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ANZAC Biscuits

John and I frequently look through old editions of JOY in an attempt to document the genealogy of its recipes. Often, these recipes can be difficult to trace through the years, as the ingredients and names change to reflect the similarly changing times (case in point: what we call "pizza" today was once referred to as "vegetable shortcake").

One thing we can always count on, though, is JOY's sense of humor in those earlier editions, whether it's a wry note about a cocktail or a ladylike hint as to the after effects of eating sauerkraut. Between Irma, Marion, and John, JOY was not lacking in wit, but it must be said that JOY's wit is subtle--unless you're an avid reader of headnotes, as we are, then you're liable to miss it.

Hence one very honest headnote in the 1953 edition. "This is so much better than it sounds," urges the headnote, not to Broiled Calf Brains on Tomatoes or Jellied Pigs' Feet, but to a recipe entitled Macaroni or Spaghetti or Calico Salad.

Ah, how tastes have changed! I suppose I would argue that calf brains or pigs' feet require more explanation than a demure pasta salad. Yet that's the thing about taste, I suppose--there's no accounting for it.

But in truth, lots of recipes that we try turn out to be "better than they sound, " whether this is due to our own bias or a diamond in the rough scenario. I've learned that bias can prevent you from discovering many worthwhile things, and that conquering it can expand and enrich your cooking.

Take, for instance, a recipe I've been meaning to try for months but haven't, mostly because, in the tide of glossy, delectable food media, this recipe just didn't stand out. What's a little brown, bumpy cookie to do against such alluring culinary sirens? Good thing I have a special affection for little brown, bumpy cookies.

ANZAC biscuits were supposedly created during the first World War, and military wives baked and sent these cookies to their husbands overseas. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, and the cookies (err, excuse me, "biscuits") are still eaten today in association with ANZAC Day and are sold to help raise funds for military aid organizations.

Once you make these cookies, you'll understand why they traveled so well--they're sturdy and very shelf-stable. The cookie contains no eggs (eggs were in short supply during wartime), and lots of oats and coconut. The original ANZAC biscuit contained Lyle's Golden Syrup, or treacle, but due to the fact that this ingredient is not something that many US supermarkets sell at a reasonable price, I've substituted honey for an equally delicious cookie.

When you pull these out of the oven, eat one immediately (in case you need to be told to do something so obvious)--they are especially delectable at this stage. However, once they cool and harden a bit, they make a perfect dunking cookie. Or you can really go for it and spread some Nutella on there--go ahead, we won't hold it against you.

But please, whatever you do, don't hold this cookie's humble appearance and ingredient list against it. It's totally better than it sounds.

Other articles you might enjoy: Molasses Ginger Cookies, Iced Hermits, Ginger Gems

ANZAC Biscuits
Makes about 30 medium-sized cookies

I used half whole wheat pastry flour and half all-purpose, but you can substitute all-purpose for the pastry flour. You can also add citrus zest, nuts, and dried fruit, but then it won't be an ANZAC biscuit anymore!

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Have ready two baking sheets lined with parchment.
Combine in a large bowl:
     1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
     1 cup all-purpose flour
     2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
     1 cup granulated sugar
     1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
     1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
     1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt in a small saucepan over medium heat:
     3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
     2 tablespoons honey

In a small bowl, dissolve:
     3/4 teaspoon baking soda
     6 tablespoons boiling water
Stir the baking soda mixture into the honey-butter mixture. Add the butter mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Scoop the batter onto the prepared baking sheets in rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart, and flatten them.
Bake the cookies until golden brown and dry to the touch, about 15 to 18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin for up to one month.


Cathy's picture

I love these biscuits and I would urge bakers to seek out golden syrup either online or in the British section of your grocery store. It's also very good on oatmeal.
meg's picture

Thanks, Cathy. Many US grocery stores now carry golden syrup. I did want to provide a substitute, however, as many people already have honey on hand. It must be said that true ANZAC biscuits do contain golden syrup.
Cathy's picture

Something else that golden syrup is used for in the UK is to make flapjacks which are completely different from North American ones. The ones here are an oat based traybake. Very popular treat in bakeries and cafes. Can add fruit and nuts to basic recipe. Give them a try!

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