ANZAC biscuits take their name from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, which formed during World War I. Troops from the two countries played a pivotal role in the Battle of Gallipoli, which began on April 25, 1915, with a bloody landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey’s northwest.
The providence of the biscuits bearing the unit’s name is somewhat more disputed. Contrary to popular belief, the crunchy rolled oat treats were not eaten by soldiers in the Gallipoli trenches, although it seems that they may have been sent to other frontlines at later dates.
In New Zealand, the biscuits were mostly sold to raise money for the war effort. According to University of Otago Professor Helen Leach, the word ANZAC was not used in connection with the recipe until 1921, when “ANZAC Crispies” appeared in the St Andrews Cookery Book published in the southern New Zealand city of Dunedin.
However, as with several other icons common to both sides of the Tasman (pavlova, Crowded House, Russell Crowe - though you can keep him, Australia), New Zealand’s claim to the first ANZAC biscuit is hotly contested.
One thing both countries can agree on is that they are delicious. The basic ingredients have remained unchanged since 1921, although variations may include walnuts, chocolate chips, or sunflower seeds. The eggless mixture is thought to have been a measure to lower the cost and extend their shelf life.
The recipe employs the rather unconventional method of mixing baking soda to liquid ingredients, causing the mixture to foam, before being combined with the dry ingredients.
ANZAC biscuits are my go-to when someone here in New York asks me to “cook something from New Zealand”, because they’re easy to make in a tiny apartment kitchen, and in quantities large enough to feed my ever-hungry classmates.
1 cup plain flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup dessicated (dried and finely shredded) coconut
Small pinch of salt
175 g (6 oz) butter (for a vegan version, substitute with a non-dairy spread such as Olivani)
2 Tablespoons golden syrup (if unavailable, substitute for liquid honey or dark corn syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons boiling water
Preheat oven to 180degC (356degF).
Combine flour, sugar, rolled oats, coconut and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the center.
In a separate pot or bowl, melt butter, golden syrup and vanilla essence.
In a small dish, dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Mix into melted butter mix and quickly pour into the well created in the dry ingredients.
Mix quickly until thoroughly combined.
Roll tablespoonfuls into balls and place on trays, leaving 5 cm (2 inches) between each. (There is no need to flatten them.)
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Take care not to burn the edges and bottoms!
Cool on a wire rack before serving.
Makes at least 2 dozen biscuits.
Based on a recipe from Allyson Gofton's 'Bake: Favourite Home-Made Recipes' (Penguin Global, 2010). Order from Amazon or Book Depository.