We all know what ANZAC biscuits are – delicious treats chock full of rolled oats and golden syrup. However, I recently found that the name “ANZAC Biscuit” was used for (at least) two other published biscuit recipes during the First World War. These biscuits do not resemble the ANZAC biscuit we know and love today. To see what these biscuits were like I did some home baking and held a taste test with some of my colleagues.
The earliest recipe I found was in a digitised newspaper from 1916 on Trove. It was called “ANZAC GINGER BISCUIT”, published on 4 June 1916. Mrs Sutherland of Grosvenor, Mt Kokeby had submitted the recipe to the Ladies’ Section of the Sunday Times in Perth, WA. She received fourth prize, consisting of an electroplated butter knife with an engraved handle for her recipe.
Old recipes often have little instruction so I have updated some instructions or added notes. I have also changed some measurements to metric.
“ANZAC GINGER BISCUIT” (Makes about 24 biscuits)
- 1 cup treacle
- ¼ cup dripping or butter
- ¼ cup sugar
- ¼ cup milk
- Plain flour (see information about amount under method)
- Tablespoon ground ginger (dessertspoon in the original recipe)
- 1 teaspoon Baking soda (bi carbonate of soda)
Place treacle, butter, sugar & milk in a pan and heat until mixed and the butter is melted.
Add ground ginger and baking soda and mix.
Pour into a bowl and mix in flour gradually until you get a consistency you can roll out. I did not fully measure my flour but it took quite a bit - about 3 – 4 cups. (I must confess here I initially used self-raising flour as I forgot they would have used plain so my recipe was ½ of each type of flour which meant mine rose a little more than the original biscuit would have).
Roll out on a floured surface to about ½ cm thick and cut out round biscuits with a cutter. Place on a lined tray.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius, 350-375 Fahrenheit or gas mark 4-5). The original recipe does not give timings so I baked them for about 15 – 20 minutes.
When warm they are nice and soft, they harden as they cool down. If you bake them for 20 minutes or more they will be quite hard – good for dunking in your tea or coffee.
The biscuits are similar to a ginger nut type of biscuit, or ginger bread. This one was popular with my colleagues, who liked that the biscuit was not too sweet and generally enjoyed the mild ginger flavour and the stronger treacle taste.
Another ‘ANZAC biscuit’ recipe I came across online was published in 1917 in the War Chest Cookery Book on page 87. The recipe came from Alice Anderson from “Oakdale”, North Sydney. This one is very different from both the traditional ANZAC biscuit and the “ANZAC Ginger biscuit”
“ANZAC BISCUIT” (Makes about 14 biscuits)
- 125 g sugar
- 125 g butter
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- Raspberry jam
- Icing sugar
- Lemon juice
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs.
Mix in flours, baking powder, cinnamon and mixed spice until it is a thick paste.
Roll out on a floured surface to about ½ cm thick and cut out round biscuits with a cutter (make an even number). Place on a lined tray.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees Celsius, 350-375 Fahrenheit or gas mark 4-5). The original recipe does not give timings so bake them until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Allow the biscuits to cool then sandwich pairs of biscuits together using the jam and ice the biscuits. The original recipe did not specify what flavour of jam or the type of icing to use, so I went with a biscuit recipe on the same page, directly below it and used raspberry jam to sandwich the biscuits and a lemon icing recipe.
Combine about ¾ cup of icing sugar and the lemon juice until desired consistency. I chose to have mine runny, like a glaze. If you do this make sure you have a tray or some baking paper under the biscuits to catch the run off icing. Refrigerate if necessary to make the icing set.
My colleagues enjoyed the sweetness of this biscuit, although some found that the jam and icing masked some of the flavour of the biscuit itself. It is quite a good one to have with a cup of tea or coffee to help subdue some of that sweetness.
So that’s it, two “ANZAC biscuits”, that never quite took off under that name but which provide a very interesting footnote to the history of this very famous biscuit.