PNG images: Biscuit

Biscuit is a term used for a variety of primarily flour-based baked food products. The term is applied to two distinct products in North America and the Commonwealth of Nations and Europe. The North American biscuit is typically a soft, leavened quick bread, and is covered in the article Biscuit (bread). This article covers the other type of biscuit, which is typically hard, flat and unleavened.

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The Old French word bescuit is derived from the Latin words bis (twice) and coquere, coctus (to cook, cooked), and, hence, means "twice-cooked". This is because biscuits were originally cooked in a twofold process: first baked, and then dried out in a slow oven. This term was then adapted into English in the 14th century during the Middle Ages, in the Middle English word bisquite, to represent a hard, twice-baked product. (see the German Zwieback) The Dutch language from around 1703 had adopted the word koekje ("little cake") to have a similar meaning for a similar hard, baked product. The difference between the secondary Dutch word and that of Latin origin is that, whereas the koekje is a cake that rises during baking, the biscuit, which has no raising agent, in general does not (see gingerbread/ginger biscuit), except for the expansion of heated air during baking.

When continental Europeans began to emigrate to colonial North America, the two words and their "same but different" meanings began to clash. The words cookie or cracker became the words of choice to mean a hard, baked product. Further confusion has been added by the adoption of the word biscuit for a small leavened bread popular in the United States. According to the American English dictionary Merriam-Webster, a cookie is a "small flat or slightly raised cake". A biscuit is "any of various hard or crisp dry baked product" similar to the American English terms cracker or cookie, or "a small quick bread made from dough that has been rolled out and cut or dropped from a spoon".

In a number of other European languages, terms derived from the latin bis coctus refer instead to yet another baked product, similar to the sponge cake; e.g. Spanish bizcocho, German Biskuitmasse, Russian бисквит (biskvit), Polish biszkopt.

In modern Italian usage, the term biscotto is used to refer to any type of hard twice-baked biscuit, and not only to the cantuccini as in English-speaking countries.

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