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Apr 5, 2007 10:39 AM

"Italian-style" Biscotti vs. "American-style" Biscotti?

I had never really heard of distinguishing two different kinds of biscotti, until I picked up King Arthur Flour Co.'s magazine the other day. Is there such a difference, or is that just a King Arthur term? They say the American-style are "more tender and crunchy" than "rock hard" like the Italian-style. I wouldn't really describe any of the biscotti that I've had as "rock hard", but I haven't had a ton either. Either way, it's not a very appealing way to describe it. They also say that the American-style has more fat and more leavening. I know my mom and I followed a biscotti recipe one time and it ended up more like a crispy/ chewy cookie, but I don't know how authentic the recipe was. But, is this what they are talking about when they say American-style? I really need to do a side by side comparison! Has anyone made both kinds and can speak to the differences between the two? (The picture of the American-style on their website looks much like any other biscotti I've had.)

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  1. My wife bakes biscotti the way her mother did. She makes rectangular pieces of dough shaped by hand and about 3/4" to an inch high. The pieces of dough are baked, allow to cool a bit, sliced on a diagonal, laid on one cut side on the same cookie sheet as 1st baked, then placed in the oven for toasting.

    The dough for the 'slices' (as my late mother-in-law called them) contained almonds and are flavored with a little anise oil. I describe the consistancy of the biscotti as crisp, but not tender or rock hard.

    1. Cooks Illustrated also makes that distinction (I have Baking Illustrated -- well worth getting if you bake at all). I think Italian style are crispier and American style are hard but with a bit more chew - like you'd gnaw on American style more. I don't know how to describe it. ...

      1. Have you heard of cantuccini? An excerpt from Baking with Julia (courtesy Nick Malgieri):

        "All italian cookies are called biscotti, but these are what we think of as classic biscotti. Twice-baked cookies, they are first baked in a log shape, then sliced and baked again until they're dry and very crunchy. (Because they contain no butter or other fat, except that contained in the eggs, they can bake to a formidable state of crunchiness.) The techniques used to make these can't-stop-eating-them biscotti are, like the cookies themselves, classic; you'll find them somewhat from those used for [other recipes].

        Recipe for cantuccini:

        Doesn't "formidable state of crunchiness" sound better than "rock hard?"

        Hope this helps.

        2 Replies
        1. re: marthadumptruck

          Definitely- I like it- "formidable state of crunchiness"! :-) I think I am going to try a taste off between the two if I have time this weekend!

          1. re: marthadumptruck

            This is what I've heard--that traditional biscotti are made with eggs rather than butter or oil. I've made both the butter and egg versions, and notice that the flavors tend to be more intense in the egg dough biscotti, which I like. I've never found them to be rock hard, but I can't bite into them with my incisors without dunking first! (Maybe that's pretty hard for most folks--I love crunchy.)

          2. My former secretary's family were biscotti bakers (commenrcial), and insisted on using baking ammonia (?). It was a classic biscotti, which is definitely hard, and not chewey. A lot of modern American bakers make biscotti that tastes just like pound cake dried overnight in a slow oven. A true biscotti is like hardtack, requires dipping to really appreciate. They will, however, keep a very long time without molding. Please...please...don't ruin them by covering with chocolate.

            1. I think that American biscotti tend to have butter or more butter, making them more tender and cookielike, whereas it's my impression that traditional Italian biscotti have little or no butter and end up drier and crisper.

              1 Reply
              1. re: babette feasts

                I agree with your diagnosis. American biscotti _can_ be dunked - Italian ones _have_ to be.