What’s cookin?: British raisin biscuits

These cookie/biscuits are reminiscent of the gone-but-not-forgotten Sunshine Golden Fruit.

A tasty treat: These cookie/biscuits are reminiscent of the gone-but-not-forgotten Sunshine Golden Fruit — raisins.

Grapes dried on the vines started the raisin craze in 2000 BC, when they were first noticed by accident. Raisins were given as prizes at sporting events, became barter to trade, and were prescribed by ancient physicians as a cure for just about everything.

Europeans finally tasted raisins (currants) in the 11th century when knights returning from the Crusades brought them back to Europe, and raisins became part of the English cuisine.

The craze for currants continued in England into the 17th century. Since the weather was too cold to grow grapes in England, they had to be imported — generally from Italy. Ships filled with raisins from Italy were met by His Majesty’s customs officers at official entry ports and taxed. Of course, contraband currants could be sent to a less monitored port to be unloaded quietly — unreported and untaxed. Raisins became an addiction in England.

Britain is currently the world’s largest importer of raisins, which are used in many cookies, cakes and baked goods. Raisins are a key ingredient in raisin biscuits, which used to be sold in the United States by the Sunshine Biscuit Company as Golden Fruit, but which were discontinued in 2001. These biscuits are still sold in England, and have been enjoyed there for over 150 years. They are known colloquially as fly sandwiches, dead fly biscuits or squashed fly biscuits because the squashed fruit resembles squashed flies. They are enjoyed by all ages in lunch boxes and at afternoon tea.

The biscuits were invented in England by John Carr (the original Carr Water Biscuit maker) and were named Garibaldi Biscuits after Giuseppe Garibaldi, a famous Italian General and patriot who unified Italy. Garibaldi was so immensely admired in England that supposedly the whole country shut down for three days when he visited.

When I was a child, I remember my Gram and her sister eating those golden biscuits, and thinking that old ladies liked them. Guess who likes them now?

These cookie/biscuits are reminiscent of the gone-but-not-forgotten Sunshine Golden Fruit.

BRITISH RAISIN BISCUITS aka SQUASHED FLY BISCUITS

1½ cups flour

1/3 cup very fine granulated sugar (1/3 cup granulated sugar run through a coffee grinder or put the sugar between two pieces of wax paper and use a rolling pin to finely grind)

1½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

5 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/3 cup milk

1 cup raisins

1 egg, mixed well

In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Using your fingers, fork or pastry cutter, work in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the milk and mix until a soft dough forms.

(Alternately, if using a food processor, mix together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and process on and off until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and process until mixture forms a dough.)

Wrap dough in wax paper and chill for ½ hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut dough in half, returning other half to refrigerator until ready to use.

Put dough on lightly floured parchment paper. Flour your rolling pin, and roll out into a thin rectangle about 10×12 inches (about ⅛-inch thick).

Sprinkle ½ cup raisins over ½ of the dough.

Bring the other half of dough over the raisins. Flour your rolling pin, and roll over dough to flatten dough into a thin rectangle, squashing the raisins between the dough.

Transfer the sheet of parchment with the dough to a cookie sheet.

Repeat process with the other half of dough.

Brush the dough with the egg. Use a sharp knife to score the dough into strips about 1” x 4,” but do not cut through the dough. Poke holes in the dough (like saltines).

Bake for 15-20 minutes until biscuit sheets turn a lightly golden color.

Cool and break into biscuits.

Eat well, live long, enjoy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats-cook-inNEPhilly@gmail.com or in care of the North­east Times, 2 Executive Campus, Suite 400, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002)

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