This evening I made biscotti for the first time. Since I’m loathe to enjoy a snack without the requisite background knowledge I turn to Wikipedia to set the scene:
“Biscotti” is the plural form of biscotto. The word originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning “twice-cooked/baked.” It defined oven baked goods that were baked twice, so they were very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. Pliny the Elder boasted that such goods would be edible for centuries. Such nonperishable food was particularly useful during journeys and wars, and twice baked breads were a staple food of the Roman Legions.
Fantastic stuff. So if you’re planning a long journey or fear a siege type situation might be imminent, this is what you should be baking.
The basic recipe is from Veganomicon, but for certain parts I consulted Pliny the Younger’s cult cookbook The Vesuvian Vegan.
The process invilves baking a long chocolate cake full of whole hazelnuts, then whipping it out of the oven, slicing it and throwing it back in at a high heat to crisp it up. For the authenticity of the finished product it’s important that, while baking, you imagine that you are Sophia Loren, or another Italian person of your choice.
At this stage you’re waiting for the slab of cake to cool down a bit so that you can slice it. You could spend this time organising your tax receipts for the year or, alternatively, drinking Amaretto.
These things are easy to make and would, I imagine, look nice presented in a glass jar as a gift. So spoil your friends this weekend: give them biscoctus.