"Biscuit. A small, dry, flat cake, traditionally with good keeping qualities, eaten as a snack or accompaniment to a drink, and sweet or savory. Sweet biscuits are eaten as an accompaniment to coffee, tea or milk--and mid-morning wine in Italy--and partner desserts of ice cream. They are used to make desserts--charlottes in particular--and macaroon crumbs are often added to custards or creams...In France biscuits are simply regarded as one aspect of petits fours, with their own wide repertoire...Their English and French name comes from the Latin bis meaning twice and coctus meaning cooked, for biscuits should be in theory be cooked twice , which gives them a long storage life...This very hard, barely risen biscuit was for centuries the staple food of soldiers and sailors. Roman legions were familiar with it and Pliny claimed that "Parthian bread" would keep for centuries...Soldiers biscuits or army biscuits were known under Louis XIV as "stone bread." In 1894, army biscuits were replaced by war bread made of starch, sugar, water, nitrogenous matter, ash, and cellulose, but the name "army biscuit" stuck...Biscuits were also a staple item in explorers' provisions. Traveller's biscuits, in the 19th century, were hard pastries or cakes wrapped in tin foil which kept well."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely Revised and Updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (page 113)
"Biscotto. "Twice baked." Dry cookie. Often containing nuts, biscotti are usually slices from a twice-baked flattened cookie loaf. In Tuscany, biscotti or cantucci are almond cookies. In Sicily, biscotti a rombo are diamond-shaped cookies and b. Regina (queen's biscuits) are sesame seed biscuits. B. Tipo pavesini are almond biscuits of Pavia. B. De la bricia are flavoured with fennel seeds, a specialty of La Spezia. B. Aviglianese (Avigliano stype) are made with unleavened bread."
---The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink, John Mariani [Broadway Books:New York] 1998 (p. 36)
"Biscuit, a cereal product that has been baked twice. The result is relatively light (because little water remains), easy to store and transport (therefore a useful food for travellers and soldiers), sometimes hard to eat without adding water or olive oil."
---Food in the Ancient World From A to Z, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 2003 (p. 53)
Almonds, hazelnuts, anise, and sesame seeds were well known to ancient cooks. Chocolate was introduced to the "Old World" in the 16th century. It took approximately hundred years before this ingredient was incorporated into European desserts. It wasn't until the 19th century this ingredient found its way into baked goods. Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History (Alberto Capatti & Massimo Montanari) references both biscotti and hazelnuts, although not together in one recipe, as foods relished by the wealthy during the 16th century (p. 128).
Related food? Langue de chat
ABOUT MANDEL (ALMOND) BRODT (BREAD): The answer to questions regarding the origin of this recipe depends upon whether you are seeking a culinary history or linguistic study of mandelbrodt. Historians confirm that almonds were known to ancient middle eastern cooks, and were incorprated into many recipes. Biscuits/biscotti, twice-baked hard breads, were popular in Ancient Rome and generally spread with the Romans to other parts of the continent. The term mandelbrot is of Germanic heritage and this particular food is traditionally associated with Eastern European Jews. Perhaps this suggests (although the recipe may be ancient) the genesis of the food with this name may be linguistically placed in Medieval Eastern Europe.
"Mandelbrot, kamishbrot, and biscotti: three twice-baked cookies. One is Italian. The others are Eastern European Jewish. Is there a connection? Perhaps. "We've thought about the connection," said Peter Pastan, chef-owner of Obelisk, a tiny pix fixe Italian restaurant in Washington D.C. "Mandelbrot is all over Eastern Europe and in Italy everybody has a different recipe for biscotti--some with fennel, some are crunchy; the ones around Siena are ugly but good." Mr. Pastan, who comes form an American-Jewish family, studied cooking in Italy before opening his mostly Italian restaurant. With a large Jewish population in Piedmont, Italy may have been the place where Jews first tasted biscotti and later brought them to Eastern Europe where they called the mandelbrot, which means literally almond bread. In the Ukraine, a similar cookies not necessarily with almonds by made at home, thuskamish, was served. In Italy they are often eaten as a dessert dipped into wine or grappa. In Eastern Europe Jews dipped them into a glass of tea, and because they include no butter and are easily kept they became a good Sabbath dessert."
---Jewish Cooking in America, Joan Nathan [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1998 (p. 354)
« Okay, that's it.