Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ANZAC Biscuits

One of the problems with doing this site is that when you see something of interest in some way, you want to look up origins or find out more. So there I was, ordering a coffee in the café opposite the court at Newtown when I noticed the Anzac biscuits in the jar. My mind started wandering: How was the name connected to the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps? How would the diggers who suffered the deprivations of Gallipoli have reacted to a trendy Newtown café selling Anzac biscuits with short blacks and lattes?

The following is from a great website, Digger History, at:

The recipe for what we now call Anzac Biscuits long pre-dates the Gallipoli Landings. It can be traced back to Scotland and the traditional Scottish Oat cakes.

The name has as much to do with Australia's desire to recognise Anzac as with the idea that they were actually part of the staple diet at Gallipoli.

They are one of the few things that are able to be legally marketed in Australia using the word ANZAC which is protected by Federal Legislation

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 were lucky to maintain a speed of ten knots (18.5 kilometres per hour). Most had no refrigerated facilities, so any food sent had to be able to remain edible after periods in excess of 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 organisations 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. The tins were airtight, thus no moisture in the air was able to soak into the biscuits and make them soft.
This is from another site:

Chewy ANZAC Biscuits

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rolled oats (regular oatmeal) uncooked
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp golden syrup (or honey)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Combine the flour (sifted), oats, coconut and sugar in a bowl.
Melt the butter and Golden Syrup (or honey) in a saucepan over a low heat.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter and Golden Syrup.
Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spoon dollops of mixture, about the size of a walnut shell, onto a greased tin leaving as much space again between dollops to allow for spreading (as you can see in the photos, I just didn't leave enough space between mine).
Bake in a moderate oven, 180C / 350F, for 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and seal in airtight containers.

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