History of a humble cookie

ANZAC Day is nearly upon us and it seemed the perfect opportunity to post a quick ANZAC biscuit recipe. The idea of lounging around with a cup of tea, reading Pamela Hart’s The Desert Nurse and nibbling on freshly baked ANZAC cookies was impossible to resist. My paternal grandmother was a magnificent cook and worked in Brisbane’s iconic Breakfast Creek Hotel back in its hey day. She would bake ANZAC cookies all year around and they were sooo moreish. I always thought they were as Australian as a galah.

But it seems those upstart Kiwis across the pond have tried to claim the ANZAC biscuit as their own, having hijacked the Wikipedia recordAccording to that oft-disputed source, the combination of the name ANZAC and the recipe now associated with it, first appeared in St Andrew’s Cookery Book in Dunedin in 1921 under the name ANZAC Crispies.

“Subsequent editions renamed it ‘ANZAC biscuits’ and Australian cookery books followed suit,” says the esteemed Wikipedia. In Wikipedia’s defence, it does name Australia as a joint originator.

But don’t be fooled. According to the ABC and historian Allison Reynolds, the first printed ‘Anzac biscuit’ recipe appeared in a 1917 Australian publication called the War Chest Cookery Book, although it didn’t resemble the recipe as we know it today. Instead, it was a housewife’s small South Australian notebook that helped date the origins of a more authentic Anzac biscuit recipe to roughly 1919. Take that Kiwis. Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to stake their claim on lamingtons!

The reason they are called ANZAC cookies is not, as urban myth would have it, because women sent them to troops in the field, although no doubt some did find their way to the trenches. They were commonly eaten at fund-raising galas, fetes and other public events such as parades, where they were sold to raise money to support the war effort. The Kiwis claim their Patriotic Funds raised 6.5 million pounds – a small fortune back in the day.

Harking back to the novel, many of those ANZAC biscuits would have been baked by all the women barred from the workforce in the early part of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my grandmother’s recipe, so I thought it might be fun to try the following Donna Hay recipe. Variations between recipes seem to be very small – but then again, you don’t mess with a classic.

  • 2 cups rolled oats

  • 1 cup of plain flour

  • 2/3 cup caster sugar

  • 3/4 cup dessicated coconut

  • 1/3 cup golden syrup

  • 125g butter

  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda

  • 2 tbsp hot water


Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

Place the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, until melted.

Combine the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter mixture.

Pour into the oat mixture and mix well to combine.

Place tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and flatten to 7cm rounds, allowing room to spread.

Bake for 8–10 minutes or until deep golden.

Allow to cool on baking trays for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 35.

Image credit: me (w:User:pfctdayelise) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)]