Battle-of-the-bickies: Were the original Anzacs soft?
They were there at Gallipoli and in the trenches at the Somme. They saw some of the most ferocious fighting of WWI and yet somehow the debate still rages: were the original Anzacs as tough as guts and as brittle as old nails or were they soft, tender… and chewy?
It’s a question that has had passionate biscuit lovers waging a ferocious battle for decades. It’s a fight that’s set to rival the Hundred Years’ War in length and bitterness. The righteous crisp and crunchy forces will brook no dissent. They know how they like it and will take no prisoners (or at least no other opinions than their own). They can be a dogmatic bunch.
The knock-about chewy bikkie lovers, on the other hand, are more like the Anzacs themselves. Open to new methods, up for fun when it’s on offer and willing to try new guerrilla tactics to force their (somewhat soft) hand.
There’s little doubt the traditional way to eat Anzac biscuits is crunchy – so crunchy, in fact, that they could allegedly cause serious damage to your teeth. The forerunner of the Anzac biscuit was the Anzac tile, a hardtack biscuit that was a substitute for bread. It was so hard that the soldiers preferred to grind them up and eat them with porridge. These house bricks masquerading as sustenance contained just flour, water, sugar and milk powder, and could have probably stopped a bullet when kept in your breast pocket.
These tooth-breaking bikkies were replaced by Anzac biscuits when the women back home took matters into their own hands. Reportedly adapting an old Scottish recipe, they created Anzac biscuits with oats, sugar, flour, coconut, butter, golden syrup and bi-carbonate of soda. No eggs, of course, because these were in short supply. The golden syrup was the glue that held the biscuits together, while the oats added some valuable and much-needed nutrients. The biscuits had to be hard and crunchy to survive the long sea voyage, so it is true that – traditionally – Anzacs were hard and crunchy.
But does that mean the traditional recipe is the “right” recipe? Or can we agree that there may be more than one way to make Anzac biscuits?
Apparently the answer to that question is an emphatic “no”. Not even our top foodies can agree on the best way to make, bake and eat Anzacs. Margaret Fulton describes them as “crunchy and economical”, while Bill Granger claims “they must be chewy”. Even Fast Ed has weighed in… he prefers ’em chewy, for the record.
In the hopes of a peaceful resolution, here’s a recipe that you can tailor to make it “your way”: crunchy; soft and chewy; or thin and crispy. On the down-low, it’s all in the type and quantity of sugar you use. These days, the type of oats you use can also make a difference. If they’re highly processed your biscuits will spread out like brandy snaps… although this wasn’t a problem the Anzacs really had to deal with.
But even if that recipe doesn’t help us reach a formal truce, there is at least something we can all agree on: no matter which way us Aussies eat them, one thing is for sure – the Anzac biscuit did not originate in New Zealand.
Yep, they’re trying to claim Anzac biscuits, too! Next they’ll want Russell Crowe back.
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