Exploring Biscotti: History and Recipes for the Italian Cookie

Updated on August 3, 2017
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes... one ingredient at a time.

Biscotti
Biscotti | Source

What in the World is "Biscotti"?

In Italian, the word "biscotto" means "one biscuit" or "cookie." Thus biscotti is the plural—two or more cookies.

But wait, there’s more.

Biscotti also refers to the original method of baking. "Bis" and "cotto" literally mean "twice" and "baked."

A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.

— Anon.

A Brief History Lesson

Historians tell us that the Romans discovered that bread baked twice (think of it as the first crouton), would keep well during long journeys (and the occasional war). In time the practice was used by soldiers, sailors, and fishermen during the Renaissance.

Somehow the concept of twice-baking bread was used with cookies, and biscotti were born.

The first documented recipe for biscotti (Biscotti of Genoa) is a centuries-old manuscript discovered by 18th century scholar Amadio Baldanzi. (The manuscript is preserved in a museum in the town of Prato).

More Famous Than Amos

Prato is home to the historic bakery “Mattei”, founded in 1858. The owner, Antonio Mattei, developed the recipe that is considered the original biscotti recipe. His friend was Pellegrino Artusi, an author who included some of Mattei’s recipes in the book Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (1891). The publication is still available today.

A marker20 Via Ricasoli, Prato -
Via Bettino Ricasoli, 20, 59100 Prato PO, Italy
get directions

Here's a Recipe for Biscotti Just Like Antonio's

Traditional Tuscan Almond Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup blanched (this means that the skins are removed) whole almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet; toast almonds for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Let cool and then chop coarsely. Set aside.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs until thick, about 5 minutes.(The mixture will be a pale yellow color and will fall from the beaters in ribbons.)
  4. Beat in the almond extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add to the egg batter and mix until combined. Fold in the chopped almonds.
  6. Form dough into a log, about 12 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide on a lightly-greased baking sheet.Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the log is firm.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  9. Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut into 3/4 inch diagonal slices.Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.


Don't Break a Tooth

Since biscotti are hard cookies, they are typically dipped in coffee (which is why they are popular in Starbucks), milk, or sweet dessert wines such as Marsala or Vin Santo.

But Anything Other Than Vin Santo Is Considered a Sin

I wonder if Starbucks knows how many "Italian Rules of Proper Behavior" they are breaking?

  • Coffee is considered a digestivo. One never eats after drinking coffee.
  • Cappuccino is never ordered after 10 a.m.
  • Crumbs (or any type of food) should NEVER sully a perfect cup of coffee.
  • Biscotti must be dunked in Vin Santo.

Enough Biscotti to Circle the Globe?

I did a Google search for biscotti recipes and instantly got 786,000 hits.Let's see, if each biscotti is about 6 inches in length, that's 393,000 inches, or 32,750 feet. Not quite around the globe, but 6 miles of biscotti is still quite a number, don't you think?

I won't give you 786,000 recipes, but here are a few from my recipe box that you might enjoy:

Recipes

Holiday biscotti
Holiday biscotti

Holiday Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon whole aniseed
  • 1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 3/4 cup shelled natural unsalted pistachios
  • 6 ounces imported white chocolate, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Sift first 3 ingredients into medium bowl.
  3. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl to blend well. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in lemon peel, vanilla, and aniseed. Beat in flour mixture just until blended. Stir in cranberries and pistachios (dough will be sticky).
  4. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Gather dough together; divide in half. Roll each half into 15-inch-long log (about 1 1/4 inches wide). Carefully transfer logs to 1 prepared baking sheet, spacing 3 inches apart.
  5. Bake logs until almost firm to touch but still pale, about 35 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully transfer logs still on parchment to cutting board. Using chef’s knife and cut logs crosswise into generous 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place slices, bottom side down, on remaining 2 prepared sheets. Bake until firm and pale golden, about 11 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool.
  7. Line another baking sheet with waxed paper. Stir white chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water just until smooth. Remove from over water. Dip 1 end of each cookie into melted chocolate, tilting pan if necessary; shake off excess chocolate. Place cookies on prepared sheet. Chill until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight between sheets of waxed paper at room temperature.)

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

Gingered biscotti
Gingered biscotti

Gingered White Chocolate Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) bar premium white chocolate, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg white
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the vanilla and next 2 ingredients, and add to the flour mixture, stirring until well-blended (dough will be dry).
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead lightly 7 or 8 times. Shape dough into a 16-inch-long roll. Place roll on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and flatten roll to 1-inch thickness.
  3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove roll from baking sheet to a wire rack, and let cool 10 minutes.
  4. Cut roll diagonally into 24 (1/2-inch) slices, and place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°, and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet, and let cool completely on wire rack. Yield: 2 dozen

White chocolate coffee biscotti
White chocolate coffee biscotti

White Chocolate-Cashew Coffee Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup instant coffee granules
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup dry-roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 ounces premium white chocolate, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, instant coffee granules, cocoa, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground nutmeg; gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in the cashews. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into a 12-inch-long roll. Place rolls on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; pat to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle rolls evenly with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  4. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 21 (1/2-inch) slices. Carefully stand slices upright on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°; bake 20 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on wire rack.
  5. Place chocolate in a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; microwave at high 1 minute or until the chocolate is soft. Knead bag until smooth. Snip a tiny hole in corner of bag; drizzle chocolate over biscotti. Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

Questions & Answers

    © 2015 Linda Lum

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Thank you Rachel. There are so many possibilities for making biscotti--I had to restrain myself. I also love the chocolate biscotti with chocolate chips and a drizzle of dark, milk, and white chocolate.

      • Rachel L Alba profile image

        Rachel L Alba 

        3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

        I also make biscotti. They are one of my favorite cookies. Your pictures look so good I may have to make them again soon. I will try one of your recipes too. Voted up and awesome.

        Blessings to you.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Jackie - Thanks for stopping by. I hope you try one of the recipes. I think you will like them.

      • Jackie Lynnley profile image

        Jackie Lynnley 

        3 years ago from The Beautiful South

        Never heard of twice baked cookies, Very interesting and sound great.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Kristen - thank you for your kind words. As you can tell from the varied recipes (and the fact that there are over 750,000 entries on the WWW), there is probably a biscotto out there that you will enjoy. Please give it a try and let me know what you think.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        3 years ago from Washington State, USA

        Dear Bill - Biscotti can be found in many places other than Starbucks. Look on the top shelf in the cookie aisle of your local grocery store. (Or just sneak into Starbucks and just buy the biscotti without the coffee). Thanks for stopping by.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 years ago from Olympia, WA

        That may be the most comprehensive article on biscotti one will ever find. :) I have to admit I've never had it. I'm not a big fan of Starbucks, so I'll have to find them somewhere else.....I guess I could make them, but something tells me they won't be turning out well. :)

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Carb Diva, you're making me hungry with these recipes. I never had a biscotti before and would you love to try it someday. Voted up for useful!

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