With Easter a not so distant chocolatey memory, those of us in Australia and New Zealand, turn our attention to Anzac Day this coming Friday. Anzac stands for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corp’ and this important national holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I.
Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate those brave soldiers who fought in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and also serves as a way of remembering all of our soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I, II and and all military operations since then.
This brief description fails to convey the intangible ‘spirit of Anzac’ that is ingrained in the psyche of both our nations. It speaks of courage, humility, humour, mateship, understatement and facing unbeatable odds. The humble Anzac biscuit imbues this spirit and is a much loved biscuit, especially on Anzac Day.
A little bit of Anzac bikkie history, according to Alexa Johnston’s ‘Ladies: a Plate’. This biscuit wasn’t actually sent to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipolli as popular legend has it, at least, not under this name. Professor Helen Leach of Otago University researched the history of this biscuit and discovered that is wasn’t named until the year after World War I ended.
My adapted version is a little more like the recipe published in the 1933 Ideal Cookery Book, published by the Plunket Society. A Mrs Wyvern Wilson (strangely my mothers maiden name but no relation, I think!) used a well known formula of wholemeal flour and walnuts without oats. She also used much less sugar than today’s regular recipes. I do use oats and avoid nuts so they can be sent to school. If you have no spelt flour, it is just as good using wholemeal plain flour.
Not overly sweet, these biscuits have caramel undertones. The initial bite is crunchy but morphs into a delicious chewiness as you munch your way through it. The smell of them baking cries ‘childhood’ and ‘eat me now!’
Even though I consider myself somewhat of a pacifist, I am thankful for the sacrifices these brave men made to ensure the freedom of many. There exists a photograph of my maternal grandfather from World War II. He is on a horse, in Egypt. A young, handsome New Zealand soldier version of Lawrence Olivier. My other Pop worked on the railways back in New Zealand as he was unable to enlist due to health reasons.
Both of these men contributed to the war effort, as did all those left at home who assisted in other meaningful and valued ways. How lucky we were that our Pop came back. (Well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here and that would really suck.)
Lest we forget.
Spelt Anzac biscuits
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or wholemeal plain flour)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura sugar)
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water
WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. If you like, pop the trays into the fridge to get them cold, this does help the biscuit (somehow!) but I don’t always do it.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, coconut, flour and sugar.
Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until they have melted together.
Put the baking soda in a cup, add the boiling water and mix to dissolve the soda before pouring it into the mixture in the saucepan.
Stir with a wooden spoon then tip it into the dry ingredients and mixture to a crumbly mixture.
Drop heaped teaspoonfuls on the trays, or roll into balls for a more even shape, leaving 3cm of space around each biscuit as they do spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until they have spread out and are a dark golden colour. I like to give them 8 minutes then turn the trays around to ensure even baking.
Cool on a rack, Make sure they are fully cooled before storing as this helps to keep them crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 18 biscuits.
A cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies, A Plate. Traditional home baking’ by Alexa Johnston