Thursday, March 11, 2010

ANZAC cookie recipe

Last night, Joe and I watched Gallipoli and today I made a batch of Anzac cookies! What’s all the fuss about Australia? I’m leaving on Saturday for a 3 week trip Down Under and I'm very excited! I’ll be teaching in Sydney, Melbourne and taking 12 people on a culinary journey around the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Clare Valley, three beautiful wine regions of South Australia.
It isn’t my first trip to Australia and it definitely won’t be my last. I’ve been teaching and working there since 1990 when my friend Gwenda (from Melbourne, pronounced Mell-bun, of course) saw me teach when she was visiting San Francisco. “Would you ever want to come to Australia to teach? I think Australians would love your style of food!” she said. I acted really cool but I was jumping out of my skin. Honestly! Four months later, I was getting on a Qantas flight with my knives and chef’s jacket bound for Sydney.

I have truly fallen in love with this place. I love spirit of the people, the food, the wine, and I love the geography! I’ve always said that if I didn’t live in my favorite US city—San Francisco, I’d live in Sydney. I've returned year after year teaching and being guest chef in every major city plus the wine regions--Margaret River and the Swan Valley in Western Australia, The Hunter outside Sydney, the Yarra Valley next to Melbourne, Coonawarra, the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Clare in South Australia. I’ve held koalas, sparred with kangaroos, waited at dark for the little penguins in tuxedos to appear and visited Ayers Rock. Australians say I’ve seen more of Australia than they have.

In anticipation of my visit, today I made a batch of ANZAC biscuits. This traditional recipe is associated with the joint Australia/New Zealand public holiday, ANZAC Day, which commemorates the Gallipoli landings during WW1. ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.
The lore surrounding the cookie and the holiday is a little murky. Some say the soldiers made the biscuits in the trenches with what they had on hand. I kind of doubt that! More plausible is that they were made by the Australian and New Zealand women for the soldiers. These early cookies were pretty durable, rock hard at best, and could withstand overseas travel from Australia to troops in Europe. In 1915, can you imagine how long it took for cookies to arrive by boat?

The ANZAC biscuits I made today are a far cry from the ones they made in the early 1900’s. Mine are chewy, rich and buttery with a hint of coconut. I love the addition of the golden syrup. I thought I had some in my pantry. I searched but I didn't. The challenge was finding some at the grocery store but after a couple stores, I found it next to the corn syrup, honey and maple syrup.

Golden syrup, also called cane syrup, light treacle or sugar cane juice, is an amber-colored liquid sweetener with a slightly toasty, buttery flavor that’s popular among British, Australian, Caribbean, and Creole cooks. It's made by evaporating sugar cane juice until its thick, syrupy and rich. The brand I see most often on the West Coast is Lyle’s Golden Syrup. You can’t miss the green and gold can with the picture of a dead lion surrounded by buzzing bees. Weird, right? According to Lyle, "Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion and on his return past the same spot, he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle--Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness." It actually says that riddle on the can!

And you’re wondering what you can substitute for golden syrup? Some chefs say absolutely nothing while others say you can combine two parts light corn syrup plus one part molasses OR equal parts honey and corn syrup OR maple syrup OR dark corn syrup (the last two are thinner and not as sweet as golden syrup). Or you could try reducing light corn syrup in a saucepan to thicken it. Have I tried any of the substitutes? No, I've always used golden syrup.

I really should have been packing my suitcase today instead of looking for golden syrup and making ANZAC cookies. But right now, I'm dying for a little taste of Australia.

My blog is also taking a little vacation for the next three weeks with me. The best way to follow my journey is on facebook or twitter @joanneweir1.

G’day Mate!


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sifted all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut
8 tablespoons (4 oz.) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon boiling water

Preheat an oven to 325oF.

Combine the rolled oats, flour, sugar and coconut. Place the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir over gentle heat until the butter is melted. Mix the baking soda with boiling water and add it to the melted butter mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Place heaping tablespoons of the mixture in your hand and roll or form into a ball. Place them on a lightly greased baking sheet 2-inches apart and with the heel of your hand, flatten them slightly to make a 1 to 1-1/2-inch cookie. Bake until golden, 14 to 15 minutes.

