I have absolutely no recollection of this recipe from my childhood. As part of my grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered files, “mandlebread” is a fantastic recipe. Either I had never eaten this cookie or simply cannot remember it. For a child, perhaps it is too hard as cookies go? Mandlebrot does not go as well with milk, say, rather than with tea – ugh for most kids – or coffee – double ugh. It is also devoid of chocolate, so I might not have cared for them, obliterating the memories of one try from my mind.
The recipe is very specific with its directions and was a breeze to follow - with one odd exception: “nuts”. “Mandel” is “almond”, so I suspect Jessie just knew to use them – rather than other favourites of hers, such as pecans or walnuts. A mandelbrot, or, mandelbrodt, is an middle-European counterpart to biscotti, made typically with almonds (“mandel”, in both German and Yiddish, “brot” meaning “bread”). Mandelbrot has made a bit of a comeback in cookie-dom, along with the resurgence in world-wide coffee-culture (in this iteration, think Starbucks and free WiFi as opposed to Le Procope in Paris and “philosophers cafes”).
What I found amusing about this recipe is that I could not find a photo which somehow would correspond. So I chose one of my grandmother at the ruins of Uxmal on a winter getaway to Mexico around 1974. Jessie visited Israel right after Egypt a few years before her trip to Mexico (and I have used the one photo I have from that tour already) but never went to middle-European destinations (e.g., Austria, Hungary, or Germany, where mandelbrot once reigned supreme), so the Mayan setting will have to do!
For the cookie’s character and the recipe…
I enjoyed following Jessie’s recipe and making this fine cookie. As I had never made either biscotti or mandlebrot before, I expected it to be more time-consuming or even finnicky. However, this recipe turned out to be fast to prepare and very straight forward.
The cookies turned out to be substantial, with enough heft to hold up when dipped in hot coffee or tea (espresso, cappuccino, or vin santo would work as accompaniments, too). The almonds provide a crunchy textural counterpart to a tight but not rock-hard crumb; I feared these might turn out like the not-so-stellar biscotti (why not call them what they are: inferior and stale) one finds in many coffee houses these days. Yet I do believe that mandelbrot is generally not quite as hard as good authentic biscotti. With the dusting of cinnamon-sugar all over the cookies, there is a burst of flavour and an additional crystalline crunch. This definitely is one of my favourites of Jessie’s recipes I have prepared to-date.
While I had not considered this during the baking, the mandelbrot would be even better dipped half-way into dark chocolate, maybe with a touch of cayenne. Oh, that must be the connection to Mexico I was seeking above! Whatever you call this cookie, Jessie’s “mandlebread” is a toothsome treat.
MandelBread, from Jessie’s recipe files
Makes about 30 cookies
- 1 cup oil (neutral, such as canola)
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar (plus a few tablespoons extract for sprinkling on finished cookies)
- 3 1/2 cups AP flour (yeah, yeah, OK, it’s “all-purpose”)
- 1 cup chopped almonds (I broke up whole almonds, with skins intact, in a mini-food processor, until
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cinnamon, ground (to taste, but I used about one teaspoon)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with non-stick silicone pad or parchment paper.
2. Beat eggs, one at a time, into oil, until well blended. Stir in vanilla.
3. Mix flour, sugar, salt, and almonds together.
4. Mix egg mixture into flour.
5. Turn out onto work surface, kneading just a bit.
6. Form three logs or “strips” of about 10″ by 3″. Round off the edges a bit.
7. Bake for 30 minutes.
8. Remove baking sheet from oven. Slice, with a sharp knife, into 10 segments of approximately one-inch each. Place segments back on sheet on the cut side preferably.
9. Bake at 325 for 10 to 15 minutes, or until a light golden-brown.
10. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture when just out of the oven.
11. Cool on wire rack.
12. Enjoy with whatever drink makes you think of the times when coffee, cookies, and conversation were an important feature of the day.