January 26th is Australia Day, and although I made this homemade version of a classic Australian treat a couple of weeks ago, I thought it fitting to blog about them on the Australia Day long weekend. These are homemade Monte Carlo biscuits. (We generally call cookies biscuits in Australia, although chocolate chip cookies are never anything but cookies!).
Monte Carlos are a classic cream biscuit manufactured by another Australian icon, Arnott’s Biscuits. Arnott’s have been producing Monte Carlos since 1926, and for some reason they took their name from the city of Monte Carlo. Almost everyone loves Monte Carlos. Dare I say, with tongue in cheek, it is positively un-Australian NOT to like Monte Carlos.
There are a great many recipes to be found online for homemade Monte Carlos, but I made mine from a recipe in Anneka Manning’s Mastering the Art of Baking, where for obvious legal reasons they had to be called Monte Creams. I’m not sure why those legal reasons don’t apply to all the recipes on the internet… The homemade versions are lighter and more buttery than the commercial biscuit, but that is what makes them so delectable. And they are extremely easy and quite quick to make.
I found this fabulous old bit of film reel on YouTube which shows biscuits in production at an Arnott’s factory in 1951. Monte Carlos make an appearance towards the end. I am fairly sure that the crackers shown at the beginning are SAO biscuits (never a big favourite of mine), and those described (and shown) in the middle sound like Iced Vovos (never say no to a Vovo). I think I also saw Delta Creams (always the ones people choose last. Don’t know why – they’re kind of like Oreos). You can’t help but feel admiration for the women packing the SAOs who know by memory and instinct how many to pick up in one go to make a full packet.
My absolute favourite Australian biscuit, also manufactured by Arnott’s, is the Tim Tam. I do have a recipe for homemade Tim Tams but have not yet braved what looks like a messy process, to see how they turn out.