Vegetarian food blog featuring nourishing home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Garibaldi Biscuits with a Difference – We Should Cocoa #24

Now I’m not quite sure why, but when I found out the “special ingredient” for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge hosted by The KitchenMaid, was fame, Garibaldi was the very first name that sprang to mind. Giuseppe Garibaldi played a prominent role in the Unification of Italy in 1870, but as far as I remember from my school history lessons, he was THE figure, not just one of them. I suspect he particularly stuck in my mind because of the famous biscuits named after him. His story seemed rather a romantic one to my somewhat naive mind; with his famous volunteer army dressed in Red Shirts for want of real uniforms, storming across Italy in a bid for independence and deposing despots as they went. He was much admired by Victor Hugo, Georges Sand and Alexandre Dumas, all heroes of mine at the time. He did indeed achieve a lot in his lifetime and led an interesting life – you can read more about him here.

Garibaldi on Caprera c1860

For those unaware of Garibaldi biscuits, they are rectangular, flat, pastry like bakes, heavily studded with currants in recognition of the limited rations the Red Shirts carried with them. Squashed flies, as we used to call them, were a firm favourite when I was young, principally because it was one of the few shop bought biscuits my mother would allow; it must have had something to do with all those currants. I have no idea if they are still made, I haven’t had one in years. In fact I might just have to go down to the shops right now and find out.

My version is based on the recipe from British Baking by Peyton and Byrne. Instead of currants, I of course used chocolate, but not just any old chocolate: fairtrade hazelnut chocolate. I usually use fairtrade chocolate as a matter of course, but I thought I’d mention it as it is Fairtrade Fortnight at the moment – I’m sure Garibaldi would have approved. I used my usual mix of half wholemeal and half white, but threw in a tbsp of mesquite powder which I thought would emulate the malty notes that shop bought biscuits often have.

This is how I made:

Chocolate Garibaldi Biscuits

  • Chopped 100g bar of Fairtrade hazelnut chocolate so as to get it as small as I could.
  • Weighed out 280g flour (half wholemeal, half white including 1 tbsp mesquite powder) and put into food processor.
  • Added 1 scant teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt.
  • Cubed 110g unsalted butter and threw that in.
  • Added 75g cardamom (caster) sugar.
  • Whizzed in the processor until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Added about 8 tbsp of milk (recipe stated 1 or 2) bit by bit until the mixture started to clump.
  • Bought into a ball with my hands and shaped into a cube.
  • Floured worktop and rolled out to about 5mm thickness.
  • Trimmed the edges to make a square, then cut in half.
  • Sprinkled most of the chocolate over one half (leave a little for the trimmings).
  • Topped with the other half and squished the edges together to seal.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm, then cut into rectangles of varying sizes.
  • Pricked each one a few times with a fork and placed on a lined baking tray.
  • Brushed with egg white and baked for 15 minutes at 180C until golden.

I was pleased to discover that my biscuits tasted like my memories of the real Garibaldis, even though mine were heavily studded with hazelnut chocolate rather than currants. In fact, they were quite delicious and I will most definitely be making them again. They were perhaps a little thicker than the originals, but were crisp with the right texture and eminently suitable for dunking. They were sweet enough, but not overly so with the hazelnut chocolate making a good substitute for the currants. Where better to store them than in a fun new tin I was sent recently – if you keep your eye on things, you might see it featuring in a giveaway here shortly.

NB – I did go to the shops and I did find Garibaldi biscuits and I had to buy a packet too. I was annoyed to find that palm oil was used rather than butter, but other than that the ingredients weren’t too bad with currants at 39% being the top one. They weren’t too sweet either and although mine tasted far superior (though I say it myself), they are still not a bad little biscuit.

This is my fame entry to this month’s We Should Cocoa, hosted by Lucy of The KitchenMaid. Good old Garibaldi!


  1. Leave a Reply

    belleau kitchen
    3rd March 2013

    It’s a genius theme and these are gorgeous biscuits. Great little history lesson too. Everything you could possibly want from a blog post!

    • Leave a Reply

      3rd March 2013

      Thanks Dom, it’s good to have the opportunity of doing something a little different sometimes – well done Lucy.

  2. Leave a Reply

    3rd March 2013

    I’d forgotten about Garibaldi biscuits. My grandmother always had a tin of them in her cupboards! They were a sort of biscuit pastry with a filling of currents I seem to remember. These choc hazelnut ones sound delicious. Great twist

    • Leave a Reply

      3rd March 2013

      I’d forgotten about them as well Katie, which is why it was so strange they were the first thing that popped into my head when I heard the theme of this month’s challenge. I was very pleased to be reminded – they are rather good biscuits.

  3. Leave a Reply

    Baking Addict
    3rd March 2013

    Such a coincidence that I was just reading about Garibaldi biscuits!! I have the same book and I’ve been looking through my books for inspiration for an afternoon I’m hosting next week. Great entry for WSC this month – I haven’t decided yet what I’m making! PS love the biscuit tin!

