Golden memories: Sunshine Raisin Biscuits make a comeback

Remember Golden Raisin Biscuits?

If so, join the crowd. It’s amazing how many people are STILL searching for this packaged cookie, denizen of your local supermarket’s cookie aisle for decades.

That is, until the Sunshine Biscuit company was acquired by Keebler in 1996 (and Keebler subsequently by Kellogg’s). Though Sunshine’s Vienna Fingers survived the transition, Golden Raisin Biscuits were unceremoniously dropped.

As were Hydrox – which, despite their reputation as an Oreo knockoff, actually preceded America’s Favorite Cookie by four years: Hydrox were introduced in 1908, Oreos not until 1912.

Oreos survive. Hydrox graced the shopping carts of its last fans in 1998, though to this day its proponents claim the Oreo just can’t compare to Hydrox in its prime – to say nothing of its lame replacement, “Droxies.”

But I digress; back to Golden Raisin Biscuits.

Does this photo jog your memory? The modernized packaging and new flavors were a last-gasp effort to stave off extinction. Along with classic raisin, Sunshine extended the line to cranberry biscuits and apple biscuits, renaming the whole line “Golden Fruit.”

Alas, to no avail. Raisin Biscuits breathed their last in 1996.

Until now.

Attention, Sunshine Golden Raisin Biscuit fans: these are not an exact match. The original was filled with raisin paste, and was just vaguely sweet, more the very thinnest of raisin pies rather than a classic cookie.

And you can make them that way, if you like. Stew some raisins with a bit of water and a touch of sugar, make your favorite pie crust, spread a thin layer of filling between two equally thin layers of crust, and bake until barely golden and pliable, rather than crisp: that’s a classic raisin biscuit.

These Golden Raisin Cookies are a more robust version. Filled with currants (or chopped raisins), topped with crunchy coarse sugar, and baked until crisp, they’re more nostalgic evocation than clone.

And a very good reminder of why the online hue and cry over Sunshine Golden Raisin Biscuits has yet to abate, a full 15 years after their untimely demise.

Let’s make Golden Raisin Biscuit Cookies.

First, lightly grease a couple of baking sheets, or line them with parchment.

Whisk together the followoing in a mixing bowl:

1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour or Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

*If you use white whole wheat flour, for best flavor substitute 1 tablespoon orange juice for 1 tablespoon of the ice water (when you get to that step, below).

Add 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pats or small chunks.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingers, a mixer, or a fork,  mixing until the dough is unevenly crumbly.

Next, add 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, enough to make the dough cohesive. Here’s where you may choose to substitute 1 tablespoon OJ if you’re using whole wheat flour.

Mix until the dough comes together.

Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid. You should be able to pick it up easily, without any dry chunks remaining in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half, and place on a lightly floured work surface.

A silicone rolling mat makes cleanup easy. Just sayin’.

Shape each half into a rough rectangle.

Press each of the four sides against your work surface to smooth any ragged edges.

Wrap the dough, and refrigerate it for 30 minutes. Towards the end of the refrigeration time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Take one piece of the dough, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll it into a rectangle that’s about 10″ x 14″, about 1/8″ thick. Don’t worry about ragged edges; life is imperfect.

Crack 1 large egg into a bowl, and whisk to combine the yolk and white.

Brush the surface of the dough lightly with some of the beaten egg.

Spread half the surface (one of the “long” halves — a swatch about 5″ x 14″) with 3/4 cup of currants or chopped raisins, pressing them in gently.

Fold the other half of the dough over the currants…

…and roll again, until you have a piece of dough about 6″ x 15″. Some of the currants may pop through; that’s OK.

While it’s definitely not traditional, I like to sprinkle the tops of these cookies with coarse white sparkling sugar. It adds crunch and sweetness.

Even if you’re not adding the sugar, brush the dough lightly with some of the beaten egg…

…then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of coarse sugar, if desired.

If you don’t have coarse sugar but still want the added flavor, use a couple of tablespoons of regular granulated sugar. The cookies won’t look as nice, but will taste fine.

