Have you ever had a Bucks County Biscotti? If not, you don’t know what you’re missing. As I write, I’m eating one of their Classic Anise Almond and it’s delicious. Subtly sweet with tiny anise seeds that give a little punch of licorice flavor and great texture. They’re really outstanding.
Everything—and I mean everything—that happens at Bucks County Biscotti is the result of the work of husband and wife team, Karen Riley and Craig Silbert. Amazingly, they are the sole employees. So baking, packaging, distribution, marketing—everything is done by these two.
I was welcomed into their beautiful 18th Century home in Hilltown—“The House that Cookies Built,” as Craig says—and learned how their success is the result of their hard work, dedication and passion for putting out a consistently great product.
Both have a background in food: Karen in baking and Craig in sales. They’ve lived in many places, but moved to Bucks County in 1990 from Manhattan. (Craig made a wrong turn on a sales trip and ended up in Doylestown, fell in love with it and they soon were living there.) Karen started making a variety of baked goods for the Doylestown Farmers’ Market and eventually some restaurants in town. Then a baby came along.
As is usually the case when a baby arrives, plans changed. Karen couldn’t keep up with the demand of fresh baked goods every day and decided to concentrate on biscotti—which have a much longer shelf life than other baked goods (about 60 days).
The business started in earnest in 1993, they moved to their current site in ‘95 and Craig joined full-time in ‘97. The rest is twice-baked history.
In their first year, they were named Best of Philly by Philadelphia Magazine. They’ve also been honored with 5 mentions (high honors) and 2 gold stars (highest honors) in a blind taste test conducted by Santé, a national food and wine magazine for restaurant professionals.
They have 7 varieties: Classic Anise Almond, Lemon Poppy, Espresso Chocolate Chip, Ginger Cherry, Cranberry Walnut (Karen’s favorite), Chocolate Hazelnut and Chocolate Dipped Classic. They also make 2 seasonal flavors: Chocolate Peppermint—dark chocolate chunks and peppermint candy pieces, dipped in chocolate and rolled in more peppermint candy pieces (available Dec. 1-Dec. 24) and Pumpkin Pecan (available late October-Thanksgiving). Incidentally, I’m now eating one of the pumpkin cookies—very yummy. Delicate pumpkin flavor, perfectly seasoned.
All their biscotti are made with the finest all-natural ingredients, no preservatives. But that’s only part of what makes these some of the best biscotti you’ll ever taste. These are truly homemade cookies. And you can taste it. It’s why so many people say, “These are just like my grandmother’s biscotti!” when they first taste them. Karen hand-cuts every one of them (in a typical week, they bake 8,000 to 10,000). The chocolate covered varieties are hand-dipped. They’re all hand-packaged. And they’re hand delivered by Karen and Craig.
A faint scent of anise was in the air as they showed me around their production area, in a building next to their home. Although the mixers and oven stood silent on this day—it was a delivery week—I could imagine the buzz in there during a baking week.
The long shelf life allows the biscotti to be baked one week and delivered the next. Coffee shops and specialty stores from Manhattan to Washington, D.C. carry Bucks County Biscotti (Whole Foods Markets in the mid-Atlantic region, as well.). Pretty much every place that sells their product was first convinced to do so when Craig showed up on a cold call and won them over with samples.
Locally, you can find Bucks County Biscotti at Pasqualina’s Italian Market & Deli in Blooming Glen, Casa Casale and House of Coffee at Peddler’s Village, Jamie Hollander Gourmet Foods in New Hope, Lilly’s Gourmet and the County Theater in Doylestown, Main Street Java in Souderton and Down to Earth Café in Perkasie.
They also have a “farm stand” where you can buy a bag of cookies right on the side of the road in front of their home/bakery. How great is that? They tell the story how they once gave some cookies to a driver delivering ingredients. Now every so often they’re woken in the middle of the night by a truck’s air breaks. It’s this same guy heading home from a long day of driving, but not before stopping for his biscotti fix.
OK. I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m eating a Chocolate Dipped Classic. More crumbs in the keyboard, but oh, that’s so tasty.
This is more than a story of really delicious cookies. It’s the story of dedication, passion, hard work and commitment to community. It’s the story of two people (who really didn’t want their picture taken) who are, in Craig’s words, “creating memories” through those really delicious cookies.