart on greased baking sheet - they will spread during cooking
- Bake at 325F (160C) until firm
- Cool on wire rack to crisp up

My mother grew up in the 2nd world war in England eating my Grandma's cakes when she could. She noticed during my research that Australian recipes for ANZAC cookies often have 3 or 4 oz (100g) of desiccated coconut added. She commented "How interesting to see another version of Anzac biscuits - the biggest difference is coconut - we couldn't get that during the war because rationing meant we could only get hold of what grew in England".

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