Helplessness is not a feeling I associate with cooking very much. One of the things I love most about kitchen work is how eminently solvable most problems are. Short of slicing a finger, most kitchen conundrums are things that can be tweaked, covered up, re-purposed, or re-made. But today is ANZAC day here in Australia. It’s a day we take specifically to commemorate all Australian and New Zealanders who have served and died in the armed forces.
The date falls on the anniversary of a particularly harrowing battle fought at Gallipoli in Turkey, during World War 1. So these cookies are called ANZAC biscuits, because the story goes that they were made to send off to soldiers fighting in that war. They don’t contain any eggs, and if you bake them long enough they get quite crunchy and hard, so they keep really well for a long time. My version is pretty different to the original, which as you can imagine, was not heavily salted, vanilla’d or maple’d.
Whenever I bake these, or any other ANZAC-inspired cookie, my mind can’t help dwelling on how utterly helpless the women baking these cookies must have felt. Can you imagine the feeling of knowing your loved one was fighting a war, and all you can do is bake cookies for them? Cookies? It must have seemed so futile. But they did it anyway, because I suppose a small measure of comfort is better than no measure at all.
The moral of the story here, I suppose is that war sucks. So I’ll bake cookies too, in the tradition of doing something that probably won’t help at all, because it might help a bit. Lest we forget.
- 1 cup (150g) plain flour
- 1 cup (125g) whole rolled oats
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ cup pecans, chopped
- 1 stick + 2 tbsp (150g) butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate soda)
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- Preheat the oven to 350F/160C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
- Melt the butter and vanilla together in a medium saucepan.
- Stir the baking soda and boiling water together in a small bowl, and then add to the butter. Be careful, because it will foam up.
- Quickly add the butter to the dry ingredients and stir together with a wooden spoon.
- Take tablespoons of the mixture and roll them into walnut sized balls. Place them on the baking trays, leaving plenty of room between them as they spread to double their size.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and spread. They will be very soft, so leave them to cool on the tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- Once cooled, these are just the right combo of crispy and chewy and they make awesome ice cream sandwiches.