Anzac Biscuits Are A Golden Twist On Oatmeal Cookies

Those of us who had grandparents or great-grandparents who lived through World War I and World War II will have heard plenty of stories about rationing. Because there were fewer ingredients like sugar, meat, butter, and milk to go around, many recipes had to be adjusted and numerous pastries were invented, including anthill cake, wacky cake, condensed milk cake, chocolate crispy cakes, and Australia and New Zealand's beloved Anzac biscuits.

First, the name. ANZAC is actually an acronym, which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (a group of soldiers who took part in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915). Culinary legend had it that because the military operation was particularly difficult, it fell to the soldiers' families and friends to try to cheer them up as best they could — something they did by sending them biscuits. But there were conditions: The baked treats had to be made with everyday pantry ingredients, needed to make it from home to the front lines without breaking and spoiling, and had to be calorie dense.

But that myth has been debunked. Instead, it is said that the biscuits were actually served at parties and fundraisers meant to help raise money for the war effort.

The making and naming of Anzac biscuits

Because there is much historic significance behind the acronym "Anzac," the strict rules governing the use of the name extend to the biscuits, too. As a result, everything that has to do with the Anzac biscuit, at least in Australia — is governed by the country's Department of Veterans' Affairs. The strict guidelines govern everything from naming to the making of this iconic dessert. There is a ban on the use of the word "cookie" to describe this snack, so it can only be called Anzac biscuit or Anzac slice. And the biscuits need to be shaped and sized in a way that meets traditional standards. The Australian War Memorial lists just three approved recipes for the making of Anzac biscuits with very little variation in what goes into them.

One ingredient that cannot be replaced is golden syrup, a sweet, amber-colored liquid, which vegetarians and vegans have used as a substitute for honey. The liquid sugar is critical to the making of Anzac biscuits because it is what bakers in Australia and New Zealand used to keep their biscuits together, in place of an egg.  

Some creativity is allowed

The most popular iterations of the Anzac biscuit recipe found online will be fairly close to the original and will contain rolled oats, butter, golden syrup, and sugar. Because its dough doesn't have much liquid, the mix will be dry, and after 10 minutes of baking time, the resulting biscuits will be crispy and thin. 

Even though the rules governing the making Anzac biscuits are strict, some creativity has been allowed into the space, and it isn't unusual to see new and improved versions of this beloved treat today. Some Anzac biscuits are chocolate-flavored and others are sweeter thanks to the presence of additional sugar. There are even gluten-free versions. And, a few bakers put a fruit and nut twist by adding ingredients like nuts and citrus rind to the list of ingredients. 

Bakers have also found a way to put a textural twist to the biscuits: For chewy cookies, bake them for shorter periods of time. As long as you stick with oats, butter, and golden syrup as key ingredients for what it is you are making, you'll know you have an Anzac biscuit on your hands. 

Where Anzac biscuits can be found

Because they are so quick and easy to make, most people prefer to make Anzac biscuits at home. But if you don't want to go through the trouble of doing that, and you live down under, you'd know commercial ones are available everywhere in Australia and New Zealand can be purchased at coffee shops and from supermarket bakeries at Aldi, Coles, and Woolworth's, where you might even find gluten-free versions.  Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL Australia) also produces limited edition biscuit tins built around Anzac Day (April 25), as fundraisers for veterans.

Homesick Australians and Kiwis can find Anzac biscuits in Australian- and New Zealand-themed coffee shops located in London. They are also available in Australian-themed bakeries in bigger American and Canadian cities like New York. Commercial Anzac biscuits are also available  on Amazon under the Unibic brand.