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The Commonplace Origins Of Biscotti
By Carly Weaver
Biscotti comes in various flavors mixed with all kinds of goodies and sometimes drizzled with various glazes. In Italy, biscotti means cookie, but in America, biscotti is a specific type of Italian cookie that Tuscan Italians call cantucci — no matter the name, the twice-baked, not-too-sweet treat has humble beginnings as a convenient, long-lasting food that dates back centuries.
The birth of biscotti traces back to Rome as a practical, travel-friendly form of sustenance for Roman legions. As they were twice-baked and lasted a long time before spoiling, biscotti became the perfect snack to pack along for a seemingly endless voyage.
When biscotti reappeared in Tuscany after the fall of the Roman Empire, a baker in Prato decided that the dry, crispy texture was ideal for soaking up sweet wine. It's here in Prato, a city abundant with almond groves, where local biscotti were flavored with almonds by local bakers — the classic flavor we associate with them today.
As biscotti began to spread throughout Italy, it took on different regional variations; for example, southern regions added in lemon zest, and in the Piedmont region, hazelnuts were used instead of almonds. The cookie continued to work its way through Europe, and in the 1990s, America started serving it at Italian restaurants and trendy coffee shops as a go-to gourmet cookie.