It’s coming up to ANZAC Day and the 100th anniversary of the landing on the beach at Gallipoli or Gellibolu in Turkey. Thoughts will turn to the soldiers who fought, died or survived during that campaign and as well as other military campaigns and peace keepers right up to the present. Thoughts will also turn to another cultural signpost from that era – ANZAC Biscuits. All across the country, schools and workplaces will be having morning teas and ANZAC biscuits will certainly be on the menu. These events are often used to raise funds for veteran organisations.
The biscuits were originally known as ‘Soldier’s Biscuits’ but after the Gallipoli landing were renamed ANZAC biscuits. ANZAC stand for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC biscuits were sent in care parcels to the soldiers from loved ones far away. A combination of rolled oats (to stick to your ribs), golden syrup (for energy) and coconut, the biscuits could be baked and shipped thousands of kilometers and still be intact and edible after many months in transit.
Crisp Or Chewy?
There are two distinct camps as far as ANZAC biscuits are concerned. Crisp or Chewy. Generally you are in one camp or the other. Whilst I would never say ‘no’ to a crisp ANZAC, I am in the chewy camp so this chewy syrup slice is right up my alley. It is an adaptation from a classic treacle tart or slice with the addition of the rolled oats, desiccated coconut and golden syrup substituted for treacle. The lemon juice and zest is a must to cut through the sweetness of the golden syrup and produces a lovely fragrance in the slice. The egg is definitely a modern addition helping to bind the tart. There are no eggs in ANZAC biscuits as eggs were scarce during WWI so home bakers made do without them, further extending the life of the original biscuits.
This recipe makes quite a large tray so I suggest baking it to take along to the work morning tea or weekend picnic and impressing your friends and family with something a little different. Nigella Lawson’s Treacle Slice was the inspiration for this patriotic twist on the humble ANZAC bikkie.
ANZAC Syrup Slice
- 200g plain flour
- 50g butter, unsalted
- 50g vegetable shortening or lard
- 1tbsp lemon juice (zest lemon before juicing)
- 2 tbsp iced water
- 450 – 500g golden syrup (approx 1 squeezy bottle)
- 25g butter
- 2 – 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see note at bottom)
- 3/4 cup desiccated coconut
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 egg, beaten
- zest of 1 lemon
- Place flour, cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes and cold shortening cut into small cubes into a food processor. Combine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- With motor running, slowly add lemon juice and cold water down funnel until mixture comes together to form a rough dough (Don’t worry if it hasn’t completely come together).
- Tip the mixture into a bowl and knead for a minute or less until it forms a dough. It doesn’t need to be perfect as it won’t be seen.
- Press dough into a greased, lined 30cm x 20cm x 5cm baking tray. Don’t worry if there doesn’t appear to be enough. Just continue to press and use the back of a dessert spoon to help press the dough flat and even in the tin. (My tin was actually a lamington tin 35cm x 25cm x 8cm and it still covered the base – just be patient)
- Dock the pastry (prick some holes) evenly with a fork and bake in 180c oven (no fan) for 20 minutes.
- Whilst the base is baking, make the filling by gently warming the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan on a medium heat.
- When the butter has melted and the syrup has thinned, remove the pan from the heat and add the breadcrumbs, coconut, rolled oats and lemon zest to the syrup and mix. Add the egg, stir until well combined and set aside until base is baked. The mixture should be thick, sticky and not dry.
- When base is baked and just barely has colour, remove it from the oven and allow to stand for a minute or so.
- Spoon the syrup and oats mixture over the base and spread out evenly. Scatter a few extra oats over the top and return the slice to the oven for 20 minutes.
- The slice is ready when the top has browned and the edges are just starting to pull away. The centre of the slice will be quite soft but will continue to firm up as it cools.
- Cut the slice whilst it is still warm and serve with cream or with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche, to cut through the sweetness.
Serves 24 slices
- It’s important to use fresh breadcrumbs, not pre-packaged crumbs. These are simple to make. Just take some slices of bread or crust ends and allow to dry out for a few hours before grating them in to a bowl. The easy way to always have fresh breadcrumbs on hand is to grate the stale of ends of the bread that are always left, into an airtight container and store it in the freezer. They keep virtually forever and you can keep topping them up with odds and ends of bread.
- This recipe is very forgiving. I have suggested using a full bottle of golden syrup. If you are using a tin, just make sure you have between 450 – 500g. Likewise, if you use a little more or less of the coconut or oats, it won’t make much of a difference. I have suggested between 2 and 3 cups of crumbs because it depends on the amount of syrup and eggs you use. If you have a large egg, use that. A small egg? Use that instead. It will all work out in the end.
- Once cut, this slice freezes well. It is a great standby for lunchboxes or to share with your friends at the radio station!