These melt-in-the-mouth lovelies hail from Ukraine, in Eastern Europe. People there mostly speak Ukrainian or Russian—not Italian. So what do we think we’re doing when we call them pecan biscotti?
Well, says Lesley Russell, this is a twice-cooked biscuit. If you go back far enough, the word biscotti comes from the medieval Latin biscotus, which meant “twice-cooked”. It was a popular technique for thoroughly drying bread and other baked goods to help them last on long journeys, through seasons when food was scarce, or even to carry as supplies during wars.
Today, Italians use the term biscotti to refer to any kind of biscuit or cookie, regardless of how often it was baked; in Australia, we’re more likely to apply it to the small, hard, almond-studded snacks we like to dunk in espresso.
Despite undergoing two bakings, these pecan-topped treats are not at all hard to the tooth.
“They’re buttery and quite delicate,” says Lesley Russell. “Try them with coffee, tea or sweet wines.”
This recipe is inspired by one from Olia Hercules’ 2015 cookbook Mamushka (first published by Mitchell Beazley), an exciting collection of recipes from a Ukrainian chef and food stylist who has done time in the Ottolenghi kitchens. It’s worth seeking out if you’re keen to know more about the cooking of this fertile country, with a vibrant culinary tradition influenced by neighbours including Russia and Turkey.