The world of Biscuits

Published: 23rd October 2013 10:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd October 2013 10:25 AM   |  A+A-


We all are particularly fond of our biscuits, be it the glucose one or the chocochip one. Biscuits are affordable, nutritious, easy to store and convenient to carry. Today they are available in so many varieties that everyone gets to pick a different favourite - sweet, salty, with cream, without cream, digestive - and the list goes on. What’s more is that they are now being produced in many different shapes as well! India is the second largest manufacturer of biscuits in the world. Can you guess which the first is? It is the USA. The Indian biscuit industry is the largest amongst all food industries in the country. Initially biscuits were considered to be a sick man’s choice. The game changed in the latter part of the 20th century when the rising middle class living in urban areas began to demand and consume pre-packaged food at affordable prices. So where did the biscuit come from? In olden days when people travelled large distances for the purpose of trade or war they needed sustenance in the form of something that wouldn’t spoil easily and was convenient to carry aboard ships. This demand led to a lot of innovation. Early biscuits were dry, hard and often unsweetened. They were cooked after baking bread in a cooling oven. Maybe that is why they were a little inexpensive too. And by the 7th century AD, Persian cooks had learnt the secret of enriching a breadbased mixture with eggs, butter, cream and sweetening it with fruit and honey. The word biscuit has a Latin origin and is derived from two words: ‘bis’ meaning twice and ‘coctus’ meaning to cook. This referred to the earliest process of making biscuits where first they were baked and then dried in a slow oven. The small hard, baked product was, rather is, also called cookie by some. The Dutch brought the word kokeje meaning little cake into usage. The only difference was that biscuits did not use any raising agent like cakes did. Today we use the term cookies to refer to any kind of sweet biscuits. Invasions and wars over a long period of time led to mixing of various cooking techniques as well as spread of ingredients from one part of the world to another. And today the biscuit that we see in front of us owes its form to the ship’s hard, flat and unsweetened biscuit or to the imagination of the bakers of yesteryear. Some of the interesting variations of biscuits are 1. Afghan Biscuits: Surprisingly no one knows if this biscuit has or ever had anything to do with the race of people that it is named after. The biscuit is a traditional product of New Zealand. It is made of cocoa powder, butter, flour and cornflakes. It is then topped with chocolate icing and half a walnut. 2. Amaretti: This Italian biscuit is made using ground sweet, bitter almonds, sometimes the kernel of an apricot and baked with eggs and sugar. The small version is called amarettini and is usually served with wine or coffee after a meal. 3. Bourbon: This is a sandwich biscuit made of two oblong dark chocolate biscuits with a chocolate fondant filling. This product was introduced in 1919 by a London baker. 4. Ghorabiye: The Iranian answer to the American cookie, Ghorabiye is made of almond flour, sugar, egg white, pistachios, vanilla and margarine. The list is endless and the variety is mouthwatering.


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