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Zwieback is a form of very crispy toast that is often served to babies and invalids because it is easy to digest. This bread typically includes eggs, adding nutritional value to the loaf, and it is often sweetened to make it more palatable. Many markets carry zwieback, and it also can be easily made at home. Most classically, zwieback is eaten plain, although some people like to dip it in soups or warmed milk.
The word "zwieback" comes from Middle High German, and it means “twice baked.” Zwieback tends to be very durable, and it spoils slowly, especially when kept in an airtight container or stored under refrigeration. Zwieback is long lasting, so many cooks like to make a big batch and freeze some of it for later use.
Making zwieback is quite simple. First, bread is made normally, typically using a rich dough that includes eggs and might include whole grains for extra nutrition. After the loaf bakes and cools, it is sliced and baked again until the slices turn golden brown and very crisp. After these slices cool, they can be stored, ideally in an airtight container, and used as needed.
Teething babies often like zwieback because it provides some texture, which can help ease aching gums and help new teeth to break through the gums. Some parents also use zwieback as a snack food or treat to distract their children at parties and dinners, because a piece of zwieback can be quite occupying to eat, for children who enjoy this food. Several baby food companies even sell zwieback specifically designed for babies, in slices that are small enough for a baby to hold easily.
In addition to being used for children, zwieback also can make a good snack for invalids because it is mild, easy to digest and feels like solid food in the stomach, which can help to make people feel better when they are feeling a bit ill. Zwieback also can be used in things such as appetizers, in which case it is often referred to as Melba toast. One advantage of using zwieback for appetizers and hors d'oeuvres is that the bread will stay crisp rather than becoming soggy, because it has been baked twice.