How to make Garibaldi biscuits – The Spectator

Olivia Potts

I’m not sure that many people would choose the unassuming garibaldi as their favourite biscuit. Garibaldis aren’t flashy: there’s no luxury chocolate, no pretty, brightly-coloured icing, no fancy-pants shapes. They aren’t squidgy, trendy cookies, or wholesome buttery shortbread. In fact, they’re often called squashed-fly biscuits because the currants baked into the dough resemble, well, squashed flies. And yet, they persist. Garibaldi biscuits have stuck around for 150 years, outseeing fads and fickle consumers, keeping their place on supermarket shelves for longer than almost any other biscuit.
The biscuits have an unlikely namesake: Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian General, who fought for Italian unification. By the time Garibaldi sailed to the UK in 1854, he was already a celebrity, and his popularity only grew with time. By the 1860s he was a superstar and a household name; historian AJP Taylor grandly declared him ‘the only wholly admirable figure in modern history.’ Britain was obsessed by the Italian hero: a flurry of homeware items were made depicting him, from figurines to tankards, and his name was used for pubs and streets. Nottingham Forest football club named the colour of their strip ‘Garibaldi red’. The majority of these have fallen by the wayside, but the biscuit prevails.
The biscuit was first made in 1861 by Peek Freans, a Bermondsey biscuit company who had begun by making hard tack biscuits for sailors. Keen to expand their repertoire towards more universally attractive (and therefore more palatable) biscuits, they brought in Jonathan Dodgson Carr. Carr – perhaps more famously known now for his eponymous water biscuits – was the first person in Britain to successfully produce biscuits on an industrial scale. And he worked his magic by creating the Garibaldi biscuit.
The biscuits haven’t really changed since their inception: they are made of two layers of crisp, golden sweet dough, with a layer of currants between them, and glazed on top with a little sugar. They’re an easy biscuit to make, and an even easier one to shape: traditionally, they are in simple, rectangular shapes. They shouldn’t distort in the oven, or crumble in the hand, and they keep well in a biscuit tin.
Makes: 12 biscuits
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 25 minutes
60g butter, cold and cubed
140g self raising flour
40g caster sugar, plus sprinkling
¼ teaspoon fine salt
40ml milk
100g currants
1 egg white
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Olivia Potts

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