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)
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.