We can thank the Dutch for introducing cookies. Apparently, cooks used small amounts of batter on an oven tray to test the oven temperature before baking cakes. These crisp little test cakes were called "koekje".
In the 19th century, the British took a liking to them and called them biscuits, a Latin derivation of "twice baked". However, the Americans have confused the issue calling a soft, scone-like invention by the same name - biscuit - and their crisp, baked dough cookies.
It is thought the ancient Romans enjoyed a similar crisp product. They found that a mixture of cereal, honey and fat from cheese provided great sustenance on long travels.
Maybe this is where the wives of World War I Australian and New Zealand soldiers got the idea to create their Anzac biscuits using flour, rolled oats, golden syrup, butter and sugar. These simple ingredients did not spoil easily and the biscuits kept well during naval transportation.
Now a Kiwi artist is creating a tasty, new World War I memorial made from 18,000 Anzac biscuits.
Kingsley Baird, designer of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington, intends to build the memorial at a museum in France and has designed a series of cookie cutters to portray Kiwi, Aussie, French and German soldiers.
French bakers are preparing the biscuits and the sculpture is being assembled by Baird over three weeks. I've changed tradition this week and added cocoa and chocolate chips to my Anzacs and made them mini-sized so I can enjoy at least one little sweet treat while on my weight-reducing diet. Yeah right!
Hints for Baking BiscuitsUse level spoon and cup measurements.
Always preheat oven first, usually from 180C to 200C.
Oven trays or baking tins lined with baking paper allow biscuits to be lifted off with ease.
Cool biscuits on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.
Make the most of this season's passionfruit.
200g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 & 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp fresh or preserved passionfruit pulp
Passionfruit icing: 2 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp fresh or preserved passionfruit pulp
1-2 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 170C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.
Cream butter and caster sugar until light and creamy.
Beat in eggs and vanilla essence. Sift in flour and baking powder. Add passionfruit pulp. Mix to a soft dough.
Spoon walnut-size pieces and place on the baking tray. Flatten with a fork dipped in flour. Allow room for spreading.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.
To make icing, mix icing sugar, passionfruit pulp and enough water to make a spreading consistency.
Spread over cooled biscuits.
GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/2 cup each: white sugar, brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 cups gluten-free flour
1 & 1/2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugars until light. Beat in egg and vanilla essence.
Sift in dry ingredients. Mix well, then fold in chocolate chips.
Spoon walnut-size pieces on to prepared tray.
Flatten with a fork dipped in gluten-free flour.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 30.
CHOCOLATE ANZAC BISCUITS
1 cup each: plain flour, rolled oats, desiccated coconut, dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup each: lightly-packed brown sugar, caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp each: golden syrup, water
1/2 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a large tray with baking paper.
Combine flour, rolled oats, coconut, chocolate chips, sugars and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Melt butter and golden syrup on a low heat.
Combine water and baking soda until smooth. Stir into butter mixture. Pour into oats mixture, stirring until well combined.
Roll heaped teaspoonfuls into balls and place on tray about 3cm apart. Flatten with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes, until crisp. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 48.
PEANUT BUTTER FREEZER BISCUITS
Freeze the dough, then cut into slices and bake when required.
1/2 cup roasted and skinned peanuts
50g peanut butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Finely chop peanuts in the food processor. Set aside.
Place butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg in the food processor and cream well.
Add flour and cinnamon and process until just mixed. Then mix the peanuts in by hand.
Form the mixture into a log about 4cm in diameter and wrap in waxed paper.
Refrigerate for at least three hours or freeze in an airtight container for up to six months.
Preheat oven to 190C.
Cut dough into as many 5mm slices as required and place on a baking paper-lined baking tray.
Return unused dough to the freezer.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden.
Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 30.