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"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: http://www.nickmalgieri.com/recipes/c...

        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.

              2. Well, I made some last night and it ended up being a bit more labor intensive than I had wanted, so I don't know if I'll make another kind this weekend. I used a recipe from The Good Cookie which had olive oil in it- I don't know whether that's traditional or not? Some of them have the right crispness and others don't... I think maybe one of my logs was thicker than the others and didn't get baked long enough the first time around. They still taste good! Here's the recipe I used: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/1... I'm planning on putting them by people's plates on Sat. for a birthday party- kind of a rustic theme with chicken pot pie!

                4 Replies
                1. re: Katie Nell

                  What took time for you? If I had a stand mixer, I'd make them more often but it's hard with a hand mixer (at least the recipe I like). I think you're right that the difference in crispness is in the size. I love biscotti because they're pretty fail-proof and they last longer than most cookies. The recipe I have bake a lot longer than the one of the cbsnews page. BTW, that chocolate toffee brownie bites recipe below looks so good.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Heh, heh, they are good... I made those at Christmas! http://www.chowhound.com/topics/34747... Still haven't figured out the sticking problem though that I talked about further downthread- guess I just have to have my mom take them out!

                    In regards to the biscotti, I don't know... I don't know that it really took that long, but as I'm wont to do, I started them at 9:30 last night and I got tired before I got done baking! (If only you knew how often I do this!) The praline was a bit of a pain to chop- I think that's what I mostly tired of. I may have let it sit too long, but I'm not sure. I definitely think they could have baked longer after eating a couple for lunch today.

                    1. re: Katie Nell

                      I don't know how I could have missed that but maybe the thread got too long and took too much time back then to load. Nice pictures of your cookies and all! Good hints on the brownie bites, too. I picked up (impulse shopping) Trader Joe's baking spray, just oil and flour and might use that to see if it helps w/ the sticking, plus my mini muffin tins are non stick. If not, I'll scrape them out and make a brownie truffle... Thanks! Personally, I like biscotti best after the first baking but always do the second because it works better w/ coffee that way.

                  2. re: Katie Nell

                    A great trick is to shape the logs and freeze them wraped in plastic wrap and foil and bake when you are ready, I find this really cuts down on the time and the unbaked logs freeze just great!

                  3. Well I made biscotti with Mary Ann Esposito this weekend at King Arthur in Vermont.

                    We made black and white. She did not mention the difference. However, the chocolate side was dryer than the non chocolate side.

                    Actually this is the second time I have made biscotti there with her, she has never talked of a difference.

                    I do find biscotti to be dry and hard, but I also notice that the homemade have a bit of give so to speak.

                    I have bought Nonni's brand when I wasn't in the mood to bake, and do find them much dryer and therefore crunchier.

                    1. Although butter/fat must surely have something to do with it, I myself find that the amount of cooking time is the major determinant. (Simple, huh?) In fact, I recently had occasion to simultaneously bake an Italian biscotti recipe (no butter or oil, just eggs) and a Jewish-style mandelbrot recipe (fair amount of oil, not butter). Both are quite similar after first baking, though mandelbrot tend to be a little crumblier when slicing. But this time I happened to get distracted and leave the mandelbrot a few extra minutes for their second toasting, and they were indeed "formidably crunchy", while the biscotti still had a bit of give when bitten. I find that I can get either recipe into a softish or rock-hard state just depending on how long I do the second toasting. (I tend to prefer rock hard... er, formidably crunchy.)

                      The "pistachio and cranberry biscotti" recipe on epicurious is a great and easy example of the no oil kind, and if you don't toast it for long, it will stay nicely tender. Be sure to store them for at least a day or two to season before eating, or the flavor will be kind of bland.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: another_adam

                        I agree, and I lean on the bake a little longer side. Sometimes I just turn off the oven when they are nearly done and leave them to dry more overnight...

                      2. I was very surprised with the results when I made several of the biscotti recipes from Dorie Greenspan's home baking book (which I would classify as American-style), but I think it may just be that they're far richer and softer, with much more butter in the recipe, than Italian-style biscotti recipes. I personally prefer the Italian-style.

                        1. let's just say the things sold as "biscotti" in individual plastic packages are American-style. it should be easy enough to find an italian-style recipe. i would give you mine, but i don't know you :0
                          no, seriously, just do a search.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: fara

                            ok, i feel bad that you are about to put orange and chocolate into something called "biscotti." here is my grandmother's recipe:

                            4 eggs
                            1 cup sug
                            ¾ cups oil
                            2tsp baking powder
                            3 cups flour
                            2 tsps almond extract
                            slivetred almonds

                            beat eggs and sugar. slowly add oil. add baking poweder with fluour and vanilla
                            mix well. add nuts

                            greease the cookie pan, shape it into 3 long loaves

                            bake at 375, then 350 until brown.

                            take out and slice after ~5 min.

                            bake again until brown at 425 15-20 min.,

                            OR can make shape cookies with this dough.

                            1. re: fara

                              fara, why no orange or chocolate? I', not sure sure which post you were posting to.

                              However, there are so many flavored biscotti out there, are you saying authentic is what you posted? Not being sarcastic, just trying to learn the right thing.

                              As I mentioned in my previous post, I was at a class with Mary Ann Esposito, and we made them. and no mention of there being only one recipe.

                              1. re: hummingbird

                                hmmm. i believe the original post was "american style" vs. italian style "biscotti." there are lots of italian cookies, but we're referring to what is commonly known as biscotti,which is not covered in chocolate but may be flavored with liquer or nuts.
                                WHTH is Mary Ann Esposito?

                                1. re: fara

                                  WHTH =what?

                                  Anyhow, she is an Italian cook on PBS. I thoght biscotti, actually meant twice baked cookie. Also, each region has their own version.

                                  Since you are an expert, please clarify.

                          2. Katie, I'm sure you did a search but there was a decent debate before christmas about eggs/butter in biscotti. It threw up some interesting points - and a delicious gingerbread biscotti recipe (with molasses and pecans). I did a mass trial as I was giving them to people for christmas - gingerbread, white chocolate/cranberry, macadamia/lemon, orange/dark chocolate, plain almond, etc etc etc I found that trial and error on the mix and first and second cooking times and temperatures had a huge effect. The more butter/oil, the cakier the biscuit, the less the 'harder' the biscuit but drying (2nd cook) had a big effect too. The orange/dark chocolate ones seemed to be well liked and that mix was a halfway house between one in Julia's how to bake (or whatever it is called) and a recipe in a fairly random biscuit book.