In North America, biscotti (plural; singular biscotto) are twice-baked cookies also known as cantuccini. Elsewhere, biscotti are also known as biscotti di Prato, bizcochos, cantucci, carquinyolis (sometimes carquinyols), and rosegons. They are most often filled with almonds.
The word "biscotti" (pronounced /bɪˈskɒti/, Italian pronunciation: [bisˈkɔtti]) in Italian is the plural form of biscotto and applies to any type of biscuit (in the UK sense of a very dry, hard cookie or cracker). 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. Through Middle French, the word was imported into the English language as "biscuit", although in English as in Italian "biscuit" does not refer specifically to a twice-baked cookie.
In North America, where "biscuit" has taken on other meanings, twice-baked cookies are known as biscotti. In Tuscany, and to some extent also in North America, these cookies are known as cantuccini ("little nooks"). In Italy they are also known widely as biscotti di Prato. In Italy and Spain, yet another name for these cookies is carquinyoli. In Italy, carquinyoli (plural) are typical of Sardinia and Sicily. In Spain, carquinyoli (singular; plural carquinyolis) with whole or sliced almonds are typical of Catalonia and also associated with the regions of Aragon. In Batea, La Fatarella, and Prat de Comte, all inland municipalities of Catalonia, in the Terra Alta they are also called carquinyols. Carquinyolis are traditional also in some inland towns in Valencia, where they are called rosegons or rosegós. In Minorca, carquinyols are square shaped and do not include whole almonds.
A basic recipe has two parts flour to one part sugar (or less). To this is added baking powder and any spices. Then nuts are added, and tossed to coat them with the flour mixture. Nuts, especially almonds and hazelnuts, may be used with their skins on. Then enough eggs are added to just barely hold the dough together. The eggs are first beaten together with any wet flavoring (e.g., almond extract or liquor) until the eggs are well broken.
Traditionally, biscotti are formed by baking the dough in long slabs, cutting these into slices, and baking the slices until they are toasted and dry. The slabs are baked once for about twenty-five minutes. They are then cut up into individual cookies and baked again for a shorter period. The longer this second baking is, the harder the cookies will be.
After the second baking, biscotti may be dipped in a chocolate glaze.
Being very dry, biscotti traditionally are served with a drink, into which they may be dunked. In Italy they are served typically with vin santo. In North America they more frequently accompany coffee, including cappuccinos and lattes, or black tea.
In Spain biscotti (carquinyoli) usually are served with a small glass of a sweet dessert wine such as moscatel.
In Italy, biscotti made with pine nuts rather than almonds may be called pignoli.
In the Catalonian city Vic, "Carquinyoli" is also the name of a ceremonial figure who orchestrates an annual summer fiesta in honor of the patron saint Albert of Sicily. In Vilanova i la Geltrú, biscotti with almonds are called currutacos and are most typically associated with Palm Sunday, when they are used to ornament the palm leaves that are distributed to worshipers.
Biscotti are much used as an ingredient in a variety of traditional dishes. In Catalonia, such dishes include rice with sardines and rabbit with snails. They are also used in sauces with onions (specifically calçots). In coastal Baix Llobregat, biscotti are used in the sauce for a dish of duck stuffed with turnips.