These days, it’s not uncommon to find an unusual twist on the classic Anzac biscuit.
Rogue chefs around the country are putting their stamp on the cultural icon with ingredients from raisins to choc chips.
One Sydney restaurant copped the ire of social media users on Wednesday morning after a picture of its ‘deconstructed Anzac biscuit’ went viral.
Popular gelato chain Messina was also shamed after Veterans’ Affairs asked it to change the name of its ‘Anzac Bikkie’ to ‘ANZAC Biscuit’.
Baked by mothers, aunts and girlfriends back home during the First World War, the traditional recipe is one steeped not just in wartime sadness, but innovation.
The biscuits had to survive the long journey over the equator, travelling at a [then] fast pace of 18.5kph. The lack of refrigeration meant any food onboard had to stay edible for over two months.
So the women of Australia and New Zealand used golden syrup, instead of eggs and sugar, to bond the rolled oats and ensure they made it safely into the stomachs of their loved ones.
They’re a bite of history.
So it’s no wonder the crackdown against gastronomic reformists has reached the halls of Parliament, with the Minister for Veterans Affairs Darren Chester calling for those selling the biscuits to respect the Anzac name and keep their recipes traditional.
The problem is – an official, undisputed, widely recognised recipe doesn’t really exist.
The Country Women’s Association calls for 1 cup of rolled oats, the Australian War Memorial thinks they’re best with 1 tsp bicarbonate soda, even Jamie Oliver has a different take, suggesting you should add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the mix.
So which one reigns supreme?
Culinary historian Allison Reynolds, who wrote the book: Anzac Biscuits, The Power and Spirit of an Everyday National Icon, says there is no straightforward answer.
“The biscuits evolved from various different ones that were precursors to what we know. It is an amalgamation if that makes sense,” she said.
Using rolled oats to make a biscuit had been a thing since before 1823, but it was during the war that two popular recipes dominated – the parent biscuits to the one we know and love today.
“Around the early WWI years you started to see the name change to ‘Red Cross biscuits’ and ‘soldiers’ biscuits’,” Ms Reynolds said.
Those biscuits were used to fundraise for the war effort and could be easily made by those at home to send over to loved ones fighting on the fronts.
“The recipe represents their courage and determination and its unique in the sense that it’s still produced today.”
While the history behind the biscuit is complex, Ms Reynolds says for it to be an Anzac in all sense of the word, you just need a few simple ingredients.
“Rolled oats, sugar, golden syrup, plain flour, melted butter, boiling water and bicarb soda.”
So with that mind, here is one of the ‘official recipes’ supported by the Australian War Memorial.
- 1 cup each of rolled oats, sugar and coconut
- 1 tablespoon syrup
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
- Melt butter.
- Add syrup to dissolved soda and water. Combine with melted butter.
- Mix dry ingredients and stir in the liquid.
- Place small balls on the buttered tray and bake in a moderate oven.
- Lift out carefully with a knife as they are soft till cold.