Growing up, I knew these biscuits as 'squashed flies'. According to Wikipedia they also go by fly sandwiches, flies' graveyards and dead fly biscuits. It's only now I realise that the name is not very vegan. They are nicknamed so for the flattened currants inside the biscuit. The currants poke out of the sides, especially visible pre-bake through the translucent dough, as if a whole colony of flies had been collectively swatted. No, not a very vegan nickname at all!
As with a lot of childhood treats, I then went years without having one, but got a sudden nostalgic craving one day in the supermarket. I saw a few neatly stacked packets and snatched one up. To my dismay, among the ingredients were dried milk powder and lactose (milk sugar). Boo. Other supermarket brands I checked used dairy as well. Second boo.
Time to veganise. To my readers abroad you've probably never heard of a Garibaldi biscuit. Invented by John Carr – of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, another baked product you've probably never heard of – in 1861, they were named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, an incredibly popular Italian army general most famous for his efforts to unify Italy. He visited the UK in 1854.
I found it bizarre that a biscuit was named after this army general, but then I have no grasp of his reputation and popularity at the time. Clearly he was a hit in the UK, as he didn't just leave a legacy in baked goods: Nottingham Forest Football Club designed their kit in the colours of Garibaldi's uniform and still wear a variation of it to this day.
Despite the Italian link, these biscuits are very traditional in Britain, served for elevenses or afternoon tea – or between any meal, really. I love how these biscuits aren't too sweet and have a dry, crumbly texture that demands a large mug of tea. A nice feature of the biscuits is they come in lightly scored strips so you have to gently pull away each biscuit. It's equivalent to tearing bread rolls apart: satisfying. It is, consequently, vital that you only score, not cut, the outline when you're making these, so the strip remains intact. Vital. :P.
I’ll leave it up to you whether to include the mixed spice or not. I liked the warming, slightly festive flavour it brings, but my Mum was unequivocal in her disapproval, stating that a genuine Garibaldi biscuit should be plain, not spiced. Tell us which you prefer..?!
Garibaldi Biscuits (Currant Cookies)
Makes 20-25 biscuits
(see optional substitutions below, too)
|I recommend you weigh all of these ingredients out rather than use cups.|
|220g/8oz/1½ cups||self-raising flour|
|50g/1.75oz/¼ cup||vegan butter (aka baking margerine) e.g. this one (UK)|
|70g/2.5oz/⅓ cup||caster sugar|
|¼ tsp||ground mixed spice (optional)|
|60ml/¼ cup||plant milk e.g. almond, soy, etc|
|120g/4oz/1 scant cup||currants|
- Preheat the oven to 175C/350F.
- In a medium mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the salt, sugar and mixed spice if using. Now add the plant milk and mix with your hands until you have a slightly crumbly dough. If it doesn't hold together add a little more milk, ½ a teaspoon at a time. Try to avoid adding too much milk.
- Cut the dough in half and transfer to two lightly floured, large pieces of baking parchment.
- Use a lightly floured rolling pin (or wine bottle if you don't have one) to roll the dough out into a rectangle about 5mm (¼ inch) thick.
- Sprinkle 60g/2oz of the currants over half of the surface of each rolled piece of dough.
- Fold the other halves of dough over and roll each folded piece out again into a rectangle 5mm/¼ inch thick, squashing the currants.
- Transfer the two sheets of baking parchment, with the dough, onto baking trays. Use a sharp, large knife to score 3cm X 10cm (1" X 4") strips, so that once baked they're still connected but you can pull the biscuits apart.
- Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes until golden brown, checking regularly after 10 minutes to make sure they aren't burning. For more even baking, swap the trays round and rotate them halfway through.
|listed ingredient||can be swapped for|
|self-raising flour||plain (all-purpose) flour + 1½ tsp baking powder (I've researched this substitution ratio but I haven't tried it out!)|
|mixed spice||ground cinnamon|
|currants||finely chopped raisins|