When most people mention biscotti, they actually mean a specific type of Italian cookie called ‘cantuccini’. Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, round, square and otherwise as the British use the word biscuit. Here in North America, biscotti refers to a specific type of Italian cookie, derived from the ‘Tuscan cantuccini‘, which is a hard, almond flavored cookie that is baked twice and usually served with the sweet Italian dessert wine, Vino Santo. This wine is loved for its intense flavors of hazelnut and caramel. When paired with biscotti, Vino Santo is inarguably Italy’s most famous welcoming tradition. What makes this wine truly special is the natural winemaking process which gives it a unique taste.
The word biscotti derives from ‘bis’, Latin for twice, and ‘coctum’ or baked (which became ‘cotto’, or cooked).
The original biscotti was created by a bakery in Prato, Italy. Cantuccini became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato then spread throughout the Italian peninsula. Tuscan biscotti are flavored with almonds from the plentiful almond groves of Prato. From the original recipe it expanded to lemon flavored dough as well as other flavors and spices with additions such as raisins, dried fruits and peels to chocolate morsels and nuts.
Biscotti have been baked for centuries and its iconic texture was the perfect for for sailors who were at sea for months. In modern times, biscotti range in texture from very hard to somewhat spongy and more cake-like. First, the sticky dough is shaped into a log and baked until firm. After a short cooling period, the log is sliced into diagonal pieces and baked again to cook out the moisture and produce the crisp, dry-textured cookie with a longer shelf life. The classic recipe has no butter or oil, using only eggs to bind the ingredients together. They are typically made in a 3, 5 or 7-inch size.
I have to be honest, biscotti has never been one of my ‘go-to’ cookie recipes. But, for something quick and easy, I decided to make a small recipe using two of my favorite ingredients …. anise seed & citron peel. Brion & I tried dipping them in wine and we realized we have been missing out on something real good!!