Anzac biscuits, the second act


Going back to a previous baking of Anzac biscuits, I am prompted to write a bit about the subjective nature of “easiness”. For me, most baking is straightforward and easy. I have been doing it all my life, so I know what to expect, I know what I can and cannot do or change in a recipe, I know what texture and consistency is supposed to be like, so I easily make many different items and do so without too many failures (although previous failed attempts at making the Milky Way/Mars cake have failed more than once!). Thus it can be hard for me to understand what is difficult for new bakers, as they attempt and fail to make things that seem basic for me.

On the surface, baking seems much easier than cooking. You simply follow a recipe exactly as written… et voilà. But that is rarely how it goes. You can follow a recipe and just not have it turn out properly and need to add a bit more flour or adjust something small. As an inexperienced baker, you would not know what to add necessarily. Cooking can be the same, of course, but there is a lot of room for creativity and experimentation with cooking. Baking is more like chemistry, with reactions between ingredients causing different results (i.e. different additions make a cookie crisp versus soft, crunchy versus chewy, etc.). But on some level, you are still relying on the experience and intuition you gain as you bake over time.

Then again, you can be experienced and still end up with a slightly different product each time you bake. Even with the simplest recipe. The humble but delicious Anzac biscuit is a case in point. The ingredients are very basic, the measurements could not be more straightforward, and the method would seem foolproof. However, if you add just a bit too much butter, you end up with cookies that spread across the pan a bit too much and are a bit difficult to handle. If you put too little butter, you end up with crumbly cookies that are difficult to make stick together when forming dough balls. There is a delicate balance in between. No matter what happens to the form, the flavor is still lovely. It’s just the end product and what it looks like (and how well it holds up over the course of a few days or through the post) that differs.

These biscuits turned out very well, but I erred on the side of slightly less butter than should have been used.

In this picture, the cookies in the very back next to the framed photo is a picture of what I consider to be the more ideal Anzac-biscuit outcome.

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