Did you know that the biscotti originated in Prato, Italy? Prato is just outside of Florence, sort of like Brooklyn is just outside NYC.
Have you had a chance to try a biscotti? I was lucky that the first time I ever tried a biscotti was from what I think is the best biscotti in the world, Antonio Mattei, the “Blue Bag” biscotti of Prato, Italy. I know, I know, biscotti are far from fashion for women, but, it all relates with my story.
My very first work trip ever was to Florence, Italy which Prato is just outside. That’s a pretty great place to start, right? It was only my second time to Europe, I talked about my first travel to Europe, visiting Paris here.
I still had a year of school left, and I was finishing my classes at night. So, I had to do the trip quickly, in only a few days so that I didn’t miss too many classes.
I flew from JFK connecting through Amsterdam to Florence. Many flights connect through Amsterdam Schiphol, and many of my flights connecting through there have had lost bags, missed connections.
My first time there was no exception. The flight arrived late and missed the connection to Florence, spending most of the day in Schiphol airport.
There aren’t a lot of flights in and out of Florence, so the flight attendant who felt that going to Pisa and going to Florence was exactly the same thing, just went ahead and put me on a flight to Pisa explaining how easy it would be to make my way to Florence after. Since I had already missed a day of meeting with textile mills to choose new fabrics for our collection, I went with it.
I arrived to Pisa, in a tiny little smoke filled airport. I think they had one luggage belt and lots of people shuffling around looking for their bags. Of course, my bag had gone missing. I knew barely enough Italian to fill out the form, realizing I would probably never see my bag again and moved on.
I went outside looking for the train I had heard about that is “very reliable” to get to Florence.
I waited and waited, but the train never came. I was the only one waiting, even though the schedule clearly indicated that the train should have already arrived, twice. I guess the locals knew, don’t rely on the train
So, I started asking around and got answers like, “oh the train, well…” or “it may or may not arrive”, or “oh we have no idea when or if it will get here”.
So, I jumped in a taxi…to go 80 kilometers, which in a TAXI is FAR. Well, at least I could see the leaning tower of Pisa. I jumped out long enough to get a picture with the leaning wonder, and then got back in expecting to easily arrive, finally, to Florence.
Somehow, my taxi driver had NEVER been there. So he had a REALLY hard time. Luckily a very nice motorcycle driver giving him directions finally just lead us to my hotel in Florence seeing there was no way the driver would not get lost.
Now this is the long way to get to the biscotti story, but a fun way too, sooooooo when I arrived, guess what? One of my friends had left me the blue bag of biscotti to welcome me, and there my love for these delicious little biscotti cookies began.
Every time I go to Florence, one of my friends has a blue bag of biscotti for me. Patrizia, Jessica you can always count on them. You see the people of Florence and Prato are very proud of them and love to share one of their famed jewels with visitors. Of course, I always have Magnolia Bakery for them in NYC.
What is biscotti? The word biscotti means “twice-bake”. Basically, they make the dough, cook them in long, thin loafs then cut them after they get through the oven the first time, and after they are cut, cook them again. When they cool, they become very crunchy. They were originally made that way so that they would stay good for a very long time. This makes them perfect for dipping in your tea or coffee. Actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing now, as I write this post for you.
Just why is Antonio Mattei biscotti so famous? He was a Prato based pastry chef that rediscovered the original biscotti recipe in 1858 and his is the one that is now accepted as the traditional recipe.
Prepared with flour, fresh eggs, sugar, almonds and pine nuts, they are baked with the same ancient biscotti recipe of Mattei. But exactly what is the food recipe? Like the recipe for Coca-Cola, the measurements remain a secret.
So, here’s the biscotti di Prato recipe according to the New York Times, sans the pine nuts but you could add those.
Have you tried to make biscotti at home?