When the lockdown was announced about a month ago, I thought of all the great things I would finally be able to do. I would finally tackle those five- to seven-season tv series that everyone told me that I just had to watch, that require a hundred-hour commitment to get through them. (Breaking Bad and The Wire, I’m looking at you…) I would have the time to go through all those folders of paperwork that pile up like a fallen cheerleader formation when you live somewhere where paperwork is as common (but not as welcome) as wine.
Or I might finally tackle The Goldfinch (769 pages) or finish A Little Life. I only made it to page 30 (of 720 pages) of the latter before my brain felt like an Escher print.
Yet none of those things have happened. I ended up launching a daily Apéro Hour on my Instagram IGTV channel and found myself doing a lot more cooking and baking and writing. I try to squeeze in a little exercise either following videos on YouTube or taking online Pilates classes, and ended up revisiting some vintage recipes, including my variation of one by Marcella Hazan. But I dug into my own personal cookbook archives to make these Cranzac Cookies, and I almost wish I didn’t, because I could not stop eating them.
These “cookies” are based on the same flavor profile of Anzac Biscuits, but everyone can relax as these are not traditional Anzac biscuits, but are inspired by them. One thing they do share is that they don’t have any eggs, and these are particularly low in butter, which many in lockdown will appreciate if those are hard to come by.
I’ll never forget the time I was doing a demonstration and making these cookies in Los Angeles a number of years back, when low fat was the craze. When I got to the step where I was about to add the butter, a woman in the front row gasped loudly, and exclaimed to everyone around her, “Look! Look at all the butter he’s adding!”
I was, like, “Huh?” I replied that there were only 2 ounces of butter for 26 cookies. Most cookie recipes call for two sticks (8 ounces/230g) of butter and these had a mere half-stick. A few years later, during a different diet craze, someone in an audience asked me if it was okay to eat grapes because they contained sugar. I didn’t know what to say to that except that I didn’t want to live in a world where eating fresh fruit was considered a bad thing.
While I spent my days avoiding watching women dressed in form-fitting leggings doing sweeping leg circles, mermaids, and PIlates corkscrews, and instead of catching up on literature, watching Luke Cage wipe out evil forces trying to take over Harlem, I’ve been making these cookies like there’s no tomorrow. (Not to be Debbie Downier, but watching the news this week, there just might not be one….) But I’m remaining optimistic that at some point, we’ll all be out and about again, someday.
Until that day comes, I am going to be making these cookies weekly, or maybe more often. I am down to my last bag of dried cranberries (you can buy them in Paris, but they are usually sold in supermarkets small packets and are pricey little fellas) but have other dried fruit options, and have plenty of Golden syrup; when Marks & Spencer food opened in Paris, I was nearly bathing in Golden syrup, broccolini, muscovado sugar, crumpets, cottage cheese, and jalapeños, which were no longer elusive, and, dare I say, abundant.
These Cranzac Cookies have also been in abundance, and Romain’s obsession with les crumpets has turned to these. I’m not sure how these translate into French, or Australian or Néo-Zélandais, but at times like this what matters most is how good they are. And there’s no controversy about that around here.