Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orange Blossom Anzac Cookies

I used to joke about proposing a Watson Fellowship project on "Flatbreads of the world."  While that never panned out, it seems I could do a scaled-down project on "Oatmeal cookies of the Commonwealth," given my attempts at flapjacks and now this.

The Anzac biscuit is a cookie from Australian and New Zealand that dates back to World War I.  Apparently, the original Anzac biscuit was not very delicious; it resembled hard tack and was valued for its long shelf life, which enabled it to be sent overseas to soldiers.  In their current, more delicious form, the cookies typically contain oats and coconut (it now occurs to me that anzac cookies are very similar to garam masala cookies).  They're also notable in that they do not use eggs due to wartime shortages.  So, they're vegan by default (especially since the original recipe would use golden syrup rather than honey).

The cookie (excuse me, 'biscuit') is actually protected by law, which means the name can't be affixed to anything but the original basic recipe and cannot be used in conjunction with the word cookie.  That's just in Australia... right?

For indeed, like the garam masala cookies, these ones have yet another spin on them.  I have been itching to use the mazaher, or orange blossom water, I picked up a while ago.  Wouldn't you know, Heidi Swanson came to the rescue.  I thought it was pretty crazy to put mazaher in an anzac cookie, but it was one of the best things I've ever tasted.  And, given that the Anzac corps served in Egypt, I'm sure there's some sort of tenuous connection to be made between the Australian cookie and the Middle Eastern flavoring.

But this cookie is going to go up there in my top five, and that's a serious matter.  It was interesting and buttery and textured and fragrant (just enough orange water and zest) all at once; crispy on the outside and deviously chewy on the inside.  And, for reasons unknown to me (the amount of butter? the orange zest?), the cookies turned the most beautiful yellow-gold color when they baked.

The recipe worked really well.  Adding baking-soda-water to hot melted butter and honey produces a science-experiment-like reaction; I'm not sure why this is done, but it's pretty fun.  The only thing I think I changed was I didn't quite use the zest of a whole medium orange; I wanted the orange blossom water to be the focal flavor.

I'm sure that if you left out the zest and/or the mazaher you would still have a very delicious cookie.

Orange Blossom Anzac Cookies

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c finely shredded non-sweetened coconut
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 c vegan butter
2 TB honey, corn syrup, golden syrup (or agave?)
zest of one medium orange (or less, to taste)
1 TB boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TB orange blossom water

1. Preheat oven to 325*F degrees. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix well.
2. In a small saucepan over low heat combine the butter, syrup (or honey), and orange zest. Stir until melted and remove from heat. In a small bowl whisk together the boiling water and baking soda. Stir it into the butter. Now pour the butter mixture over the big bowl of oats and stir. Add the orange blossom water and stir again. Mix with hands if needed.
3. Form into balls, flatten slightly, and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until deeply golden.  Makes 18-30 cookies, depending on size.

P.S.: The new night watchman says hi.

No comments: