Kitchen Tips

The history of Anzac biscuits

Making Anzac biscuits is one tradition that Australians use to commemorate Anzac Day. Everyone has their favourite recipe, with many arguments over whether they should be served crunchy or soft.

As Aussies, you'd be hard-pressed to find a biscuit more nationally celebrated than the Anzac biscuit. Jam-packed full of rolled oats, shredded coconut and sweet golden syrup, it seems like most people have their own version of how an Anzac bickie should taste. But there was an original recipe for this tasty treat, and it stems back to World War One and the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) from where the distinctive biscuits got their name.

The Anzac biscuit's story begins with it's sibling, the hardtack biscuit, which was a staple ration for soldiers and sailors during the war. These biscuits were very hard and flavourless, but were eaten as a nutritional substitute for bread. The texture and hardness of the biscuits were so unpalatable that soldiers attempted to turn them into something more edible, doing things like grating them up with water to form a porridge.

Australians started experimenting with more luxurious ingredients and were determined to steer away from the hardtrack biscuit. Oats, golden syrup and coconut were added, and cooked in a similar way that ensured they lasted a while on the shelves. Where most biscuit recipes require eggs, they are omitted from the Anzac recipe to this day because of the scarcity of eggs during the war time and to increase shelf life.

Despite the common assumption that Anzac biscuits as we know them were sent to soldiers on the front lines in World War One, it wasn't until 1921 that the first recipe recognisable as the modern Anzac biscuit was published in the 9th edition of St Andrew's Cookery Book Dunedin, first as "Anzac Crispies" and later renamed "Anzac Biscuits". Anzac biscuits quickly gained popularity and were sold at fetes and fundraisers to support the war efforts, a tradition which is still carried on today.

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