I have childhood memories that have stuck with me since the beginning. The vanilla chocolate chip cake my mom made for nearly every birthday celebration is one of the fondest. It’s not just cake but each bite tastes like childhood. It’s a strong memory. As are the date squares she made for a winter snack or the tarte aux sucre that reminds me of my grandmother.
Then there are the memories that I didn’t even realize I had. These biscuits, for example. I saw the recipe on pinterest and when I clicked over to the post, I realized that I knew these cookies well. My mom didn’t buy a lot of sweets, but she had a sweet tooth. She wanted to keep us on the straight and narrow when it came to junk food so we didn’t get a lot of store-bought cookies. But there was one cookie she would buy at the store. They came in a rectangular package and the cookies themselves came in long perforated sheets. You had a break your cookie loose from the larger cookie sheet so there was some effort involved. And because they weren’t coated in chocolate or had icing centres they felt healthy. I think that’s why my mom bought them. I knew them as Sultana biscuits – at least, I think that’s what I remember them as.
The recipe I saw called them Garibaldi biscuits, but they are also known by the appealing name “squashed fly biscuits”. Whatever they’re called, I’m happy that they’re back in my life. These are not very sweet cookies. In fact, they’re plain and dowdy and as a kid, while I was happy we had cookies in the house, I was disappointed because raisins didn’t seem like treats. Now that I’m a grown up lady, these biscuits are just the ticket. I’m fine with their plain old selves. I see the appeal. They go lovely with a cuppa in the evening and they taste deliciously wholesome. That’s a thing, trust me.
Buttery but not too rich, these cookies are studded with currants and dried cranberries. You could use the more traditional sultanas, but I used what I had in the cupboard. Plus, I like currants and dried cranberries a whole lot better. Lemon zest gets added to the dough which, I think, is a must. Orange zest would work well too. When there’s not a lot of sugar, you need an extra zing of flavour and the zest does that beautifully.
To make a batch, you have to make a dough that has more in common with a pie or cracker dough than cookie batter. Cornelius called these “cracker-cookies”, so you have some expectation on what you’re dealing with here. You roll out the dough, and when it’s flat enough, you sprinkle on the dried fruit. Then you fold over the plain side onto the fruit side and roll out the thing again. Basically, you’re studding the dough with the sticky raisins which is a nice little trick. Cut the dough into rectangles and pop on a baking sheet. As you can see my dough isn’t the most rectangular specimen so that gave me lots of little ugly off-cuts. That’s okay, because they’re just as tasty as their prettier cousins.
Did I mention that these are made with a 50/50 split between whole wheat and all purpose flour? Remember, I said that these were wholesome treats! Raw sugar is sprinkled over top before baking. It gives the biscuit a nice crunch and sweetness. They’re dense and solid cookies, not flakey or crunchy.
I packaged up the biscuits to a friend. A trade actually. We got some of their leftover wedding lights to string up on our balcony and they got some wholesome biscuits. I like to think that we’re both happy in that trade.
And as a treat for it being Canada Day (whooo!), I’d like to offer a 15% discount off anything in my etsy shop. I have a whole bunch of new cards, sale items, prints and other lovely paper things to purchase. Use the code “WHOLESOME” at checkout. But be quick, this offer expires July 3, 2014.
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
zest from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 c unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1″ cubes
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 c currants
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 t milk
1 egg white
2 T raw sugar
Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. Add in the butter and use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into pea-like crumbs. Or you can take the easy way out and use your stand mixer with the paddle attachment to beat the peas out of the butter. Mix in the milk and the egg yolk until a dry dough forms, add a little more milk if needed.
Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a rectangle shape, 1/8″ thick (think pie dough thickness). In retrospect, it would have been easier to divide the dough in half and work on half the amount of dough at a time.
Scatter the currants and dried cranberries over half the dough, adding more fruit if you feel it needs it for best coverage. Fold the naked side of the dough over the raisin side and roll to flatten the dough, trimming and reshaping to try to keep a rectangle shape.
Combine 1 teaspoon of milk with the egg white and brush dough. Sprinkle dough with raw sugar. Cut dough into fingers, about 1.5″ x 3″ or so.
Place rectangles onto 2 prepared cookie sheets. The cookies don’t spread, but try to keep them about an inch apart to keep a good air flow between them. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 24 biscuits.