Home‎ > ‎Current Issue 2012‎ > ‎Table of Contents‎ > ‎Culinary Arts‎ > ‎

The Biscotti, Not for Dunking in Your Latte

Margherita de Ferrara

(Gina M. Bruce)
Biscotti serving
"Biscotti" is the only traditional name, which in the Italian language is the plural form of biscotto (Please note that in Italian, the singular of biscotti is un biscotto). Having been "twice-cooked/baked" these often tasty biscuits could be stored for long periods of time. Pliny the Elder boasted that such goods would be edible for centuries. Such nonperishable food was particularly useful during journeys and wars, and twice baked breads were a staple food of the Roman Legions.

Early Seaman’s biscuits, also known as hard tack, were also among the first version of biscotti. They were the perfect food for sailors who were at sea for months at a time on long ocean voyages. The biscuits were thoroughly baked to draw out the moisture, becoming a cracker-like food that that was resistant to mold. Biscotti were a favorite of Christopher Columbus who relied on them on his long sea voyage in the 15th century. Historians believe that the first Italian biscotti were first baked in 13th century Tuscany in the in a city called Prato. [2]

During Columbus's time they were served with Vin Santo ("Holy Wine"), a concentrated wine made from late-harvested grapes. They became so popular that every province developed their own flavored version.  Because of their long storage ability they were an ideal food for sailors, soldiers, and fisherman.

Picture of Biscotti
Biscotti plated
Most European countries have adopted their own version of biscotti: English - rusks, French - biscotte and croquets de carcassonne, Germans - zwieback, Greeks - biskota and paxemadia, Jewish - mandelbrot, and Russians - sukhariki.

In North America, the word "biscotti" is used to describe a long, dry, hard, twice-baked cookie with a curved top and flat bottom designed for dunking into wine or coffee.


[1] The Origin Of Biscotti. The Nibble, May 2006.

[2] http://whatscookingamerica.net/Glossary/B.htm

[3] http://joyofbaking.com/biscotti/Biscotti.html

Coffee and Biscotti

Italian pastryIn modern Italy they still enjoy a biscotto after a meal by dipping them in Vin Santo. Also as an aside note for modern times, 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).

How They Are Made? The dough is rolled into logs and baked once. They are then sliced on a diagonal while still warm and baked a second time to make them firm and crunchy.

What They Are Made With? From the traditional anise/almond Biscotti to decadent new varieties like chocolate and cherry vanilla; Biscotti are made with the finest and freshest ingredients. And, although butter, sugar, eggs, almonds and flour are the base, Biscotti are gaining popularity for being a light, satisfying and relatively low in fat and calorie snack.

Biscotti Recipes

Below you will find a recipe for aniseed flavored biscotti which were most likely among the original biscotti made for the warriors and sailors of Rome.  However, I despise the taste of aniseed and therefore chose not to make these.  I did make a Savory Biscotti with goat cheese and herbs de Provence and another Rosemary-Parmesan Biscotti made with rosemary, parmesan cheese and walnuts.  All these ingredients would be available in Italy and Greece during the Medieval and Renaissance periods. 

I used unbleached flower and the freshest ingredient I could find, some from my own garden.  In the attempt to make my own goat cheese I failed miserably, however I have made my own butter since I was child.  I always had fun making butter.  I did grate the parmesan cheese even though it was purchase as where other ingredients such as eggs, baking powder and such.

  • Aniseed Flavored Biscotti
  • 5 eggs (organic free range, size large) 
  • 12 oz sugar (pure cane) 
  • 12 oz all-purpose flour (stone ground organic white) 
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed (Pimpinella anisum) ground finely
  • pinch salt


The oven was preheated to 360°F and a 9 x 13” non-stick pan was greased with butter. Eggs were beaten and strained to remove membranes. Sugar, flour and anise seed was added to the mixture which was beaten with a wooden spoon for ten minutes. After this time no air had been incorporated into the batter, and it was transferred to a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and beat at medium speed for 5 minutes. The batter was then allowed to rest for thirty minutes. Following resting the biscotti batter was re-beaten for five minutes. This was then poured into the greased pan and leveled by gently tapping the pan on the counter. The biscotti were cooked for thirty-five minutes, until the batter came away from the side of the pan and the center was springy and dry to the touch.

The cake was turned onto a cutting board; the edges and bottom were then trimmed with a sharp knife. This trimming, while not requested in the original recipe was performed as the bottom and sides of the biscotti were very dark, almost black. As we are given instructions to stop the biscotti from browning in other recipes it was assumed that they should be as pale as possible. Thus the dark cooked edges were removed to improve aesthetic appearance. The cake was then cut down the middle, resulting in two 4.5” wide pieces; these pieces were then sliced thinly to yield the biscotti.  Biscotti were arranged on baking sheets lined with cooking parchment and returned to the oven that had been reduced in temperature to 210°F. Every 15 minutes the biscotti were removed from the oven and turned over, the biscotti were cooked for 90 minutes. After which time the biscotti were moved to a rack, the oven was turned off and the biscotti were returned to the oven overnight to complete drying.

Rosemary-Parmesan Biscotti

Rosemary Biscotti
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Olive oil spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, Parmesan, pepper, rosemary and walnuts. Whisk together 4 of the eggs and the water. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Stir to combine.

Lightly flour your hands and a work surface; turn out the dough and knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a 2 1/2-inch-thick log. Spray a baking sheet with the olive oil and place the dough logs on it. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it over the dough. Bake for 35 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes and then cut the biscotti on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place on the baking sheet cut side down, using 2 pans if necessary. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until browned, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

Savory Biscotti

  • Savory Biscotti
    2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons herbs de Provence
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten, at room temperature

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, herbs de Provence, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and goat cheese together until smooth. Beat in the sugar and eggs. In batches, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. With damp hands, form the dough into a 13-inch-long, 3 1/2-inch-wide loaf. Bake until light golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Transfer the loaf to a cutting board. Use a serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.


All Biscotti
The Roman soldiers and sailors of the period would have taken food that would last lengthy periods of time or foraged and cooked what they found along the way. I had planned to make a soup or stew to go with the Rosemary and Parmesan Biscotti as they are less flavorful and more like a biscuit to be eaten with something, however logistics over came me and I could not come up with a way to keep the soup warm and time over came me being unable to make a soup in time for the competition. 
Not wishing to be rushed to produce a worthy soup or serve a soup cold when it should be warm I decided to present those foods that would be ‘dinned’ on while on the go.  Here you see hard salamis and cheeses along with some grapes which I’m sure would be found many places in Italy.  I also have olives to present on the day of competition which were also common in Italy and Greece.

Entered in Kingdom competition, October 2011