Dipped, dunked, or dry, the biscotti is a timeless cookie known to pair perfectly with a timeless drink. It is the sweet and sophisticated treat that Italians have hailed as a go-to snack for decades. Of course, the Italians weren’t able to keep their precious delicacy a secret from the rest of the world, so let’s get to know more about this sweet treat as we highlight the origin, how it became a dunking delicacy and the many flavors of biscotti.
1. The History of Biscotti – Biscotti comes from the Latin word biscoctus, which means twice-baked. While Italians use biscotti as an umbrella term, of sorts, to designate many different varietals of cookies, Americans use it as the name for this delicious long, crisp, twice-baked Italian cookie. The history of this long, crusty cookie is impressive dating all the way back to the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire – The original biscotti was Roman and designed more for convenience than as a leisurely treat. Travelers used this cookie as a long-lasting source of nourishment during long journeys. Biscotti was baked first to simply cook the ingredients and then a second time to dry them out completely, making them more durable and less-perishable for the long journey. The Roman Empire, as history tells us, fell in 455 C.E., and the popularity of the biscotti waned temporarily.
The Renaissance – Many years later, during the period known as the Renaissance, the treat re-emerged in Tuscany. As Italian lore would have it, a Tuscan baker brought them back to the community as he enjoyed serving them with the local sweet wine. Though the popular biscotti traces its roots to ancient Roman times, today’s are associated with the Tuscan region of Italy.
Tuscan Biscotti – In Tuscany, biscotti was referred to as Cantucci Di Prato. They began to be a treat, no longer the utility cracker that they once were for the Romans and were flavored with almonds from the almond groves in nearby Prato. If visiting Tuscany today, you’re sure to find cantucci in every pasticceria in Tuscany.
Coming to America – Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing the biscotti to America, as he needed a food source that had a long shelf-life during the long sail to American shores. American bakers put their own spin on the cookie, adding dried fruits and extract flavorings to add sweetness and flavor. As with most Italian foods, the American population embraced the biscotti, making it a pairing for wines, coffees and even a popular base for cheesecake crusts.
2. To Dunk or Not to Dunk – Now that we know the backstory, let’s quickly move on to the pressing question that has stood the test of time. To dunk or not to dunk? Is there really a question? Of course, we dunk! The real question is, what is your dunking liquid of preference? The dry, crunchy texture of the biscotti is perfect for dunking.
The Coffee Dunk – Some love to dunk it in their cappuccino or Americano coffee to let it soak up the warm caffeinated goodness for a perfect combination. The hardness of the biscotti is perfect for absorbing the heated liquid of your coffee and combining the bitter beans with the sweetness of your dessert (or breakfast) as the case may be.
The Vino Dunk – Purists would say the only liquid to dip your biscotti in is wine. As they do in Tuscany, you can dip your biscotti into rich red wines, especially those on the sweeter side. Marsala wine and Vin Santo are the wines of choices for dipping. Most connoisseurs on either side of the pond agree that dipping biscotti into a sweet Italian wine is the perfect end to a hearty Italian meal.
The Milk Dunk – Of course, there are those among us who love to dip cookies into milk, either warm or cold. Biscotti purists might scoff at this type of dunking, but if the dunk fits, we say go for it! Milk and cookies are also a match made in heaven.
3. The Many Flavors of Biscotti – While originally a practical cookie made for travel with little attention to flavorings and taste buds, it has certainly evolved into much more over the years with creative flavors and ingredients. It’s encouraged to find your favorite and then retry all the others just to be sure.
Flavors abound for these crusty beauties, including:
4. Creative Ideas for Serving Biscotti – Whiling away an afternoon at a café, serving a creative snack at a holiday gathering or ending the perfect meal with something sweet for the palate – all ways to enjoy biscotti. Let’s explore some of the other creative ways you can add this crunchy cookie to your culinary goals.
Flora Fine Foods is dedicated to bringing the authenticity of Italy to our customers through traditional, pure and high-quality ingredients that can transport you to old world. Flora Fine Foods has a complete line of imported and authentic Italian foods and, of course, we are your source for the best biscotti this side of Tuscany. Whether you plan to enjoy with friends or alone, dip in wine or coffee, add to a recipe or enjoy the traditional way, biscotti is a natural choice when you want something sweet, sophisticated and beautifully-Italian.