biscotti is a general term used to refer to many types of cookies, but in the States, we use this word for a specific type of hard cookie that is eaten with, or dipped into coffee. The word itself means "twice-baked," and biscotti have a long history in Italy. The city of Prato has the first documented recipe for biscotti, discovered in the 1800's, and Prato is usually credited as being the locale where biscotti originated. However, others say that a form of these cookies originated during Roman times: because they are very dry, biscotti can be stored for long periods of time and thus became an ideal food for soldiers, farmers and sailors, who were often on long journeys away from home. Regardless of where they originated, there are now many regional variations of biscotti in Italy.
I am making biscotti for the first time this week. I bought several packages of them at the store last week, and thought they would make an interesting gift. However, the flavor was so poor that I decided to try making them myself. Making biscotti has turned out to be much simpler than I had imagined, and the results are not only tasty, but it's very satisfying to be able to make my own gifts. I've now made enough for several gift baskets, and my son has asked me to make a batch to share with his co-workers.
While in Italy, I often bought cantuccini, a small almond biscotti that is usually served with Vin Santo, a sweet dessert wine. However, many kinds of biscotti go well with Vin Santo, and I was hoping to pair bottles of wine with the biscotti in my Christmas gift baskets. Unfortunately, I've run into some road blocks, as Vin Santo is not readily available here.
After calling around to many liquor stores in my town, I tracked down only two bottles of the wine, and each one cost more than $55! YIKES! In Italy, I could easily get a bottle of Vin Santo for less than 10 euros. They even stocked it at the mini-market near my apartment. I can order it online from New York, for about $20 per bottle, but I won't have time to do that for the baskets I'm delivering this week. Instead, I will add packets of coffee and hot chocolate to complement the biscotti in my gift baskets.
Now that I've had good luck with a few batches of biscotti, I'm eager to try more recipes, which are plentiful on the internet.