TOP PHOTO: Look for Guittard white
chocolate chips in your supermarket. Photo
courtesy Lake Champlain Chocolate. BOTTOM
PHOTO: You can buy chunks of Callebaut
white chocolate at KingArthurFlour.com.
THE HISTORY OF BISCOTTI
Created as a convenient non-perishable food for travelers and a staple of the diet of the Roman Legions, today’s biscotti are a classic dessert in Tuscany, accompanied by an amber-hued glass of vin santo*, a dessert wine. Americans enjoy them with a cappuccino or other coffee drink.
Originally flavored with almonds (amaretti), then with anisette, biscotti are now made in dozens of flavors. Here’s Mario Batali’s favorite recipe for the classic amaretto and anisette biscotti.
The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked, in Italian).
In Roman times, unleavened, finger-shaped wafers were baked first to cook them, then a second time to completely dry them out, making them durable for travel and nourishment on long journeys. Pliny boasted that they would be edible for centuries.
The record does not indicate that biscotti survived the sack of the Roman Empire. But they re-emerged in Tuscany during the Renaissance, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with vin santo. Their dry, crunchy texture was deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the wine.
Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into vin santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or to while away an hour at a café. Biscotti and coffee are also a match made in Heaven.
Italians call biscotti cantucci, and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie—round, square and otherwise (as the British use the word “biscuit”). In North America, we use “biscotti” as the ancient Romans did, to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie (in other words, cantucci).
Here’s a longer history of biscotti.