April 25, 2009
On April 25, 1915, Allied forces invaded Turkey, which had entered WWI on the side of Germany: this was the Gallipoli Campaign. The campaign failed, resulting in incredible losses on both sides. Many of the men who died were ANZACs - members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (other casualties included Canadians, Dubliners, and almost the entire male population of a small Lancashire town). April 25 - ANZAC Day - is commemorated with an almost sacred reverence in Australia and New Zealand. It's a public holiday (Remembrance Day is not). There are dawn services, parades through cities, and the brief, one-day-of-the-year legality of a gambling game called 'two-up'. There are also ANZAC biscuits: rolled oat cookies spiked with coconut and the caramel sweetness of golden syrup. They're very loosely based on the biscuits that were sent to ANZAC troops during the war, out of Arnott's Biscuits' massive commercial ovens: hard, dry, long-life substitutes for bread.
The original ANZAC biscuits looked nothing like the ones I cooked this morning - no one was baking with butter like this in 1915. The recipe on the Australian War Memorial website includes plain and wholemeal flours, sugar, milk powder, a pinch of salt and some water to bind it all together. Today's recipes are still eggless, but they're sweet and soft. Instead of a hard wartime biscuit (soldiers on the front used to grind them up into a porridge), ANZAC biscuits are chewy with rolled oats and nutty with coconut. I love them this way, with a little bite to them. If you prefer yours crunchy, bake them for about 5 minutes more than the given time - but be careful, they burn quickly.
From a recipe provided by a veteran of the Gallipoli landings, found here.
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
4 oz (1 stick) butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Preheat oven to 180°C / 375°F.
Grease a cookie sheet very well (these babies stick), or line with baking paper. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and place over a low heat until the butter has melted. Combine the boiling water and bicarbonate of soda, stirring until there are no lumps, and then add to the melted butter mixture. Pour these combined liquids into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. If the mixture seems too dry to form into balls, add more hot water.
Form mixture into small balls of about 1 teaspoonful and place on the greased baking tray. The biscuits spread a great deal while baking, so place them far apart - depending on the size of your tray, you may need to cook them in two batches.
Bake for 12 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool on the tray before removing them to a cooling rack - they'll be too soft when they first come out of the oven, but will soon harden.