Origins of ANZAC Biscuits and a Recipe

 by Belinda Jackson

During World War 1, the wives, mothers and girlfriends of the Australian soldiers were concerned for the nutritional value of the food being supplied to their men. Here was a problem. Any food they sent to the fighting men had to be carried in the ships of the Merchant Navy. Most of these had no refrigeration and food needed to remain edible on the long journey to Europe, which took at least two months. A body of women came up with the answer – a biscuit with all the nutritional value possible. The basis was a Scottish recipe using rolled oats. These oats were used extensively in Scotland, especially for a heavy porridge that helped counteract the extremely cold climate.

The ingredients they used were: rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate of soda and boiling water. All these items did not readily spoil. At first the biscuits were called Soldiers’ Biscuits, but after the landing on Gallipoli, they were renamed ANZAC Biscuits.

A point of interest is the lack of eggs to bind the ANZAC biscuit mixture together. Because of the war, many of the poultry farmers had joined the services, thus, eggs were scarce. The binding agent for the biscuits was golden syrup or treacle.

As the war drew on, many groups like the CWA (Country Women’s Association), church groups, schools and other women’s organizations devoted a great deal of time to the making of ANZAC biscuits. To ensure that the biscuits remained crisp, they were packed in used tins, such as Billy Tea tins.

Apparently ANZAC biscuits were also commonly eaten at galas, fetes and other public events such as parades, where they were sold to raise money to support the war effort.

My favorite ANZAC Biscuit recipe:

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup*
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda (also called baking soda)

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the dry ingredients together. Melt the butter and add golden syrup and hot water. Remove the butter mixture from heat and add in the teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and stir. Be aware that this will bubble a become foamy so you need to have a good size saucepan. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to make the mixture moist. Place walnut sized balls of mixture onto a greased tray. Make sure there is space between each ball of ingredients as they spread out during cooking. Cook for about 10-20 minutes until they are golden brown, place on a cooling tray. They come out of the oven soft and gooey but once cooled they will become crisp. This mixture should make between 32 and 40 biscuits depending on size.

* Golden Syrup isn’t a common ingredient in the USA. However Lyle’s Golden Syrup is stocked at several supermarkets and stores in NYC. e.g. Fairway, Myer’s of Keswick, Keyfood’s, Union Market. Lyle’s Golden Syrup is much lighter colored than our Australian version, but it works well and tastes great. Alternately, you can use Treacle or Molasses, although the flavor and color of the final biscuit will be a bit different.

References:
www.anzacday.org.au
Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia