HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

What's the appeal of Biscotti?

Is it that it's low calorie?

Or is it because it pairs well with coffee? I don't drink coffee, so I wouldn't know.

For how expensive these things are, these "cookies" really are not that great tasting-- particularly the plain ones that aren't covered in chocolate.

They remind me of the cookies I made when younger, when I overworked the batter, and the cookies came out cakey and stiff.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. There are so many flavors and so much variety. I think the really crunchy ones are addictive, but nice also dunked in any drink.

    1. If you have only had prepackaged, assembly line biscotti, then there is no appeal.
      Go to Italy and have biscotti. Especially biscotti di Prato. Then come back here and we'll talk.
      Or make your own from a recipe from a well-respected source. They should NOT be "cakey and stiff."

      3 Replies
      1. re: ttoommyy

        What should they be? Assuming they really are twice-baked, I would expect them to crisp/crunchy, and dry.

        1. re: paulj

          yes, they should be crunchy and dry-*ish* -- not Zwieback-type dry, but crisp cookie-ish -- think a rougher-textured sablé

          One of my girlfriends sends us a big box of homemade cranberry-white chocolate biscotti for the holidays. They don't last very long.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Exactly! But not "cakey and stiff" as the OP stated. That just sounds stale, and a good biscotti does not taste stale at all.

      2. Yummmmmm. Dunk a biscotto de Prato in some Vin Santo. Of course, it tastes best in a small trattoria in Florence--and just forget madeleines. I'm 18 again.

        1 Reply
        1. re: roxlet

          Mmmmmm biscotti and Vin Santo - my favorite

          1. re: Cherylptw

            If OP has had low calorie biscotti that might be the problem. I make several kinds as gifts for Christmas morning- lavendar and lemon, pistachio, and cranberry almond. Some are glazed, others dipped, some left plain. All are delicious but none are low-cal.

            1. re: Cherylptw

              This was my first thought, when did biscotti become low calorie?

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                Agree they have never been low calorie, but they can be relatively low fat. Of course, nuts add fat and IMO plenty of hazelnuts are key to good biscotti.

            2. I have a great recipe for biscotti. It's really almondy, and when dipped in coffee, retains a bit of a crunch, even though it's soft. Really intriguing texture. Inedible without coffee.

              http://www.homeindisarray.com/2011/01...

              1. There are some decent packaged biscotti di Prato imported from Italy. There are some not so hot. The real offender in my opinion, and this might be what the OP is referring to, are those individually wrapped multi-flavor, largeish things on sale at coffee house counters. Horrible stuff, even if some of them are "artisanal" attempts. For what it's worth, it can be easy to forget that biscotti is also a generic name for cookies, of which there are many regional varieties. A proper Italian American pasticceria will have at least some, like biscotti all'anice (anise) or my favorite, biscotti al sesamo, also called regina cookies, from the Sicilian tradition..

                2 Replies
                1. re: bob96

                  "those individually wrapped multi-flavor, largeish things on sale at coffee house counters."

                  So true, and may I add "over-priced and crumbly". A true biscotti should NEVER disintegrate in the coffee, but the coffee house offerings almost always do.

                  1. re: vil

                    "A true biscotti should NEVER disintegrate in the coffee, but the coffee house offerings almost always do."

                    That's also because the coffee is too strong and tastes like battery acid! :)
                    (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Starbucks)

                2. I don't dunk, just like the crispness, and the fact that they last forever. I make my own, any that I have purchased have not been worth the money so maybe you could try making some at home. They also freeze very well.

                  1. It's very difficult to find good ones. When you do find good ones, they're wonderful. And, for the most part, they are not low calorie.

                    1. I have eaten in Rome and Florence. I was raised on Long Island but have lived most of my life in the Boston area, where most bakeries are Italian.

                      IMO, Italian breads are excellent but I have never had an Italian baked sweet that I thought was worth the calories.
                      Biscotti, cannoli, etc. All meh compared to a Napoleon, rugelach, pflaumekuechen...or even a Toll House cookie!
                      Ducking into my bomb shelter now....

                      1. I feel like biscotti cannot be enjoyed alone, that it really needs to be dunked and nibbled with a cappucino, espresso, or maybe a dessert wine.
                        In milan i most often recieved a small (maybe 3") almond biscotti free with my espresso- and everyone around me was dunking away.
                        There are some terrifying coated, drizzled, huge hockey pucks (**ahem, starbucks**) that are just wrong IMO.

                        1. Oh, I love them. The crunch, the hint of sweetness, the way they soften when dunked. Most desserts are just too sweet for me. Biscotti have always appealed to me. My absolute favorites are double ginger biscotti I make for holiday gifts.

                          1. Biscotti means cookies in Italian BTW :-)

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: acssss

                              and for heaven's sake, if you only have one, it's a biscotto. Cripes.

                              :D

                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Ouch! Someone is in a bad mood!
                                I was just making a joke (hence the smiley face) that "what is the appeal of a cookie?" sounds like a very funny question.

                                1. re: acssss

                                  take a deep breath -- it's a reference to another thread.

                                  Thus the laughing face.

                                2. re: sunshine842

                                  A bit above the rest of some of the poor plebeian souls who may have never traveled to Italy, are we?

                                  1. re: Jessiet

                                    Seriously -- get yourself an oxygen tank, then go read this:

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/922175

                                    It even turns right around and similarly references this thread.

                              2. The appeal is for me is that they are so durable. Not overly sweet,and great with my coffee. I have made them many times.And have eaten them in Italy.Reminds me to make some for this Christmas. I have a great book. Biscotti.written by Lou Siebert Pappas.Traditional,Chocolate,and Regional recipes.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: emglow101

                                  I'm going to look for that book, thanks.

                                  1. re: emglow101

                                    Biscotti (the book) is on its way to me, thanks to your suggestion. $.01 plus S&H.

                                  2. This is a bit of an odd query.

                                    What exactly is the point of reference? When one asks what the "appeal" of biscotti is, what does that mean exactly?

                                    If you describe them as "cakey" and "stiff" that's certainly a subjective description, right?

                                    I mean, one could say what's the appeal of butter cookies, they're just crumbly with a flat butter taste.

                                    Or, what's the appeal of chocolate chip cookies, they're just sweet and chocolate-y.

                                    If you don't like biscotti that's all fine and well, but to ask what thee appeal of them is, is sort of like asking "why is a circle round?"

                                    It is what it is.

                                    1. Homemade biscotti are excellent. I understand your bewilderment for most others.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Steve

                                        How are homemade ones different?

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          Think homemade chocolate chip cookies vs. Chips Ahoy and you're on the right track.

                                      2. Like any food category, there are good ones and bad ones and even mediocre ones.

                                        1. the crunch and dipability (probably not a word) into coffee.

                                          they're an easy cookie to make plus the twice baked makes our little ones be able to get into the action with me and they can basically pick the flavors. do I do them a lot..........no. not as sweet a cookie as hub likes.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: iL Divo

                                            1. Dunkability, especially with coffee.

                                            2. If baked/toasted until really dry, they keep a LONG time in a tin or airtight container. Great for make-ahead holiday baking! Homemade biscotti and complementary coffee, tea, or hot chocolate make a lovely gift for any caffiend.

                                            3. They're often less sweet than commercial cookies.

                                            4. With a few judicious substitutions, they *should* be relatively easy to make vegan (which, for the record, I am definitely NOT, but might be baking for friends who are).

                                          2. If you had ever had a good biscotti, you wouldn't need to ask this question.

                                            6 Replies
                                            1. re: laliz

                                              I'm still trying to understand what distinguishes 'regular' biscotti from 'good'.

                                              Is the bad stuff too sweet, or not sweet enough? Too hard or too soft? Not enough of your favorite flavoring or too strong on artificial flavors? Too many nuts or not enough? Stale? But how can you tell if it is stale if it has been baked till dry? Are we talking about home made ones fresh out of the oven, or two weeks old out of the cookie jar?

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                "But how can you tell if it is stale if it has been baked till dry?"

                                                The staling of bread and baking until dry are not the same things. Stale bread stills retains some moisture and is very noticeable upon tasting while baking until dry evaporates the moisture and lends a crisp, airy texture to the biscotti.

                                                1. re: ttoommyy

                                                  I don't think the staleness of (soft) fresh bread is a good comparison. Staleness of old crackers might be a better comparison. That's probably a different process. We say a cracker is 'stale' if it looses its crispness, i.e. it has absorbed moisture from the air. This is different (I think) from degelatinizing of the starches.

                                                  Some commercial biscotti is individually wrapped, which should prevent this moisture absorption.

                                                  One of the purposes of twice-baking was to extend shelf life. Dry breads don't grow mold. 'biscuit' comes from the same root, and 'ships biscuits' were the epitome of bread designed for a long shelf life.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    I disagree with your definition of "stale". I have had stale crackers many times that were still crisp. I think that rancidity might have more to do with staleness. Moisture content is another matter entirely.

                                                    1. re: sandylc

                                                      Whether 'stale' encompasses rancidity or not, is that an issue with biscotti? They are generally low fat - except for nuts.

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        Now you're making wonder what "stale" specifically is...I got this from Mr. Google:

                                                        "1. (of food) no longer fresh and pleasant to eat; hard, musty, or dry.

                                                        "stale bread"

                                                        synonyms: old, past its best, off, dry, hard, musty, rancid, overstored"

                                                        Not a chemical description, but not too bad...

                                                        My biscotti has five eggs and a small amount of butter and quite a lot of nuts - not sure about the fat content, but there is some there. Also, they have whole wheat in them, which will also have fat to become rancid.

                                                        That said, they keep very well in a tight-lidded tin. I am sending some to England tomorrow, so I hope they keep fairly well - !

                                            2. I feel the same way about biscotti. Dry, not sweet enough. Bad texture. I don't know how or why anyone buys it.

                                              I wish I could go to Italy and eat well made traditional biscotti. Maybe one day.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                I'm trying to figure out whether 'well made traditional biscotti' in Italy are any different. My impression from recipes is that dry and not very sweet the nature of the beast.

                                                http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...
                                                the dough in this recipe has 2c flour, 3/4c sugar, 1/2c butter. It also uses baking powder, not yeast. The sugar and butter amounts are half of a typical American cookie. The dough is formed into a flattened log, baked, sliced, and baked again.

                                              2. I make these cookies, and buy them from stores from time to time. I do think they taste fine, but yes, I don't know why they are so much more expensive. The ingredients to make Biscotti is no more than most other cookies. I wonder if it is the "standard" for Biscotti is higher?

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                  Ingredients are only part of the cost of baked goods. With lower butter and sugar ratios the ingredients for biscotti might even be lower than for most cookies - though nuts and such might increase that.

                                                  But handling is different - form, bake, cool, slice, bake again, dip in chocolate...

                                                  And scale of operations.

                                                  And what the market will bear. At least in the USA, they are mostly produced and sold on the boutique market scale, where all prices are higher.

                                                  1. re: paulj

                                                    <But handling is different - form, bake, cool, slice, bake again, dip in chocolate>

                                                    Yep, I was thinking about that. Either (a) they are charging the higher price because the criteria is higher for biscotti or (b) they are charging the higher price because they can -- there is a market for it.

                                                2. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe...

                                                  "Here it is, a biscotti recipe everyone can enjoy — unlike classic Italian biscotti, which are quite hard, these are light and crunchy."
                                                  However this recipe does not look very different from other ones that I've looked at. Maybe the dough is a bit wetter.

                                                  http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recip...
                                                  From Gabriele Corcos (Extra Virgin)
                                                  "This traditional cookie from Prato is supposed to be real dry and crunchy; it is in fact our regional dipping cookie, generally consumed after a meal with a glass of Vin Santo."

                                                  http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main...
                                                  History of biscotti - esp. this Prato version, which appears to be the most traditional (possibly w/o the baking powder).

                                                  1. A possible point of confusion (regarding terminology):

                                                    "As noted, 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)."

                                                    http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main...

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      "As noted, Italians call biscotti cantucci,"

                                                      Not necessarily true as you can see from this picture taken in Prato just a few weeks ago.

                                                      Also, just as a general answer to this post's query of "What's the appeal of Biscotti?" I enter this picture as evidence.

                                                       
                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                        Wiki puts it in a more nuanced way:
                                                        "Although commonly used to indicate the biscuits of Prato, biscotti di Prato, in modern Italy and Argentina they are also known widely by the name "cantuccini". "

                                                        The point of my first quote is that 'biscotti' in Italy has a broader meaning than in the USA. 'di Prato' makes it more specific.

                                                        It also cites this bakery in Prato as the source of the dual name

                                                         
                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          "The point of my first quote is that 'biscotti' in Italy has a broader meaning than in the USA."

                                                          Absolutely agree with you there.

                                                          1. re: paulj

                                                            Interesting.

                                                            I always figured the word 'biscotto' literally means "twice cooked" bis = 2, cotto = cooked...simillarly to ricotta (re-cooked).

                                                            To regard all 'cookies' or 'biscuits' as biscotto, sounds off to me, as most 'cookies' are only cooked once.

                                                            I could be totally off the mark with this one.

                                                            1. re: Novelli

                                                              "I always figured the word 'biscotto' literally means "twice cooked" bis = 2, cotto = cooked... To regard all 'cookies' or 'biscuits' as biscotto, sounds off to me..."

                                                              Words take on other meanings as time passes. You need only to look to the English language for that. The word "pudding" in the US is pretty much used specifically for the corn-starch thickened dessert, but in the UK the word "pudding" describes the broad category of "dessert".

                                                              1. re: Novelli

                                                                But 'biscuits' comes from the same Latin/Italian root as 'biscotto'. See the 'bis'.

                                                        2. I really love roasted, toasted, chopped nuts. All kinds. So for me, biscotti is an easy, complete, handheld vehicle to enjoy nuts. Especially pistachio, hazelnut or walnut.