But what does it MEAN?

Biscotti, or, um…biscotto, you mean? Why, “biscuit” of course, but in the British sense of the word, which is to say it means “cookie”. We English-speakers have the word, so do French-speakers (biscuit, pronounced bis-KWEE), Portuguese-speakers (biscoito), Spanish speakers (bizcocho) and even Greek speakers (biskoti). The term means slightly different things in all those languages, even among different populations of people who speak those languages (see the aforementioned differences between the British and American meanings). But it’s interesting, isn’t it, that regardless of what it ultimately stands for, that the word has found its way into all of those languages?

It is derived from Latin. Two Latin words, in fact: coctum, meaning “baked” or “cooked” and bis meaning “twice”. Which is exactly what you do when you make biscotti: you bake them two times, first to create the loaf, which you then slice into pieces, and then once again to dry the individual slices out into hard, crunchy biscottos, I mean, biscotti. So in that sense it’s quite an accurate term.

But is it Italian? Well, the word is, but if you drop into your typical Roman coffee shop and ask for some biscotti, will they know exactly what you mean? Nope. In Italy, the closest thing to an American biscotto is called a cantucco. Why do they call them that? I have no idea, I don’t speak Italian. I don’t speak German either, but in case you’re wondering why the Germans don’t have a word for biscotti, they do, they just call them zwieback. The word means the same thing, “twice baked”, they just aren’t the same fans of Latin that we are.

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