ANZAC Biscuits

By Emma Moore | Posted: Wednesday April 22, 2020

Judging by the scarcity of flour and baking powder in our stores, baking been happening in many homes over the lockdown. It has been in my household for sure.

This week it is a good reminder of where baking sits in within our food culture here in New Zealand.

Last week in Year 10 we started looking at food and culture. Feeding into this, is a look at New Zealand food history. 

The students are to research New Zealand food history dating back to the first Maori settlers through to now. In addition to this task students have been given the option to make ANZAC biscuits this week. ANZAC biscuits originate from the first world war in dedication to the Australian and New Zealand armed soldiers who fought and died at Gallipoli. There have been many versions of how they originated, from being based on Army biscuits ("the army biscuits can never be forgotten....their hardness beyond hard that it was nibbled round the edges and tossed into No Man's Land"), made from rations given to soldiers, wives, sisters and sweethearts possibly and probably to a Dunedin Scottish baker apparently the original source of the recipe as well as an Australian claim.

It doesn't really matter who came up the the recipe. It is the significance of its existence and who it was named for - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (1914–18). Memorials and tributes to these soldiers have become embedded in New Zealand and Australian tradition, carrying the ANZAC biscuit along with it. 

Two recipes were given to the Year 10 class, both from 'Ladies a plate' (2008) - a New Zealand recipe book dedicated to New Zealand traditional home baking. Recipes are taken from New Zealand recipe books and republished. One recipe is from Mrs Wyvern Wilson - a contributor to The Ideal Cookery Book - published by the Plunket Society in 1933 and the other from Alexa Johnston - author 'Ladies a plate'. 

The three recipes attached to this include those two, and a recipe called 'ANZAC Crispies' - this is from the 'St Andrew's Cookery Book published in 1919. This recipe features alongside with the background story in 'First catch your weka' - A history of New Zealand Cooking by David Veart published in 2008. 

Yesterday I trialled the Alexa Johnston version and the 1919 version. Two similar recipes in ingredients and method, but very different in outcome. The first includes coconut which in later recipes was included and had higher quantities of sugar and golden syrup. The 1919, same recipe but without coconut and lesser quantities of sugar and golden syrup. I would make the assumption that due to rationing and also maybe lack of ingredients at the time is the answer. 

The 1919 were very dry and crumbly. I went against my better judgement and made half to the letter of the recipe and the second half I added more water to bind them, then I shaped with them with my hands. I suspect the reasoning to this (not proven just my assumption) is a difference in measuring equipment from then to now. My grandmother and mother used to use breakfast cups as the cup measurements for dry ingredients and that is slightly less than our standard cup today. Either way they will still get eaten and the crumb version (which is only crumbs) will become a topping for stewed fruit. 

If you have a go, please try and share pictures of your ANZAC biscuits. If you have an old family recipe even better and when you are making them - remember their meaning and spare a thought.

Image Gallery