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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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biscotti cover a very wide range of sweetened baked goods with many regional variations, seasonal and religious significance. Recently, the Italian term has become popular in most English-speaking countries. Biscotti is derived from the medieval Latin biscoctus, a bread or cracker baked twice to dry out the moisture and prolong storing time. Pliny the Elder mentions that baked goods like panis militaris could last very long; hence, they were among the staple foods vital for the Roman Legion’s diet. The ancient Romans consumed a very dry biscuit made solely of grape must and flour known as mustaceus, and Cato included the first recipe for it baked on a laurel leaf in De re rustica; the name was eventually transmuted to mostaccioli. In Calabria, this enriched biscotto assumes a significant role with many symbolic shapes, and a guild of mostaccioli makers still endures today. Mostaccioli have evolved considerably and they now sometimes have a softer, spongy consistency, with the frequent addition of chopped nuts and dried fruit. This specialty is generally diamond- or oval-shaped, often coated with dark or white chocolate, and is available in many regions.