During the last decades, technological procedures in the production of biscuits have changed - particularly concerning automation and safety: human intervention has been minimized, while the attention paid to high levels of hygiene on the processing line and the choice of raw materials both guarantee the safety of the product.
Flour is the basic ingredient of biscuits. "Crispbread's" recipe consists of sugar and glucose syrup, butter or vegetable fat, salt, powdered skimmed milk, leavening agents and flavourings, while shortbread's one includes a higher percentage of fats, and most of the time eggs, too.
But other flavouring ingredients may be used - including cocoa, nuts and other flours.
After the crispbread's dough has been mixed, it is rolled until it has the right thickness; the resulting dough is placed in moulds that give biscuits their shape.
On the opposite, shortbread's dough is not rolled but shaped through a rotary press - i.e. pressed into the moulds that give biscuits their shape - a "scratching" knife then flattens the top.
But more fluid doughs do exist, like those of savoiardi or amaretti - they are normally extruded by passing through dies that shape the product, then they're trimmed and brought to the oven directly.
To complete the whole, wafer biscuits must be mentioned. In this case the dough is liquid, and is quickly dried and shaped on heated hotplates. The various wafers are subsequently piled up, alternated with layers of cream.
Crackers are obtained through the quick baking of one or more doughs - even leavened ones - made of cereals' flour, water and possibly salt, sugars, oils and fats, malt, malt-based products, alimentary bran and other ingredients - plus authorized flavourings and additives.
Crackers are made through pressing, and their moistness content should never exceed 7 per cent of the finished product's total weight, with an average tolerance of 2 per cent in terms of absolute value.
Once the basic dough of rusks is ready, it is divided into portions (the so-called "shaping” phase) to obtain the desired shape (normally that of a bread loaf). Loafs are left to leaven, then they're baked, thus acquiring the classical colour we all know.
The following phase is called "seasoning": the inner part of the loaf is cooled and moistness is homogeneously distributed, so that the product is ready to be cut. Slices are then toasted in a different kind of oven, and at a different kind of temperature than the baking one.
Packaging is the last step: it has the double function of protecting rusks during the transport, while also preserving the product for the better.
Rusks' moistness content should never exceed 7 per cent of the total weight of the finished product, with an average tolerance of 2 per cent in terms of absolute value.
Panettone, pandoro, colomba
The processing of natural yeast normally takes 15 hours.
That's the reason why natural leavening has slowly been abandoned in Italy: nowadays it is only used in the production of panettone, pandoro and colomba.
Therefore, the processing cycle is quite long: it takes 35 hours to take one of these seasonal cakes out of the oven.
The production cycle never stops and its phases - including a three-times fermentation process for the yeast mixture, a three-times rising one before the final baking, breaking, rounding, leavening, baking, cooling and packaging - are carefully measured.
The whole production cycle is controlled by the manufacturers, with particular attention to hygiene and health. As for this key topic, the confectionery industries follow the guidelines established by the Manual of Correct Hygiene and HACCP Procedure, prepared by AIDEPI and approved by the Italian Ministry of Health.
A decree guarantees the "reserved trade name”
AIDI, now a part of AIDEPI, has always protected the quality of the products of the Italian confectionery tradition: since June, 2003, the associated enterprises have subscribed to a disciplinary document for the "good practice" in the production of Panettone, Pandoro, Colomba, Savoiardo and Amaretto (in both its versions, soft and hard).
Since July 22th, 2005, the quality of Panettone, Pandoro, Colomba, Savoiardo and Amaretto is guaranteed by a Decree adopted by both the Ministry of the Production Activities and by the Ministry of the Agricultural Policies, establishing the definition and composition of these traditional Italian bakery products - only those products that fully respect the production disciplinary document set by the above mentioned Decree may use the reserved trade name of Panettone, Pandoro, Colomba, Savoiardo and Amaretto.