One cold dreary afternoon I sat down to watch the Biscuits episode of the Great British Bank Off Season 1. I wanted to see if I could get a good recipe for biscuits. The weather was perfect for Biscuits, cream and jam!
To my surprise the whole episode was about cookies!
Upon my lap fell a new opportunity to do some research (which I love!)
Oxforddictionaries.com gives two definitions for the word Biscuit.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the word biscuit comes originally from the Latin biscotum (panem), which means bread ‘twice baked’, which would explain the hard, crunchy quality of a British biscuit.
An American biscuit is more like the scone you’d order in the U.K. It’s unclear how these two different foods came to have the same word.
In the UK, a cookie is a soft, squishy, moist biscuit. British cookies tend to be bigger and more substantial than a British biscuit.
In the US, a cookie covers both what the British would call a biscuit and a cookie. According to Julia Callaway works in Social Media at Oxford University Press, the word comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning ‘little cake,’ and could have been popularized in the US due to early Dutch colonization, though we don’t know for sure.
She continues to “explain” that “a British biscuit is an American cookie and an American cookie is a British cookie and an American biscuit is a British scone and an American scone is something else entirely.”
Searching the web I learn that Cookies are sweet, unleavened, baked goodies containing flour, eggs, sugar and some oil or butter.
Biscuits can refer to two products. In North America, the term biscuit refers to a small, savory cake that is somewhat similar to scones. In British English, the term biscuit refers to a small, baked, unleavened cake, which is typically crisp, flat, and sweet. This is the main difference between Cookies and Biscuits. In most English-speaking countries outside North America, a biscuit is a crisp cookie.
Savory biscuits, commonly known as crackers can be eaten with cheese. Ingredients such as onion or onion seeds, poppy seeds, cheese, etc. are used additionally in the production of savory biscuits.
Then we have Biscotti…
“Biscotti” is the plural form of biscotto. The word originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning “twice-cooked”. It defined oven baked goods that were baked twice, so they were very dry and could be stored for long periods of time. Such nonperishable food was particularly useful during journeys and wars, and twice baked breads were a staple food of the Roman Legions.
According to Wikipedia, The word biscotti, in this sense, shares its origin with the British English word “biscuit”, which describes what American English-speakers refer to as a “cookie”. In modern Italian, the word biscotti refers to any cookie or cracker, just as does the British use of the word “biscuit”.
The number of bakings or hardness is not relevant to the term. In America, the term “biscotti” refers only to the specific Italian cookie.
Such was the confusion… that I decided to make Biscotti 🙂