Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A biscuit (IPA: /bɪs.kɪt/) is a small baked bread; the exact meaning varies markedly in different parts of the world. The origin of the word "biscuit" is from Latin via Middle French and means "twice cooked". Some of the original biscuits were British naval hard tack. That was passed down to American culture, and hard tack (biscuits) was made through the 19th century.
A biscuit is a hard baked product like a small flat cake which in North America may be called a "cookie" or "cracker". The term biscuit also applies to sandwich type biscuits, where a layer of 'cream' or icing is sandwiched between two biscuits. It should be noted, however, that it has become increasingly more common within the UK for "cookie" to be used to differentiate between the softer, more chewy "cookie" and the harder, more brittle "biscuit." In this respect the British usage of the word biscuit was defined in the defence of a tax judgement found in favour of McVitie's and their product Jaffa Cakes which Her Majesty's Customs and Excise claimed was a biscuit and was therefore liable to value added tax. The successful defence rested on the fact that 'biscuits go soft when stale, whereas cakes go hard when stale.'
In Britain, the digestive biscuit has a strong cultural identity as the traditional accompaniment to a cup of tea, and is regularly eaten as such. Many tea drinkers "dunk" their biscuits in tea, allowing them to absorb liquid and soften slightly before consumption.
Although there are many regional varieties, both sweet and savoury, "biscuit" is generally used to describe the sweet version. Sweet biscuits are commonly eaten as a snack and may contain chocolate, fruit, jam, nuts or even be used to sandwich other fillings. Savoury biscuits, more often called crackers or crispbreads, are plainer and commonly eaten with cheese following a meal.
Generally, Australians and New Zealanders use the British meaning of "biscuit" (colloquially referred to as bickie or biccie or bikkie) for the sweet biscuit. Two famous Australasian biscuit varieties are the Anzac biscuit and the Tim Tam.
Despite the difference, this sense is at the root of the name of the United States' most prominent maker of cookies and crackers, the National Biscuit Company (now called Nabisco).

Biscuits in North American usage

Main article: Scone (bread)

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