  4. Leave a Reply

    The Caked Crusader
    3rd March 2013

    I have always had a fondness for ‘squashed fly biscuits’ as we used to call them…and adding chocolate is never going to make anything worse!

  5. Leave a Reply

    lapin d'or
    3rd March 2013

    I do quite a lot of the shopping for the tea and biscuits we have at work and avoiding biscuits with alm oil in is very difficult, and it annoys me too.

    I loved Garibaldi biscuits as a child but your chocolate and hazelnut version seems the way to go, lovely post.

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Thank you. It seems that quite a few of us enjoyed these as children, must have been the thought of those squashed flies. Not many commercial biscuits seem to use butter, as you say, it’s very annoying.

  6. Leave a Reply

    The KitchenMaid
    3rd March 2013

    That’s a fascinating post – having just read The Leopard I am well up on Garibaldi, but I never knew the story about the biscuits. I’ve never had one either – and now I really want one! Fab recipe and thanks for supporting my odd idea x

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Immediately off to find out about The Leopard. A story about Garibaldi, if that is what it is, sounds just what I’d like to read. Love your odd idea and looking forward to seeing what others come up with.

  7. Leave a Reply

    3rd March 2013

    I used to love Garibaldi biscuits! What a nice take on them, and some interesting history alongside too.

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Thanks C, it seems poor old Garibaldi biscuits have become much neglected, everyone says they used to eat them.

  8. Leave a Reply

    Phil in the Kitchen
    3rd March 2013

    Lovely recipe – that use of hazelnut chocolate is excellent. I loved Garibaldi biscuits as a kid but I hadn’t eaten one for decades until I had one as part of a dessert in a fairly upmarket restaurant in Liverpool a few years ago. I was told at the time that Garibaldi visited England (that bit’s true) and that the biscuit was invented after he accidentally sat on an Eccles cake. I have serious doubts about the last bit of that story.

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Thank you Phil, I was rather pleased with the result. That story is hilarious, that such a biscuit was served in an upmarket restaurant and the squashed Eccles cake. I think you are right to have serious doubts about the latter, although I did know he visited England, on more than one occasion I think.

  9. Leave a Reply

    4th March 2013

    Squashed fly biscuits were always my favourite breaktime treat at school! Love the addition of chocolate 🙂

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      I think I’m going to have to start a campaign to get people eating Garilbaldi biscuits again – everyone is saying, they used to eat them.

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Thanks Caroline. It’s a fun recipe to make – squashing the filling between the two bits of pastry is quite therapeutic.

  10. Leave a Reply

    4th March 2013

    Mmm… interesting reading about Garibaldi. I remember studying that at school. I have never seen Garibaldi biscuits in Italy though. I find it interesting that they are called like that.
    Your version with chocolate looks very yummy Choclette.

    • Leave a Reply

      7th March 2013

      Thank you Alida. I think Garibaldi was a bit of a hero over here and when he visited England someone had the bright thought of naming a biscuit after him.

  11. Leave a Reply

    4th March 2013

    Great blog post! I always feel that Garibaldi gets overlooked outside Italy. I actually never liked the original biscuits but yours look and sound delicious – far superior in every way!

  12. Leave a Reply

    Lucy Taylor
    5th March 2013

    Well ya learn something new every day! Thanks for the history lesson. The biscuits look scrummy & are a lovely golden colour.

  13. Leave a Reply

    5th March 2013

    Yum! I’d like one of those for dunking with my morning coffee, please! And over here, squashed fly biscuits were fruit pillows.. 😉

  14. Leave a Reply

    5th March 2013

    Every ow & then I do but packet of garibaldi as I like to try and buy biscuits for the kids that aren’t overly sweet & these fit the bill. The palm oil isn’t great though which puts me off them. Yours, however look and sound like a far more sensible choice. I like making a batch of something sweet at the beginning of the week that can last me so these will be on the list. Thanks Garibaldi!

  15. Leave a Reply

    5th March 2013

    Sounds good the chocolate garibaldi. Like the word squashed fly biscuits

  16. Leave a Reply

    Over a Cuppa
    5th March 2013

    Used to totally love Garibaldi biscuits or squashed fly biscuits as we used to call them too. These look lovely, now thinking could I make them gluten-free or just make them for the rest of the family and looking on in hunger!

  17. Leave a Reply

    6th March 2013

    Chocolate instead of raisins or currants is always going to be a winner 🙂 I watched my husband eat an entire packet of garibaldis the other day – must make these for him!

  18. Leave a Reply

    Nazima FranglaisKitchen
    8th March 2013

    Lovely idea – I do like the texture and flavour of Garibaldi biscuits but these are such a great variation! I’m struggling with the Fame theme though…. will keep thinking!

  19. Leave a Reply

    29th March 2013

    I have an aversion to dried fruit (NEVER eat fruit cake) being in foodstuffs so this variation of the Garibaldi is VERY appealing to me. They look gorgeous!

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