Not gonna lie, I'm not a huge fan of the rice teething crackers that fill the baby aisles these days. They're sort of flavorless, insubstantial wafers that break down into a soggy mess and, once hardened, are impossible to clean up. Years ago, I remember seeing zwieback toast packaged and marketed as teething biscuits, but after looking around, it seems that both brands I recall have discontinued the product. Bummer! But then again, perhaps not. In my online quest, I discovered many recipes for making zwieback from scratch at home. I decided to give it a try.
Zwieback (from the German zwie + backen, meaning "twice-bake") is similar to the Italian biscotti (from the Latin bis + coctus, meaning "twice-cooked") in that both are, unsurprisingly, baked two times--once as a loaf, and then again a second time as slices. From the recipes I am familiar with, it seems that zwieback differ from biscotti largely in that they are usually quite plain, whereas biscotti (particularly in America) are often chock full of spices, nuts, fruits, and chocolate. Also, zwieback are made from a yeasted bread, so they are more properly toast. Whereas biscotti are more properly cookies.
Zwieback are easy to make, and because they lack moisture, they seem to keep in an airtight container indefinitely. My 9-month-old loves these as teething crackers, and I love that she will happily sit in her highchair munching on a zwieback for upwards of half an hour, allowing me enough time to do the dishes, or get dinner on the table.
Humorous aside: in my internet searches I found many people bemoaning that zwieback were introduced to the American market as "teething crackers." In Germany, these toasty treats are enjoyed by all, no matter age or stage of development. When older children and adults are enjoying zwieback, you'll find them sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. I only tried the zwieback plain (sans cinnamon sugar), so I can't speak to this suggestion, but I think I'd personally far prefer biscotti for my snack!
teething toasts (zwieback)
4 cups flour
6 tablespoons white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup lukewarm milk
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir, then knead, together until it forms a smooth dough (it will be a bit sticky and smell heavenly). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it stand in a warm spot, away from drafts, until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
After it is risen and puffy, turn the dough out onto a counter and divide in two. Shape each half into a log about a foot long. Set each log side-by-side on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let them rise for roughly 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the logs for 22-25 minutes, until a deep golden brown. Let the logs cool on the tray until they can be handled, and then transfer to a rack and let them sit, uncovered, over night.
After they've sat over night, preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Slice the logs into 1/2" slices and arrange the slices on two parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for one hour, flip all of the toasts, and then back in the oven to bake for another hour.
Let the toasts cool on the baking sheets, and then move them to an airtight container. (I used a gallon-size ziplock bag.) Makes 3-4 dozen.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour.