I tried to follow authentic recipes as often as possible, but this is the first one where following the recipe is required by law! Anzac biscuits are shared by Australia and New Zealand (who are in friendly competition over having the oldest recipe), and were sold in fundraisers for troops fighting in the First World War. They’re often still sold to fundraise for veterans’ associations around Anzac Day.
That military connection is where the law comes in. Both New Zealand and Australia regulate the use of “ANZAC” – government permission is specifically needed to sell anything commercially with the name. There’s an exemption for needing to file for permission to sell Anzac biscuits, but they must be made with the traditional recipe, with no modifications like chocolate chips or nuts. (Gluten- or dairy-free modifications are allowed.) They must also be marketed exactly as “Anzac biscuits” – not as cookies or other names.
The two countries take it quite seriously and enforce these rules with the threat of fines. An ice cream company using the cookies had to change their marketing from “Anzac bikkies” to “biscuits”, and Subway was forced to stop selling the biscuits in Australia in 2008 when it was found they were using their regular cookie dough (which was American-made to boot, which seemed to be a further bone of contention).
So, how to make Anzac biscuits the right way? The recipe is actually pretty straightforward – sugar, flour, rolled oats, and coconut, with butter, golden syrup, and some baking soda dissolved in boiling water. I used this recipe from the Edmonds Cookbook, a New Zealand cooking staple in its own right.
I found real golden syrup in the international aisle at the grocery (no substitutions!) The recipe was really easy and baked up quickly – the biscuits were soft and chewy, sweet but not excessively so, and nice and toothsome with the coconut and oats.