Integrative Assignment #2 Biscotti- Olive Oil

1. Assumption

When I first heard of and saw biscotti I did not know much of what this food was but I did think it was a super hard and crunchy bread. I had never tried it before making it in kitchen chemistry lab but my initial assumption was that it was a super hard break your teeth type of food and it would not be enjoyable, I thought it was going to be this bland and unappealing food. After making my own biscotti I realized that this food is actually quite tasty and has a lot of flavor in it. I also was under the assumption that biscotti was to be dipped in other drinks such as coffee. I had no clue of what chemical components were behind the making of the food but I did think biscotti came from Europe, even if that was my only cultural assumption of the food. It is not as hard as I thought it would be and through making it and eating biscotti I began to appreciate this snack more because of its precise baking instructions and all the time and patience that comes with making this delicious food.

2. Dish 

The “Southern Italian” olive oil biscotti is an Italian dish that has a central ingredient of olive oil. The olive oil is important because it allows for the specific consistency, texture, and flavor to come through in this Italian almond cookie.

This is an Italian biscotti which is a cookie or biscuit that is twice cooked and is dry and hard in consistency.






3. Chemical analysis 

Olive oil in foods inhibits the gluten formation, so even though there is flour present in the recipe the olive oil mixed into the recipe creates for less gluten. The olive oil coats the flour therefore making an oil/fat mixture that prevents the gluten from being formed. However, there is still enough gluten for the dough to be cohesive. When little gluten is in a mixture it causes the end product to crumble, just like biscotti does when you bite into it, and it makes it more dense which is a correct description of biscotti.

When a food has a higher water content the end product is more moist, tender, and chewy where as foods with a lower water content are hard, dry, and tough and have a crunch to them. Olive oil has less than 1% of water in it and this explains why biscotti made with olive oil is much more dry and hard then biscottis made with ingredients such as butter. In olive oil there is a lower water content so the end product will be more crisp and dry. Especially since biscotti is twice baked and the olive oil has such a low water content, almost all the product that would make it moist and chewy is gone by the end leaving the dry and hard characteristics of biscotti.

4. Cultural analysis 

Biscotti originated from Italy and the word biscotti originally comes from the medieval Latin word biscoctus. This meaning twice cooked, explains how the long hard cookie like biscuits are baked. They are extremely dry and in the past they were a popular food to be made because they could be stored for long periods of times. These Italian cookies are primarily made with either olive oil or butter; north of Italy using butter and Mediterranean southern Italy using olive oil. There is no fat in biscotti which helps create the dry and hard snack but the climate where olive oil is a primary ingredient in its baking is where olive trees are extremely abundant and became very popular.

Biscotti is most commonly known to come from the Tucsan area of Italy and its origins can trace all the way back to Roman times. Biscotti when it first came about was not a food of luxury or of preference, but it was more of a convenience food for travelers who needed something that would travel well and that they could still eat after being stored for long periods of times. Because of its dryness from being cooked twice it was made to travel and its nourishment stayed. This food became a staple in the diets of people during the Roman Empire. Biscotti went away for a bit after the fall of the Roman Empire but during the Renaissance it came back and that is when dipping the biscotti in wine and coffee became a popular method of enjoying the dry and crunchy snack. Nowadays biscottis are commonly served with drinks where they can be dunked and soaked in and in Italy they are normally eaten as a snack or dessert after meals.

5. Integration

A way through which I am able to connect the cultural and chemical analyses of biscotti is through the baked twice chemical aspect of the biscotti and how biscotti came to popularity twice. Biscotti first came to be a common food during the Roman Empire and it mostly was a travel food, but after the Roman fall it fell out of the public eye until the Renaissance time period where it came back again and this time stayed and became a popular food to dip into beverages. Biscotti itself is twice cooked and this allows for its dry, crunchy, and hard texture and taste which comes from the olive oil in the recipe which has a low water content. The chemical and cultural aspect of both have this twice element to them and this connection I found to be very interesting. Essentially biscotti is cooked twice and biscotti rose to popularity twice.

Works Cited:

  • The Nibble: Biscotti History,
  • Colabroy, Keri. Biscotti (Italian Almond Cookies) (Sp 18).

2 thoughts on “Integrative Assignment #2 Biscotti- Olive Oil

  1. Wow! I also did my IA #2 on Olive Oil Biscotti, but I actually focused more on the oil itself and less on the biscotti. So learning more in depth things about where Biscotti originated from was super interesting to me. I actually had personal experience with what my mom refers to as “Jewish Biscotti” or Mandel Bread. It is baked the exact same way, multiple times, with olive oil and not butter, but that is actually because then it can be eaten for dessert without worrying whether or not it’s Kosher. Also, I had no idea about Biscotti making a comeback in the world post Roman Empire. Really great integration; I learned a lot!

  2. Your chemical analysis of the olive oil biscotti was very informative. Since butter contains about 15% water, and olive oil has less than 1% of water, the butter biscotti was a lot softer and fluffier compared to the harder olive oil biscotti. It is interesting how olive oil and butter are both fats but they bring out different textures in biscotti due to the water content in each kind. Also I think because butter is made up of 50% saturated fat while olive oil is mostly monounsaturated, it also affects the consistency of the biscotti since the saturated fat in butter can build up really close together. This is why biscotti made with olive oil crumbles more easily. I also really liked the connection you made between how biscotti became popular twice the same way as it has to be baked twice just like its name so the biscuits can be stored for a long period of time. I also had no idea that dipping biscotti in wine or coffee was an option! I think an important thing to add to your cultural analysis would be the history of olive oil, and how it played also a significant role in Italian diet.

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