The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs must authorise the use of the term Anzac. In 1994 a general policy relating to biscuit products was adopted. It meant that Anzac biscuits could not be so-called unless they were made to the traditional recipe. And never, ever call them cookies.
While recognising that the names ‘Anzac biscuit’ and ‘Anzac slice’ have been in general use in Australia for many years, the 1994 policy stated that “approvals for the word ‘Anzac’ to be used on biscuit products have been given provided that the product generally conforms to the traditional recipe and shape, and is not used in association with the word ‘cookies’, with its non-Australian overtones. For instance, an application for Anzac biscuits dipped in chocolate would not be approved as they would not conform with the traditional recipe.”
In the early days, however, before the Vets’ Affairs people got involved, recipes varied wildly. In the 1920s there was a widely circulated recipe for a completely different Anzac biscuit containing eggs, cinnamon and no oats at all. Even the more familiar form of the biscuit showed variations from cook to cook.
The earliest published recipe did not contain coconut (or cocoanut as it was spelled well into the ‘30s). It appeared in The Argus newspaper in September 1920. It wasn’t until 1927 that a version appeared with coconut. There were other variations: in 1931 the Brisbane Sunday Mail included four different recipes in one feature. One recommended that ‘A few chopped nuts added to this mixture is a great improvement.’
During the depression years of the 1930s, the austerity Anzac appeared, with dripping replacing the butter. Sometimes, too, the mixture was cooked more like a slice — pressed into a tray for baking and cut into squares when cold.
In 2008 Subway stopped selling Anzac biscuits when its bakers found it impossible to adhere to the prescribed recipe and still allow for an adequate profit margin.