Have you ever heard of ANZAC biscuits? Many of you might be put off by the above unequally shaped, unattractive cookies, but in reality these are one of the most delicious and addictive sweet snacks I know. Until now I have been preparing only their standard version and I wish I had thought of cranberries earlier because I liked them this way even more.
ANZAC stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”, created during the World War I and these biscuits were created at the same time by women desperate to send nutritious home-made food to their husbands, sons and boyfriends. According to this website, faced with at least two months’ transportation time, a group of women worked out a recipe based on rather healthy Scottish rolled oats biscuits and added only those ingredients which ensured long preservation. There are several theories on why eggs are not used, but their absence certainly makes biscuits last longer.
The first time I baked these biscuits (see the recipe here), I was inspired and encouraged by Mr. Three-Cookies, the cookie and biscuit specialist from Three-Cookies blog, where I found the recipe (actually at Easily Good Eats by the same author). Before tasting ANZAC biscuits for the first time I expected ordinary, but good crunchy biscuits, with a healthy twist, i.e. oats. What I obtained was well beyond my hopes: slightly crunchy, slightly chewy, addictive sweet snacks with a very pleasant buttery taste, enhanced by baked nutty oats. In short, the mixture of such simple ingredients has created a complex, surprising result I am still fond of, after dozens of batches.
ANZAC biscuits have always been so satisfactory, I haven’t even bothered to modify the basic recipe. However, a couple of days ago, the beautiful Cranberry Coconut Quinoa Loaves posted by Kelly (from Inspired Edibles) convinced me that dried cranberries are a perfect pairing for coconut and this is how I had the idea to tweak my usual recipe. The experiment was a big success, at least for a big fan of chewy cookies like me (the cranberries’ presence has at least tripled the chewiness!). The flat rounded, more or less equal shape was more difficult to obtain with dried fruit inside, but then I’m not a very meticulous cook… Thank you so much, Kelly for such a wonderful inspiration; cranberries and coconut are an excellent pairing, definitely worth further explorations. Thank you again, Mr. Three-Cookies, for making me discover the world of ANZAC biscuits.
If you don’t like or have cranberries, I strongly advise testing the classic recipe first (or simply follow the below recipe eliminating cranberries):
If you are fond of coconut sweets, you might like these too:
or the above Moist Coconut Cake but without chocolate
Light Chocolate and Coconut Cream (also with agar)
If you want to play with the basic ANZAC recipe, Mr. Three-Cookies has frequently (and successfully) experimented with these amazing biscuits, so check his Three Cookies blog for inspiration.
TIPS: Unless you have a health problem, do not use margarine or any other vegetable shortening. The butter taste and aroma is so strong, you will lose a big part of the pleasure.
As I have mentioned above, they keep fresh in a tightly closed container for several days (and maybe even more, but I wasn’t able to test more than five days). The biscuits stay crunchy and slightly chewy.
Do not expect vivid red spots on your biscuits: the cranberries will darken during the baking process (the ones you see above are just meant to add a touch of colour to the dark biscuits.)
WARNING: do not taste the raw dough! You will end up eating it straight from the pan while you wait for your previous batch to bake.
Preparation: 1 hour (or 30 minutes if you manage to bake everything in one batch)
Ingredients (I have obtained about 35 biscuits, you will obtain a bit less if you skip cranberries):
70 grams/1 cup rolled oats
90 grams/1 cup desiccated coconut
120 g/1 cup flour
125 g/about 4,5 oz butter
160 g/3/4 cup brown cane sugar
1 tablespoon dark syrup (I used 2 tablespoons molasses)
1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carbonate of soda, in countries where it is not widely available, for example in France, it can be easily bought in pharmacies)
2 tablespoons boiling water
6 heaped tablespoons dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Melt the butter and syrup or molasses in a big pan.
Combine the flour, the oats, the coconut, the cranberries and the sugar. Add slowly to the melted butter.
At the end combine the boiling water and soda. Pour the mixture into the dough and stir well with a spoon.
Roll small balls (I usually make walnut-sized balls, but this time I wanted smaller biscuits, so I made the balls 1/3 smaller) and put them on a baking sheet (leaving at least 3 cm spaces between each ball since they will spread).
Flatten them slightly (they will flatten even more during the baking process) and bake 10-15 minutes or until golden.
Don’t worry if the dough seems crumbly. It is normal. Just squeeze well the dough when forming balls in your hands and don’t flatten them too much.
Keep them in a tightly closed container. Apparently they keep for ages. All I know is they keep for at least five days, well closed.