The gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin famously said “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Food can be a defining characteristic of a culture, and a great portal into it. It is reflected in the ingredients available to a people, how they cook it, or the history tied to a food. When I try something new–even things I’ve eaten but not started making myself–I often find myself down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, learning of a food’s origins.
Case in point: when I posted about World War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies, fellow blogger Aussie Emjay commented that they reminded her of ANZAC biscuits her grandmother made. I skimmed the recipe she linked to (“Anzac biscuits, No 2”), and saw I needed golden syrup, a cane syrup popular in Australia. Once I got some other baking done and eaten, I took on the challenge.
ANZAC biscuits are associated with ANZAC Day. Observed on April 25, this day commemorates the sacrifices of the military of Australia and New Zealand during all wars. It is tied to the start of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. This campaign saw major casualties for the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (the acronym giving birth to the term “ANZAC”). The biscuits are often sold to raise money for veterans’ charities.
I had to explain to my daughter that, in the British Commonwealth, “biscuit” doesn’t refer to the southern style quick bread I make for breakfast, but for what we, in the United States, call a “cookie.” In Australia, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs controls the commercial use of the term “ANZAC biscuit,” ensuring the recipe is consistent with tradition, and referred to as “biscuits.” I’ll honor that convention.
As I said, the key unique ingredient is golden syrup. It is a cane, rather than a corn or maple, syrup. Straight up, it reminded me a bit of corn syrup combined with honey and a dash of vanilla. This was mixed with coconut, sugar, oats, and flour. The dough was surprisingly dry, but I could get a solid mass as needed by squeezing.
The recipe called for a moderate oven, and didn’t have a clear cook time. Cross referencing other recipes, it tending to be 15-22 minutes in a 350° F oven. My first batch was baked towards the high end of that time, and, for me, was a bit long. Once cooled, they were very hard, but several seconds in a microwave got them to a softer texture. The second batch, cooked for 15-17 minutes, stayed reasonably soft, though warming them was still nice, as is usually the case for all cookies.
The flavor is quite good. As I was preparing the dough, I thought chocolate chips would be a good addition, but once out of the oven, I felt they were plenty sweet. It reminded me a bit like granola, only sweeter. It almost tasted healthy. Almost. It was very good.
As I said, food is a good gateway into a culture. Making the ANZAC biscuits inspired learning more about these nations’ role in World War One. I’m sure their unique flavor will find their way into future goodie boxes. Overall, it was a fun thing to make.