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Garibaldi Cookies

January 17, 2012


I stand before the mirror and see the reflection.  It looks like me.  I belt out a few notes of a song and the quiet is polluted by off-key singing.  It certainly sounds like me.  Pardon the mild disbelief–this self-proclaimed non-cookie baker is sharing a second cookie post in as many weeks.  But I was on a mission to tackle just one more recipe.

 Some of you might be familiar with the Il Fornaio chain of restaurants.  What started out as a baking school in Italy in the early 1970s to preserve the disappearing neighborhood bakery expanded to the United States with the help of Williams-Sonoma in the early ’80s.  Shortly thereafter a chain of bakery/restaurant establishments opened in California serving good, simple Italian fare, as well as outstanding bread.
Il Fornaio was a regular lunch stop for me early in my working career.  The Sacramento location was on the ground floor of the beautiful Wells Fargo building, where I was fortunate enough to work.  Most days I took the short elevator ride to the lobby and got in line with all the worker bees at Il Fornaio for quick lunch.  Dining in wasn’t necessary–the restaurant sold sandwiches (salads, too) made with their fabulous ciabatta and a wide selection charcuterie.  It was a convenience that supported my habit of eating at my desk and the food never disappointed.
Every evening Il Fornaio’s bar would be packed with tired suits.  Worn after a long day’s toil, business people would gather at the restaurant’s bar before heading home for the night.  On more than a few occasions I joined my colleagues at cocktail hour not only to catch up over more relaxed surroundings but also for the complimentary olive bread and bruschetta that Il Fornaio kept in steady supply.
When I returned to the San Francisco bay area a few years later another Il Fornaio restaurant became a semi-fixture in my life.  Though there is a thriving location closer to home, my husband and I occasionally make the longer drive to the Burlingame restaurant.  It’s not because of better food that he is always willing to do this but because he is smitten with the building.  Each time we visit he fantasizes about building a space similar to the open plan of the restaurant.  The concrete post-and-beam structure has no ceiling, leaving exposed wood trusses that support the roof.  Adding interest are the pipes for the sprinkler system and the air conditioning ducts.  The concrete columns throughout are laminated with inverted terra cotta flooring tile and the concrete floor is stained to give it rich color and contributes to the overall warmth of the space.  Do you get the sense that the food is only the secondary reason for our visits? Hence, it is no surprise that I have never tried their cookies that are always on display until a couple of weeks ago.
Similar to commercially-sold Garibaldi biscuits popular in the UK (both named after an Italian general), Il Fornaio’s version is made of two shortbread cookies baked with a generous layer of raisins.  What has always intrigued me is their beauty.  The cookies are rectangular with a dark brown top and decorated with a simple zig zag pattern.  Until I consulted the recipe I didn’t know what to attribute that gorgeous feature to.  Caramelized sugar, I found out.  They were tasty and I vowed to make them at home.
Fortuitously, a good friend made a request for me to bring cookies to a party this past weekend.  While I had doubts that a raisin-rich cookie would be well-received at a party, I decided to make them anyway, but I also came close to making a mad dash to the neighborhood bakery due to poor planning on my part.
Problem #1:  I waited until the day of the party to bake the cookies but failed to read the directions completely beforehand.  Foolishly thinking that shortbread cookies would take no time to bake, I thought I was well ahead of schedule starting this recipe a few hours before.  I wanted to kick myself for not noticing the required 30-minute rest period, as well as a 2-hour freezing time before even baking the cookies.
Of course, as I familiarized myself with the recipe, the process started to make sense.  The cookie is actually a shortbread sandwich. Two layers of buttery dough are packed with over two cups of raisins.  Freezing the dough before baking made easy work of cutting a 9 x 13 inch sandwich into 36 cookies.  Fortunately, despite my procrastination, time was still on my side and I was able to avoid the trip to the bakery for the time being.
Problem #2:  The last thing I expected was to have trouble with the caramelized sugar.  Easy peasy, I thought.  The recipe called for caramelizing a bit of sugar in some water over hight heat.  I’ve made caramel several times before; it never occurred to me that this would be an issue.  All seemed fine with my sugar until I pulled the pot off the heat to cool the mixture but it hardened almost immediately.  The recipe required that this cooled caramelized sugar be combined with a beaten egg.    Not possible with the hard candy I had just created.
Problem #3:  I am not a quitter.  I tried a different technique.  The sugar hardened again.  I was beginning to feel the stress at this point.
