Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mandelbrot (No, not the mathematician)

In what is apparently, though inadvertently, an ethnic cookie bakeoff between me and Niksmom (are you dying to try her krumkake as much as I am?), I present to you what may well be my favorite Jewish dessert.

You call them biscotti. But we? We call them mandelbrot, which literally means almond (mandel) bread (brot). Are they the same thing? Oy, if I had the time to research that, I'd be a rich woman. (OK, not really. Unless some ridiculously rich person was just dying to know the answer, and too lazy to Google.) So instead, let me put it this way. They sure taste a lot alike.*

Anyway. The best thing about mandelbrot, from a Kosher perspective, is that they are naturally pareve. (Pareve means neutral--made with neither meat or dairy or their derivatives. Somewhat confusingly, eggs are not considered dairy when you're talking Kosher, so the fact that these have eggs does not make them dairy.)

When I say they're 'naturally' pareve, I mean that you don't have to mess with the original recipe to omit butter or milk in order to serve them with a meat meal. They are perfect just the way they are. And while I don't keep Kosher myself, I have friends who do, and I attend potlucks at a temple where Kosher laws need to be obeyed. Knowing that bringing mandelbrot will never be a problem, no matter what is being served? Priceless.

They fact that they are simply delicious? Priceless-er.

Mandelbrot (from my mother's recipe box to my own, though I'm guessing this one came from further up the family tree)

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil (use a neutral one, like canola)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup ground almonds (I ground the whole almonds shown here in my food processor)

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl, starting with the sugar, then add the last two (dry) ingredients a little at a time, until wet.

Prepare two cookie sheets. (My mother's instruction is to grease them. I would be literally lost, baking-wise, without parchment paper to line my cookie sheets. Parchment can be hard to find in the grocery store--only one of the two big-name grocery stores around here carries it--and that surprises me, because whereas I used to burn stuff ALL THE TIME, I now pretty much never burn anything I'm baking. Miracle stuff, I tell you. Miracle stuff. But, hey. Do whatever you want. I'm just sayin'...if the mondel burns, don't come crying to me.)

Wet your hands with cold water, and divide the dough (it's STICKY) into four parts. Keep wetting your hands as needed as you spread the dough out into thin 'loaves,' two on each cookie sheet.

Bake the loaves at 350 for about 25 minutes. They should be, as my mother instructs, "quite golden" when you take them out.

But wait. Not so fast. Take them out one tray at a time, because you need to cut the loaves while they're still soft, and this dough hardens quickly once it's out of the oven.

Slice each loaf into strips. (For some reason, I always do them on an angle, almost like they're little London broils. I have no idea why, except that it's the way my mom did them. I think. And if not, it's because that's the way I think my mom did them.) Now bring out the other tray, and slice those loaves.

Turn each strip onto one side, then return the tray to the oven, toasting the mandelbrot for about 10 minutes.

Remove, and let cool. Eat. And eat. And eat.

These are really mild tasting, but unbearably delicious. So delicious, in fact, that even though this recipe makes probably upwards of three dozen 'brot,' I often double it. I bring them as hostess gifts to holiday parties, potlucks, etc. They're somehow just a squidge classier in feel than regular old cookies, and yet they're even easier to make, in my opinion. Win win!

*Hey, does anyone out there have a homemade biscotti recipe they'd be willing to dig out? We could probably settle this by comparing recipes, methinks. Or we could have a mandelbrot/biscotti taste test. Yeah! That's the ticket...The ticket to obesity, I mean.


  1. I love them burnt on the bottom and my sister, your mother, would save them for me. I sure do miss them...

  2. PS That was a huge hint by the way but only the burnt ones... I don't like them if they aren't burnt... LOL

  3. Ooh, YUM-YUM-YUM-O! I've gotta try these...GF, of course. I'm already thinking of all the variations...dipped in chocolate, made with lemon and glazed w/confectioners sugar. You know, kinda like biscotti? ;-)

    Hmmm...these may just become my new go-to gifts for all our therapists, etc.

    And, um, if you need a judge for the taste testing? *raises hand*

  4. Those do seem a bit fancier or classier. I like that. Great gift idea.

  5. AB, you're going to have to fly out here if you want burnt mandel. I'm happy to make 'em for you; it's the shipping to Florida I'd object to!

  6. Also, can I make fun of myself for a minute? It wasn't until after I posted that top photo that I noticed some of what is on my (ohsomessy) kitchen table in the blurred background. Namely (from left to right), my Crock Pot, a bottle of beer, and baby powder. Even I have to ask...WTF? And it's my house!

  7. hmmm... ours is more like a cookie dough with chocolate chips inside and sugar cinnamon on top. mmmmmm


  8. I recently (today) had the pleasure of devouring about 1/2 lb of Mandelbrot, baked by none other than the blogger's mom. It accompanied (2) cups of french vanilla coffee and inspired me to hunt down the infamous recipe.

    I will baking Madelbrot in the very near future.

    Thank you!


  9. Michael, you are my best recipe 'customer'! Still baking challah on a semi-regular basis?

  10. Hey TC,
    Your Challah is a hit with everyone I bake it for. In recent weeks I have been experimenting with Whole Wheat and (non-bleached) Italian Breads. I recently sold (6) of them at a garage sale at the Jersey Shore for $4.00 each! The customers were eating the bread at the sale - lol

    Next month JV and I are visiting some Jewish friends for dinner at their house. I will be braiding some challah for sure. I'm curious how it compares to what they have eaten. Will let you know. Be well.
    Michael xo