Though modern biscotti are associated with the Tuscan region of Italy, the popular Italian cookie traces its origins to Roman times. The word biscotto derives from “bis,” Latin for twice, and “coctum” or baked (which became “cotto,” or cooked).
Tuscan biscotti were flavored with almonds from almond groves of Prato. There, the cookies were—and still are—known as cantucci.
They became a staple in the Tuscan cities of Florence and Prato, and spread throughout the Italian peninsula.
Biscotti emerged in Tuscany, credited to a Tuscan baker who served them with the local sweet wine. Their dry, crunchy texture was deemed to be the perfect medium to soak up the sweet local wine (and how much more flavorful than dunking a donut in coffee!). Centuries later, many still agree that dipping biscotti into Vin Santo is a perfect way to end a meal, or while away an hour at a cafe.
Italians call biscotti cantucci, and use the term biscotti to refer to any type of crunchy cookie, as the British use the word biscuit.