Immediately remove them from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack.

Makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Thursday, March 4, 2010

chocolate cake, part two

This is the email I got from my mother yesterday after reading chocolate cake, part one!

Hi Joanne,
Excuse me, what is part 2? And how much better can it get?
Love you, MOM
P.S. I'm crossing my fingers for all who try to make this cake--- trust me, it will turn out really, really well!

She makes me laugh....

Back to my story.... Probably a year ago I submitted the story and the chocolate cake recipe to AARP. I even sent a photo of me at my 6th birthday party eating the cake and licking the icing off the candles. Everything was under control with the magazine, so I thought. Or was it?

A few weeks later, the editor called, "One little glitch, we have to cut the story a little and edit the recipe. We ran out of room! We've got to squeeze the whole story onto one page."

"No problem, do what you need to!" I said.

Months went by and I completely forgot about the chocolate cake story. And then early January, the phone calls, texts and emails started trickling in. Friends, family, students and subscribers got the magazine and loved reading the oh-so-charming story I'd poured my heart into. Making the cake was something else. Let's put it this way.... The chocolate cake hit the fan!

The first comment was about the frosting. Seems in the editing, somehow it went from frosting between the layers and the top to that plus the sides. I knew there definitely wasn't enough frosting in the recipe to frost the whole cake. That brought a few dozen emails. I decided to test the cake and the frosting recipe to see if I could stretch the frosting to make it go around the sides. No way! You'd have to double the ingredients for the frosting!

And then what do you do with the boiling water in the first paragraph? The recipes says to "melt the chocolate and butter in boiling water over medium heat, until smooth." Maybe to an experienced cook that makes sense? To the novice cook, that's complicated. I got a hundred emails about that. So I tested the cake again. Yup, still perfect!

Then there's another cup of hot coffee added later. One person wrote and asked if it was a cup of ground coffee or hot liquid coffee. My, oh my! I had a hot flash!

Someone wrote and said they put the batter into two 8-inch cake pans and as it baked, it ran over the sides and cooked onto the floor of the oven? Oh, that's right, I originally wrote DEEP cake pans. And to think... Removing one little word can make such a difference!

A few people said the cake was crumbly.... And I thought that's what you're looking for in a delicious homemade chocolate cake?

Someone wrote and said "I haven't baked a cake in 53 years but I loved your story so much I decided to make your chocolate cake for my daughter. The flavor was delicious but it was a soupy mess. And my cake was much lighter in color than yours in the picture." I asked her what kind of chocolate she used? "Hersey's chocolate chips," she said. I checked the recipe again. Yup, I said unsweetened chocolate. "And my oven isn't really working very well. It doesn't get hot at all!" she said. "Riiiiiiiiiiiggghhttt!" I said.

"Why was my cake batter so liquid?" a few people asked. Another flash and I decided to make the cake again for the third time. Perfect, nothing had changed.

Someone asked, why was their cake filled with air holes and tunnels? That's easy, I thought, you beat it too much. When you add the dry ingredients, make sure you fold them into the batter gently just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. "Fold?" he asked, "I've folded clothes, how do you fold batter?"

The cake didn't come out of the pan? Did you grease and flour the pan well?
Did you run a knife around the edges before inverting the cake? Did you let it cool enough?

The emails have started to subside now. Little did I know that AARP magazine goes out to 5 million subscribers. I have to admit I kind of miss those emails. I really loved everyone who wrote and told their story, asked their questions. I learned a lot, they learned a lot. And I'm still holding out hope that every once in a while someone in a dentist office will pick up a dog-eared copy of AARP Magazine and see the story. They'll tear out the page, make the cake and write me an email.

So a little vote of confidence from me and my mother. I promise you, the cake is tried and true. I've made it, my mother's made it. We've eaten it our whole lives. Remember what she said in yesterday's email.... She's crossing her fingers for all who try to make this cake--- trust her, trust us, it will turn out really, really well!

photo credit Alexandra Grablewski