As the trumpets sounds in the distance on this cold, rainy autumn dawn, it's hard to imagine so many young men and women coming forward to defend their country, only to lose their lives in Gallipoli.
Even if you struggle to get out of bed for the dawn service on Anzac Day, 25th April, you can still honour this day by making Anzac biscuits. With every bite, you share in the Anzac's story - the brutality and the loss of lives from war.
ANZAC was the name given to soldiers in the Australian and New Zealand army corps who landed in Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. The army biscuit, also known as the Anzac wafer or Anzac tile, was made as a substitute for bread and was rock hard. Father John Fahey, a Catholic padre serving in Gallipoli wrote, "the man who invented the army biscuit was an unmitigated rascal. As an eatable, there is little to choose between it and a seasoned jarrah board".
The traditional biscuit is made of rolled oats, sugar, plain flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup or treacle, bi-carbonate soda and boiling water. Although this is a popular recipe, tweaks have been made over the years to change the flavours.
Anzac tile/wafer recipe
The army biscuit, also known as an Anzac wafer or Anzac tile, is essentially a long shelf-life, hard tack biscuit, eaten as a substitute for bread. Unlike bread, though, the biscuits are very, very hard. Some soldiers preferred to grind them up and eat as porridge.
The following recipe has been supplied courtesy of Arnott's Biscuits Limited, through Frank Townsend, Chief Chemist. Originally, the biscuits were baked in large industrial ovens but the recipe has been altered so that one can bake them in a domestic oven.
Ingredients sufficient for six biscuits:
- 200 gm/1.5cups/300 mls flour
- 400 gm/3 cups/600 mls wholemeal flour
- 40 gm/5 tbls sugar
- 20 gm/3 tbls milk powder
- 1.5 gm/good pinch salt
- 220 mls water
Use self-raising flours. If self-raising flours are not available, sieve 10 grams of baking powder together with plain flour before adding other ingredients.
Place flour, sugar, and milk powder in a large bowl and blend with finger tips. Form into pile and scoop out a hole (well) in the centre. Add all of the water in which the salt has been dissolved. Thoroughly work the flour from the inside of the well into the water until the whole is a mass of lumps of flour and water. Once the dough is formed, transfer it to a table top or pastry board. The dough should now be torn apart, rubbed into balls, and thrown together, and the process repeated until the mass is well mixed and in the form of a hard dough. The dough is then rested for about half an hour. Now roll the dough in 8 mm–thick sheets using a rolling pin and two 8–mm thick guides (wooden slats are ideal), the dough being rolled down between the two guides until the rolling pin rests on the guides during each traverse.
The rolled sheet of dough is then cut into 90 mm squares, preferably by pressing with the edge of a steel rule rather than slicing with a knife. The pressing action helps to join the top and bottom surfaces and will improve the lift on baking. A cardboard square, 90 mm on each side, can be used as a pattern to ensure uniformity in your tiles.
Next, the biscuit squares should be docked by having a regular horizontal and vertical pattern of holes pushed into them at about 18 mm spaces with a flat-ended pin or rod. Push it in until it bottoms, twist slightly, and then withdraw. Repeat at the next position. Each biscuit should have five vertical and five horizontal rows of docker holes, 25 holes in all. There are those at the Memorial who argue for 49 holes (7 x 7) as the authentic number of docker holes.
Place on a lightly greased steel baking sheet, with the biscuits about 6 mm apart, and form a wall around the load with scrap dough to avoid burning the edges of the biscuits. Bake at about 200 degrees centigrade for 30 to 40 minutes on a low shelf in the oven. Take care not to burn them. To achieve a suitable hardness in your biscuits, store for a time in an air-tight container.
Anzac biscuit recipes
The popular Anzac biscuit is a traditional, eggless sweet biscuit. Early recipes did not include coconut.
The following recipe (without coconut) was published in The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Queensland) on Saturday, 14th August 1926.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 tbls golden syrup
- 2 tbls boiling water
- 1 tsp bicarbonate soda (add a little more water if mixture is too dry)
- Combine dry ingredients.
- Mix golden syrup, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda until they froth. Add melted butter.
- Combine butter mixture and dry ingredients.
- Drop teaspoons of mixture onto floured tray, allowing room for spreading.
- Bake in a slow oven.
The Country Women's Association of New South Wales Calendar of Cake and Afternoon Tea Delicacies: a recipe for each day of the year (Sydney: The Association, 1933) included two recipes for Anzac biscuits, one without coconut and the following version which included coconut.
Anzac biscuits, No 2
- 1 cup each of rolled oats, sugar and coconut
- 1 tablespoon syrup
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
- Melt butter.
- Add syrup to dissolved soda and water. Combine with melted butter.
- Mix dry ingredients and stir in liquid.
- Place small balls on ot buttered tray and bake in moderate oven.
- Lift out carefully with a knife as they are soft till cold.
Recipes courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/encyclopedia/anzac/biscuit/recipe/