Now, trim the ragged edges of the rectangle; these will be the “cook’s cookies,” the ones you spirit away and eat yourself because you don’t care what they look like.

Use a baker’s bench knife or a rolling pizza wheel, carefully cut the rectangle of dough into three strips, lengthwise. Then cut each lengthwise strip into five crosswise pieces; you’ll have a total of 15 rectangular cookies.

Note: Be very careful if you’ve rolled the dough on a silicone rolling mat; you don’t want to cut the mat when you cut the cookies.

Transfer the cookies to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them close together; they won’t expand much.

See those raggedy cookies on the bottom? Those are the trimmed edges. Perfectly tasty; they just won’t win any beauty contest.

Repeat the entire process with the remaining piece of dough.

Bake the cookies for 14 to 18 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown.

Remove them from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool. Or cool them right on the pan, if you don’t need the pan for the next batch.

And there you have it: Sunshine Golden Raisin Biscuits, in spirit if not in actuality.

Crisp/tender, buttery, and not as sweet as you might think. This is definitely a Boomer cookie: a veteran of the “swinging” ’50s and ’60s!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Golden Raisin Biscuit Cookies.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Rosemary Beales

    Garibaldi are close but not the same. They are dryer and the fruit is less chewy. I will try this recipe tho!

    Reply
  2. Jake D

    Until recently ALDI had identical fruit biscuits that now appear unavailable.
    Ask where they’ve gone.

    Reply
  3. Marty

    I have a similar recipe. I cook the raisins with brown sugar, water, and a bit of cornstarch, then rough buzz in the food processor. Love the idea of adding orange juice to the dough.

    In my 1960s school years the Hydrox/Oreo dichotomy was in full swing. I’d eat either. Some friends would not eat if Oreos were being passed around. I finally found out why in my senior year: Hydrox were Kosher.

    Reply
  4. Wes

    My all time favorite cookie. I have a standing order for a box of 12 packages of Crawford’s Garibaldi Cookies every month from Amazon. It is the UK version of the Sunshine Raisin Fruit biscuit. Definitely not as sweet as Sunshine, and a bit dryer, it is the best I have been able to come up with since Sunshine disappeared. Looking at these, well, they might taste the same, but they sure don’t look right. And all that sugar! Ugh, no, no, no, there was no sugar on the Sunshine. I’ll try the recipe, and use Splenda instead of the confectioners sugar. Thanks for the recipe….

    Reply
  5. Kaye

    I now live in the USA and really miss old fashioned English biscuits. We still have these in the UK we call them Garibaldi biscuits and every supermarket has their own brand. They are the ultimate low fat treat back home. If you are there grab some for me! Or rather buy online. But I think I will make some of my own.

    Reply
  6. Ken K

    Great article. Nabisco had a copycat cookie called Sultanas back in the 50’s, but Sunshine was better…just like Hydrox was better that Oreo. Also gone are the Mallowpuffs…pink or white marshmallow, topped with coconut, on a soft graham cookie base. Nabisco also had a copycat cookie called Fancy Crests. Alas the 50’s were the height of cookie joy. Glad I experienced it! Ken in CA…Brooklyn native however.

    Reply
  7. Bobbie Yarborough

    When I was about 6 or 7 , (born in 76) my Mom Had a favorite cookie she ate constantly. It was an oatmeal raisin iced cookie & shaped like a peanut. It had white icing covering the entire bottom & white thin iced lines over the top. It was soft. I aware it was made by Keebler or Nabisco. It was a well known cookie maker in the grocery stores & in one of those noisy, clear plastic trays with a clear wrapper. I have searched & searched the internet & shockingly enough-i can’t find a thing on them. Those cookies & Planters Cheez Balls in a canister were the only thing I ever remember my Mom eating when I was a child.

    Reply
    1. MaryJane Robbins

      Hi Bobbie,
      I can *almost* picture something like that in my mind from the same time period. I would highly recommend getting in touch with Phaedrus over at http://www.hungrybrowser.com. He’s excellent about finding “lost” recipes and past favorites. He might not be able to find a copycat recipe, but at least he may be able to help with the name of the cookie etc. Good luck! ~MJ

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