Origin and Italian usage
The word "biscotti" in Italian is the plural form of biscotto, which applies to any type of biscuit, and originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning "twice-baked": it defined biscuits baked twice in the oven, so they could be stored for long periods of time, which was particularly useful during journeys and wars. Through Middle French, the word was imported into the English language as "biscuit".
 North American usage
In North America, the Italian term "biscotti" has been taken to refer to a specific type of biscuits, derived from Tuscan cantucci, a type of hard almond-flavoured biscuits traditionally served with vin santo, probably originating from the town of Prato and therefore still known as "biscotti of Prato".
American biscotti are indeed crisp cookies often containing nuts or flavored with anise. Traditionally, biscotti are made by baking cookie dough in two long slabs, cutting these into slices, and reheating them to dry them out. A basic recipe is a mix two parts flour with one part sugar with enough eggs to create a stiff batter. To the mixture baking powder and flavorings such as anise, chocolate, or nuts are added. The slabs are baked once for about twenty-five minutes. They are then cut up into individual cookies and baked again for a shorter period. The longer this second baking is, the harder the cookies will be. In contrast to the Italian version paired with wine, American biscotti more frequently accompany Italian-style coffee- and espresso-based beverages, including cappuccinos and lattes.
Recipe: Almond and apricot biscotti
Dietitian's tip: This twice-baked cookie is a classic with coffee or tea. The whole-wheat and nuts are good sources of manganese (a mineral that helps bone formation) and selenium (an antioxidant important for thyroid hormone function).
MAKES 24 COOKIES
3/4 cup whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, brown sugar and baking powder. Whisk to blend. Add the eggs, milk, canola oil, honey and almond extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough just begins to come together. Add the chopped apricots and almonds. With floured hands, mix until the dough is well blended.
Place the dough on a long sheet of plastic wrap and shape by hand into a flattened log 12 inches long, 3 inches wide and about 1 inch high. Lift the plastic wrap to invert the dough onto a nonstick baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to another baking sheet to cool for 10 minutes. Leave the oven set at 350 F.
Place the cooled log on a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut crosswise on the diagonal into 24 slices 1/2-inch wide. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Return to the oven and bake until crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Nutritional Analysis(per serving)
* 2/3 cup walnut
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 2 cups whole wheat flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon clove
* 1/4 teaspoon allspice
* 3/4 cup chopped dates or dried apricot or dried fruit
1. Place nuts in a shallow pan and bake 325 degree oven 8 to 10 minutes, let cool.
2. Cream butter and sugar;Add eggs and vanilla.
3. In bowl combine flour,baking powder,salt and spices;Add to creamed mixture,mix well.
4. Add chopped nuts and fold in fruit.
5. Make into loaves 1/2 inch high and 2 inches wide.
6. Bake in 325 degree oven,25 minutes or light brown.
7. Cool 5 minutes,with a serrated knife slice diagonally at 45 degree angle about 1/2 inch thick.
8. Lay slices on side, bake 10 minutes or longer to dry slightly; Let cool on rack.
9. Store in a tightly covered container.
© Debby Segura
I love mandelbrot. The problem with mandelbrot, Yiddish for "almond bread," is that I can't dip it into my morning coffee or tea without turning it to mush. Even though it's been baked twice, it's still just too tender and full of butter to hold up to that kind of treatment.
About ten years ago, I noticed a new type of mandelbrot making the rounds...Biscotti! Early Biscotti were really just long slices of chocolate chip mandelbrot with an Italian name, meaning "twice cooked." About five years ago, I began collecting, trying and adapting Biscotti recipes. I was out to create a whole painter's palate of sturdier, healthier, more gorgeous Biscotti.
Over the decade, the most noticeable trend in these recipes was a steady decrease in fat content. I immediately incorporated that change. Going from one stick of butter to one or two tablespoons of my choice of oil, i.e. Canola oil, per four dozen Biscotti, was definitely a move in my direction. Every once in a while, I ran into a recipe that asked for baking soda instead of baking powder, but baking soda tasted so industrial to me that I substituted baking powder for it every time and never looked back.
2 3/4 cups of flour is the standard requirement for a batch of four dozen biscotti. Soon, I came to realize that even that requirement could be bent. Treading cautiously, I first replaced the last 3/4-cup of flour with whole-wheat flour. That was a little too heavy, even for the brown rice and granola crowd. Then, I replaced the whole-wheat flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour. Better. Better yet, I then added dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and yes, some granola, and created a natural, toothsome beauty.
Next, for something a little more Italian-ish, I thought I might risk a polenta biscotti. I substituted polenta for that same 3/4 cup of flour, but this biscotti was just too hard. The next time, I substituted cornmeal for polenta, substituted 1/4 cup honey for one of the eggs, took out some sugar, added pine nuts and raisins and, for a finishing touch, sprinkled European- style raw sugar on top. As I watched the last five minutes of baking from my oven window, the golden hue of the cornmeal bronzed over with a gloss of caramelized sugar. Dipping my biscotti into my latte I mused, "Breakfast in Tuscany."
Looking back, I think "Breakfast in Tuscany" was the breakthrough. After all, if the flour type was negotiable, if sweeteners could be substituted for an egg here and there and if I could keep the various chewy elements to a modest cup to cup and a half per batch, the possibilities were endless.
1 large egg white
Biscotti variations take place in step 3 of this recipe. Mix the crunchy ingredients into the dough by hand until they are evenly distributed. Be careful not to over- mix, as this can break up the nuts, smear the color of the fruits into the dough or melt the chocolate. Lots of the variations feature fun toppings that are well worth the trouble. Once you get going with this basic recipe, any dessert concept you find may become your next biscotti.