Problem #4:  Third time’s a charm, or so they say. Still I failed! At this point I decided that caramelizing the sugar in such small quantities was not going to work.  It was time for Plan B but I first had to figure out what it would be.
Improvisation:  Ultimately, I decided to skip the caramelized sugar for another day but I couldn’t bake the cookies without the dark crust that attracted me to them in the first place.  The only thing I could think of to match the rich brown color was cocoa powder.  I had already glazed the top layer of dough with a beaten egg so I followed with a generous dusting of sweetened Scharffenberger cocoa powder, let it rest for a half hour then parked the tray in the freezer for a couple of hours, all the while keeping my fingers crossed that I had not ruined the entire batch.
Outcome:  And what do you know.  It worked.  The cocoa powder formed a thin, dark crust lending a barely detectable chocolate flavor to the cookie.  Even my less-than-precise zig zag pattern was discernible since the cocoa powder darkened further after baking.  The taste?  Even better than the bakery’s version though I followed their recipe exactly save for my caramelized sugar mishap.  The Garibaldis were well received at the party and I cannot wait to make these again.  Even my husband who is generally not a raisin fan loved these.  I may not even tackle the caramelized sugar anymore.  The cocoa powder worked just fine.  This cookie-baking thing might work for me after all.
Garibaldi Cookies (Shortbread Cookies with Raisins)
* Adapted from Il Fornaio Baking Book
For the Pasta Frolla (Pastry Dough)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • Additional flour for work surface and hands
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and butter.  Beat with a hand mixer set on low speed until crumbly and the mixture has formed pea-sized balls.  My mixture seemed dry and loose but it came together anyway.
  2. In another bowl, lightly beat together the whole egg, egg yolk, vanilla and lemon extracts.  Add this to the flour mixture and beat again on low speed until a rough, shaggy mass forms.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, dust your hands with flour and knead the dough until it’s smooth and all the ingredients have been thoroughly incorporated, about one minute.  My dough still seemed floury and dry after the second beating but as soon as I started kneading it, it all came together nicely.
  4. Wrap and chill the dough for at least one hour before using (may be stored up to 4 days).
For the Cookies:
  • 1 recipe Pasta Frolla
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour for work surface
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/4 cups raisins
  • Sweetened cocoa powder for dusting
  1. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet with 5/8 inch sides with parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of the pan and set it aside.
  2. Cut the chilled dough in half, refrigerate the remaining half while you roll out the other in a 9 x 13 inch rectangle.  Loosely roll your pastry around the rolling pin and transfer the dough to the pan.  If you have a bit of trouble with this like I did, trimming the longer sides and patching areas where I came up short to fill in the pan worked just fine.  Press the dough gently onto the pan.
  3. Brush the dough slightly with some of the egg.  Sprinkle the raisins over the dough and press them slightly into the dough.  You can use the rolling pin for this but I found it easier to use the bottom of a glass because of the rim of the baking sheet.
  4. Brush the tops of the raisins with the beaten egg until you have only 1/4 cup remaining.
  5. Roll out the other half of the dough to the same dimensions and set on top of the raisins.  Press the dough slightly against the bottom layer.  Brush the egg mixture on the top layer of dough.  I found that I didn’t need to use the entire 1/4 cup.  It would have made the top too wet.  Let this dry at room temperature for about thirty minutes.
  6. After thirty minutes, sift the top generously with sweetened cocoa powder and using the tines of a fork, create zig zag patterns all across the dough.
  7. Cover the baking sheet and slip the dough in the freezer for about two hours.
  8. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. When the dough is hard, lift it out of the baking sheet and place it on a lightly floured work surface.  I found that this step was unnecessary since the bottom layer of parchment paper kept the dough from sticking to my counter anyway.
  10. With a sharp knife, cut the dough lengthwise into 6 strips and crosswise into 7 equal bars.  This recipe was supposed to make 42 pieces but I could only get 36 out of it.  Mine were a bit wider.
  11. Line one large baking sheet or two smaller ones with parchment paper and arrange the bars about one inch apart.  Bake the bars for about 12-15 minutes or until the tops are deep brown and the bottoms light brown.  This is where adding too much of the beaten egg to the top layer would make it difficult to bake the top without overcooking the bottom so I recommend not using the entire 1/4 cup remaining beaten egg.
  12. Let cool completely before serving.  These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (but they won’t last that long).

