Saturday, 5 March 2016

Garibaldi Biscuits

I must have been about seven or eight when I first came across Garibaldi biscuits. My parents would have been visiting a great aunt or some other aging relative and I remember the words "lets see if I can find a treat for these boys" being said. The treat in question and indeed questionable I did consider it, was a plate of these rather miserable biscuits. The only feature that distinguished them from the poorest of pastry was the odd little currant, flattened and beaten into submission before being baked to a fine desiccated state that rendered the finished biscuit, something you would only ever try once. I'm told now that there are many adults who actually enjoy Garibaldi biscuits, but for two young boys they went on the list of foods that adults gave us as a bit of a joke, Bourbon biscuits, another, the correct colour of course, the promise of chocolate but bearing no resemblance whatsoever to a chocolate biscuit. Woolworth's chocolate was probably the highest on the list, such a large box, so many chocolates, all refusing to melt and all tasting vaguely of soap and not in a good way. Ask the average Italian and they will tell you that they have never heard of a Garibaldi biscuit, though we are led to believe they are named after a Guiseppe Garibaldi, an Italian General who after a visit to England in 1854 inspired Jonathan Carr to invent the biscuit seven years later.
You may wonder why on earth I would offer this recipe for Garibaldi biscuits considering my early traumatic encounter with them, well the reason is I was convinced that there should be a way of making a rather delicious version of them and since I had an amount of left over pastry I attempted to make them. Readers of my blog will know how I feel about the dried fruit called currants, they have their place but not at Christmas, well this along with a good Eccles cake, is one of those places. The addition of lemon peel is important so do try to find one.

For this recipe you will need;
500g of pastry, Click here for the recipe
50g of caster sugar
100g of currants
The grated peel of one lemon

Begin by processing the currants in a food processor with the lemon peel and the sugar for half a minute, this has the effect of not only combining the ingredients but breaking some of the currants down so that they blend more with the pastry. If you don't wish to do this you can skip this step and merely mix together the currants, sugar and grated peel.
Divide the pastry in half and roll out each half to an oblong roughly 5ml thick, place the currant mixture on one half, as close to the edge as you can, don't worry about spillage at this stage, fugitive currants can easily be recaptured in the rolling out. Cover with the second piece of pastry and roll out to be certainly no thicker than 5ml and a little thinner will do no harm. Trim and divide using either a pizza wheel cutter or as I do, a wooden pastry wheel. The trimmings can be re-rolled and still used, though they are slightly messier.
Place on two baking sheets lined with baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes at 180C, turn down the heat to 100C and leave the biscuits in the oven for a further hour to completely dry out and turn crisp. Store in an airtight container and serve with tea or coffee.

As with other recipes you can come up with adaptations of this basic recipe, using chopped nuts in place of currants, and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg along with the sugar.
The result is far superior to the rather palid dry offerings you find in the supermarket, where the currants seem to have been rationed along with any flavour. I think they are somewhere between a Garibaldi biscuit and a Chorley cake and as such I am very pleased to offer you this tea time treat, my Garibaldi biscuit.
Some of the sugar will caramelise and seep out during the cooking, this, on cooling will form a delicious crisp coating.

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