What Is a Garibaldi Biscuit?

Mark Wollacott
Mark Wollacott

A Garibaldi biscuit is a flat, fruit-filled biscuit originating from England. It is a style of biscuit rather than a brand name and is manufactured by a number of different companies. The same form also exists in other countries under different names. The biscuit got its name from the Italian General, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and is usually eaten as a snack with a cup of tea.

The biscuit comes in great slabs, which are easily broken like blocks of chocolate in a bar into the constituent biscuits. These are rectangular, thin biscuits sandwiching a layer of currents. The biscuit is finished with a glaze on top, giving it a shiny appearance. The biscuit is rather dry, except for the squished currents inside.

The Garibaldi biscuit is also known as the ‘squashed fly biscuit’ and the ‘dead fly biscuit.’ The gruesome nickname may come from the appearance of the currents as they ooze between the biscuits, but it might also help determine the origin of the biscuit. There are stories concerning the campaigns of Giuseppe Garibaldi where he struggled to feed his troops. During such campaigns, it is said he took slices of bread and soaked them in horse blood. This was mixed with whatever local berries were at hand and no doubt with a multitude of flies lured by the scent of blood.

This particular tea time treat was born in 1961. The Garibaldi biscuit owes its origin not to Garibaldi’s desperate search for food, but to a Scottish biscuit-maker named John Carr. He helped found Peak Freans, the biscuit company based in Bermondsey. It is believed that he applied the idea of shortbread petticoat tails to the Garibaldi, so they came in semi-perforated strips rather than as individual biscuits.

Modern-day Garibaldi biscuits tend to come in one variety. Previous incarnations did have some variety. First, many had more currents inside, making the biscuit softer and fruitier. Another incarnation, as produced by Chiltonian Biscuits, a now defunct manufacturer, was the chocolate-covered Garibaldi. This confection cam in two varieties: the milk chocolate Garibaldi and the plain chocolate Garibaldi.

As well as being available in many supermarkets across the world, especially in Britain, the Garibaldi biscuit can be made at home. In addition, it is possible to add melted chocolate to the Garibaldi biscuit to remake one of its classic incarnations. The biscuit is low in calories or kilojoules and makes a perfect complement to a good cup of tea. Dunking, of course, is optional.

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