What are mandelbrot, you ask? Well, the best way to describe them is “Jewish biscotti”. Yes, technically, these are cookies. But, the word mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish, so I’m going to go with that. I’m sure you’ll forgive me.
This recipe comes to me courtesy of my friend Belle, who gave me a handwritten copy of her family’s recipe as a submission to my project. Mandelbrot isn’t something I would come across through the natural course of my life, because I am not Jewish. I am not well-versed in Jewish food, save one festival foray last April. My lack of knowledge became apparent almost immediately upon me sitting down to write this post: I was excited to be making a Jewish bread during Passover, but quickly discovered that this particular recipe isn’t kosher for Passover. It calls for flour and baking soda (two things forbidden during Passover).
Learning this led me down the kashrut rabbit hole (rabbits: also not kosher). As a (lapsed) Roman Catholic, I have always been fascinated by and admiring of those who keep kosher, even if just for Passover.
Quick version: during Passover, Jews refrain from eating chometz: anything that contains barley, wheat, rye, oats, and spelt, and is not cooked within 18 minutes after coming in contact with water. No leavening is allowed. This restriction signifies the fact that the Hebrews had no time to let their bread rise as they made a hurried escape from Egypt. But not all Jews follow the same rules: Ashkenazi Jews, who come from Europe (most Jews in America), also avoid corn, rice, peanuts, and legumes as can also be used to make bread and may have other grains mixed in. These additional items are known as kitniyot.
I could delve deeper, but this is not a post about kashrut. And besides, Jewish scholars have pondered the kashrut for centuries and have written entire books about it; I’m just an ordinary Christian making some
As always, my comments/adjustments are in blue.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup oil (I used light olive oil)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp almond extract
- pinch salt
- 1 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts (I used walnuts because that’s what I had on hand; traditional versions use almonds)
- Cinnamon + sugar mixture (whatever ratio you like best. You’ll need a few tablespoons worth)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Beat eggs and sugar together in mixer. Add all remaining ingredients, except the cinnamon-sugar. Divide dough into three parts. I divided it into two, because I only have two cookie sheets. The dough will be very sticky; use a little flour on your hands to pat into rectangles.
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon-sugar.
Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Slice into rectangles. Turn rectangles on their sides and sprinkle with more cinnamon-sugar.
Return pans to oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, depending upon how brown and crisp you like them. 7 minutes was my magic number.
- Overall pretty great. Not too sweet, nice crumb and texture.
- “Better than Gert’s!” – said Belle, giver of Gert’s recipe and the mother of Gert’s grandchildren. She was not insulting Gert, though; while I chose to bake the mandelbrot on the softer side, apparently Gert preferred the bread crisper and let them bake longer on the second go-round. Belle also prefers softer mandelbrot, so it was strictly a preferential declaration.
- “Why are you trying to kill me?” – said Jackie, who is allergic to nuts. Sorry.
- This seems to me to be a highly adaptable recipe – I imagine it would take well to many different variations and add-ins. I’m imagining mini chocolate chips, other types of nuts, dried fruit, and ultimately dipping the cookies in chocolate. Dried cherries and dark chocolate…I’ll be making a return visit to this recipe for sure.
- Definitely not what I’d categorize as “healthy”. One entire cup of oil! But, then again, they’re
cookiesbread. So who cares!
- These would make a great addition to a holiday cookie tray. Make them a bit smaller, and the recipe will go farther.