Squashed fly biscuits, flies' graveyards, Garibaldis. Whichever name you go with, and whether you love them or hate them, they are a very traditional British biscuit (harking back to 1861 supposedly) even if they are named for an Italian general. I know, I know, some things really ought not to be messed with. I really couldn't help myself with this though. More so than with other recipes that I've tinkered with so much that they've become my own. In my defence though I made a real effort to make the 'correct' version first. Twice I tried in fact but both times I made the same stupid mistake. As it turns out though it was one of those mistakes that you are so glad you made and it gave me a lovely happy glow inside when I got some feedback from their intended recipient, my grandad.
Shortly before Father's Day this year Mum was deciding what to take Grandad for his pressie when she suggested to me that I make some Garibaldis to take with us on our visit because they used to be a favourite of his. Well, what Mum actually said was 'Have you got a Garibaldi recipe?' to which I replied 'No but you have'. Mum was slightly surprised that I knew what her recipe book collection contained when she didn't but that surprise was short lived when she realised I had been reading them like an ordinary person reads a story book.
Upon going straight to the right book and almost straight to the correct page I was quickly thinking of possible adaptations when I received the warning that every avid baker knows is sensible to heed but very rarely does. That I should get the proper recipe right before I go changing things. So I sighed, shut the book then on the day before we were due to travel set to work staying faithful to the recipe. Until I got to the bit where it said the sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the currants before completing the sandwich. I forgot. Genuinely. I swear this isn't some botched cover up lie to excuse me ignoring a tried and tested recipe. It was only my attention which was botched. To remedy the situation I improvised by creating a thick sugar glaze which you'll see below and decided to have another go, keeping the gone wrong batch for my parents and I. Unfortunately I was just as distracted the second time round and made the same mistake so I gave up and convinced myself that I could explain to Grandad they were a modern version. New and improved if you like. I was a little shamefaced when I handed them over but then a few days ago I received the most wonderful feedback I could have asked for. Mum was instructed to inform me that the biscuits were all gone. That is practically a pleading beg from my grandad to make some more. Or a threat to not turn up without some more. It could be either. Although he could have also told me that he wanted a crunchier topping before I arrived yesterday with the batch I did specially for him. Some people are never pleased! Never mind. It still gave me the perfect opportunity to try out the adaptations I wanted to last month while filling up the house biscuit barrel. One batch for Grandad, one for us! So it was worth all that foolishness over not learning from my mistakes in the end. But now my wonderful readers, what do you think? Are Garibaldis the good, the bad or the ugly? And should they remain in their original format or is it ok for an experimental baker to put their own stamp on them? Let me know in the comments bow below. I think the spice makes all the difference even though it is only a minor change. Don't worry though, I won't go as far as demanding their name be changed to Denmans!
125g self raising flour
25g Clover or block Stork or butter
3 tbsp ish cold milk plus some for the glaze
1 tsp mixed spice plus some for the glaze*
25g caster sugar
*omit this if you want to go with the original recipe with just my accidental adaptation
- Sift the flour and spice into a large bowl and rub in the fat. I promise you the Clover does work. Some people might want the better taste you get from using butter but because there is so little fat in the recipe and the focus is on the currants anyway, I don't think it is strictly necessary. Bind the dough together with the milk. To get the right consistency add the first couple of tbsp then add the remainder slowly. The dough will be somewhat stiff but not dry i.e. you should be able to bind all the little bits together without it being sticky.
- Break the dough into two pieces and roll out each (working on a piece of greaseproof paper is easiest in this case) so it is 2 or 3 mm thick. This should give you some idea of the scale:
- Set the oven to 190 C/170C fan. Chop the currants up and mix the with 1 heaped tsp of the sugar. Spread the majority onto one of the rolled out pieces, leaving a border free to be wet with milk. Place the other piece of dough on top pressing down around the edges and sealing with a fork before trimming so the edges are a little neater.
- Now to squash the flies. Roll over the sandwich until the currants are practically breaking through the surface. Try to keep it an even shape. It should be a few mm thick by the time you've finished. Again, trim the edges to get rid on an excess of dough with no filling. Squash the offcuts together, roll out, fill with the remaining currants, cover, seal and squash as before.
- Slice the sandwiches up into the desired sized biscuits. 13-16 is good. Or if you really love Garibaldis then don't slice them up and serve whole with a cup of tea fit for Hagrid.
- Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with the baking paper you rolled out the dough on. Brush with milk then sprinkle on the reserved sugar mixed with some more mixed spice. There will be enough to do a couple of coats or you could save the second coat until you take the biscuits out of the oven to turn the tray around half way through the baking time. Beaten egg instead of the milk might help to create a thick/crunchier topping too. Use a fork to press holes into the biscuits in your desired pattern before baking in the prehated oven for 15 mins ish, turning the tray half way through.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven when they are golden coloured. Remember they will look more golden than normal biscuits because of the sugared topping. Leave them on the trays for a couple of minutes them remove and leave to cool on a wire rack if can wait that long. I usually like to try one biscuit warm from the oven then one when they are fully cold. I think Grandad might have wanted out visit to be over so he could have one with his next elevenses!
Enjoy your biccies!