25 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2012 12:50 PM

    A few months ago I spotted a recipe in USA Weekend that looked worth a try. One of the steps was to caramelize sugar, which seemed simple enough. I followed the technique suggested 3 times (from a professional pastry chef), then resorted to looking online and through “The Joy of Cooking” for advice. Finally, 8 tries later, and with the help of a YouTube video, the sugar caramelized. Not surprisingly, this little experiment took up the better part of the afternoon! One day I’ll try again…

  2. January 17, 2012 12:52 PM

    WOW!!! These are some of the prettiest cookies I’ve seen!! They look great! I wish I could have a HUGE bite!

  3. January 17, 2012 1:00 PM

    I love that you didn’t give up and made your own version of those! The cookies look fabulous and I bet they are delicious!

  4. bananamondaes permalink
    January 17, 2012 1:00 PM

    I used to love these cookies growing up – brought back memories.

  5. January 17, 2012 1:20 PM

    My hubby loves that place and always gets a cookie from there lol. These look fantastic! Good for you for trying a million times and then coming up with a better solution lol you have much more resolve than I.

  6. January 17, 2012 1:57 PM

    I’ve never had these, but they look beautiful and elegant 🙂 Shortbread is always perfect for tea or coffee, so these look like I’d love them!

  7. January 17, 2012 2:13 PM

    Those cookies look fantastic! I bet the raisin taste great with the shortbread!

  8. January 17, 2012 3:13 PM

    What a beautiful cookie. I love anything that’s as good to look at as it is to eat it and these must have been a real hit at the party. I’ll give it a try but I too might forego that caramelized sugar.

  9. January 17, 2012 3:20 PM

    Now I’ve finally met a new cookie for the first time! What a beautiful work of art these are! I’ve never made anything like these!

  10. January 17, 2012 4:12 PM

    My dear! I’ve never seen or heard anything like these either! I hope you are doing well. I’m enjoying an unseasonably warm day here in Austin and about to start baking a chocolate cake. Thank you for sharing another delicious post!

  11. January 17, 2012 4:32 PM

    These look gorgeous, and I’d love all those raisins. Good for you for sticking with the recipe!

  12. Chef Seh permalink
    January 18, 2012 12:37 AM

    Great looking cookies! For the caramel I see you mention high heat but for small quantities it would never work use medium to low heat and if you need time you can even brush the sides of the pan with cold water. Also it may seem to be taking forever to change color but once it starts it will go very quickly from a light to a dark caramel and once you have the correct color stand back and add some water, be careful as sugar is at a very high temperature and lots of steam will come off but that’ll hold the caramel to that color. Let me know if you try this and if it works for you 🙂

    • January 18, 2012 9:30 AM

      Chef Seh, thanks so much for your helpful tips. I will definitely employ your suggestions the next time I make these cookies–much appreciated! 🙂

  13. January 18, 2012 11:26 AM

    for a non-cookie baker this looks absolutely divine. cookies appeal to me becaue of how it looks. yes i won’t be surprised if i see a third and a few more cookie posts in your blog.
    enjoy the rest of the week jean,

  14. January 19, 2012 8:36 AM

    Good job on the cookies Jean, they look professionally done!
    Il Fornaio baked goods are wonderful, The closest one for us is in Corte Madera and we’ve enjoyed a few meals and a lot of coffee there, it’s next door to our gym! I love raisins in cookies so I know this cookie would be a favorite with me. I’m glad you persevered with this baking project and shared it with us.

  15. January 19, 2012 2:20 PM

    Those look beautiful. I have a hit or miss relationship with caramel, but I love it so I’m always making it.

  16. January 20, 2012 1:22 AM

    I had never had this before (I think). You don’t bake cookies? Really? But your cookies come out so perfect I don’t believe you! I’m pretty sure my kids will go crazy as I see abundant raisins in these. =) You write so well and I enjoy reading your posts.

    • January 20, 2012 10:16 PM

      Nami, I just don’t feel as comfortable with cookies as I do with cakes or tarts. Isn’t that odd? I am happy with how these turned out, though.

      You’re so sweet! I’m glad you enjoy coming here to visit as much as I enjoy reading our blog. 🙂

  17. January 20, 2012 11:15 AM

    Hi, i’m a follower but never left a comment, it’s today!!!

    I loved this cookies. Never heard of them but they seem delicious and easy to bake.


    • January 20, 2012 12:53 PM

      Rita, I love to hear from my readers–thank you so much for leaving me a note! I’m so glad you liked these cookies. They are now a favorite of mine. Have a great weekend! 🙂

  18. January 21, 2012 8:16 PM

    I have never had anything quite like this. It’s stunning and looks so tasty. Your photos are impeccable!

  19. January 21, 2012 8:34 PM

    I used to frequent Il Fornaio and be among the tired suits tying one on 🙂 I pinned these beautiful cookies, but had no idea how you toiled for perfection!

  20. January 24, 2012 1:53 PM

    I have never seen these cookies before but they look like they are definitely worth the extra effort involved in making them.


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