Reynolds has conducted extensive research to tell the story of the origin and evolution of Anzac biscuits, with her book including old photos, personal stories and soldiers’ letters.
She writes about the original army biscuits, which were commercially produced and bore no resemblance to the sweet biscuits made from rolled oats and golden syrup – in fact, they were so hard they were known to break teeth – and explains that coconut, considered an essential ingredient of the Anzac biscuit, was actually added to the recipe a decade after Gallipoli.
The recipe below comes from a chapter which tackles “the eternal question”: Crispy versus chewy?
Chewy Anzac Biscuits
Makes 26–30 biscuits.
½ level cup / 75g plain flour
½ level cup / 75g self-raising flour
1 cup / 90g rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup / 70g desiccated coconut
1 cup / 200g sugar (try half caster and half soft brown sugar – see note at bottom)
1 x 20mL tablespoon of golden syrup (open lid and stand the tin in bowl of hot water to soften before measuring)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bicarb)
1 tablespoon boiling water (you may need to add a little extra water when you bind the ingredients together so that you can form a ball in your hand)
Pre-heat oven to 170C / 325F / 150C fan-forced / Gas 3.
Line two baking trays with baking parchment or lightly oil.
Mix flours, oats, desiccated coconut and sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat, add golden syrup (dip tablespoon in hot water before measuring), stir till dissolved, bring gently to boiling point then remove pan from heat.
Mix boiling water and bicarb and stir till dissolved. Add this to the hot melted mixture and stir till it froths up the pan.
Carefully add the frothy mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. If a little dry, add ½ tablespoon of extra water to help bind it together.
Take a rounded dessertspoon of mixture, roll into a ball. Place balls on baking trays 5cm apart, the biscuits will spread.
Press biscuits down using a fork, the back of spoon, or the bottom of a cup measure. Place trays in oven.
After 15 minutes take trays (1 tray at a time) out of the oven and press biscuits flat again.
Return trays to oven and continue baking for a further 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown (they will be soft).
Leave the biscuits on the trays for barely a minute – just enough time for the biscuits to firm up slightly before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Once cooled, store these delicious biscuits in an airtight tin.
Note: It seems we had a sweeter tooth in days gone by! It is possible to reduce the sugar by up to ½ cup without it affecting the recipe too much.
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