Mandelbrot means almond bread in German. It is a traditional Jewish cookie that is related to the Italian biscotti. This recipe was given to me by my long-time friend Arnie Civins. It came from his mother, Edie Kaplan Civins.
Edie’s recipe used oil, rather than butter, to make the cookies pareve—that is, they can be eaten after a meal of meat and still be true to Jewish kashrut dietary laws. The high amount of oil and the nuts make the cookies less brittle than most biscotti. I’ve added orange zest for its beautiful color and flavor.
Makes: Thirty 3-and-1/2- by 1-and-3/8-inch cookies
Twenty minutes or longer before baking, set two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Set the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius).
Thirty minutes ahead, into a one-cup (237-milliliters) glass measure with a spout, weigh or measure the eggs. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set on the counter.
Into a one-cup (237 milliliter) glass measure with a spout, weigh or measure the oil.
Into a medium bowl, weigh or measure the flour. Remove 30 grams (1/4 cup) to a custard cup for dusting the dough. Whisk the baking powder and salt into the remaining flour.
Finely chop the orange zest.
Grind the sliced almonds in batches with a little of the flour mixture in a spice mill, or use a rotary nut grinder.
Whisk the orange zest and ground almonds into the (remaining) flour mixture.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the sugar and egg mixture on medium speed for two to three minutes, until lighter in color and very thick.
Gradually beat in the oil.
On low speed, gradually beat in the flour mixture.
Lightly dust a counter with a little of the reserved flour. Scrape the dough on top and knead it, adding as little additional flour as possible, to form a soft, tacky (slightly sticky) dough. Yields 800 grams dough.
To make the dough in a food processor, process the sugar and orange zest until the zest is very fine. With the motor running, add the egg mixture and process until completely blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running, gradually add the oil, processing until blended. Add the sliced almonds and process until finely chopped. Add the flour mixture and process just until it is almost completely incorporated and some of the mixture is still clinging to the sides of the bowl, about seven seconds. Continue with step seven.
Divide the dough in half (about 400 grams each). Form each piece of dough into a two-and-a-half-inch-wide by about seven-and-a-half-inch-long cylinder.
If using the whole almonds, line them up lengthwise down the cylinders of dough (to make slicing the baked mandelbrot easier) and press them firmly into the dough. Pinch the dough together to enclose them.
Set the cylinders pinched side down on the counter and roll lightly, maintaining the diameter of two and a half inches.
Place the cylinders two inches apart on a cookie sheet.
Set the cookie sheet on the upper oven rack and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway around. Continue baking for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the mandelbrot is lightly browned and very firm. There will likely be some cracks along the sides. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius).
Set the cookie sheet on a wire rack. Wet a full- size paper towel or two half-size ones and squeeze out the excess water. Lay on top of the cylinders, then cover with a piece of aluminum foil. This will keep the top crusts soft, to facilitate slicing. Cool until warm to the touch.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
Slide the cylinders onto a cutting mat or board; remove and discard the paper towel(s).
Using a serrated knife, slice each cylinder on an angle into 15 mandelbrot, about half an inch wide. Arrange them cut side down on the two cookie sheets. They can be very close together, without touching.
Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the tops of the mandelbrot. Then smooth it over the entire surface of each cookie.
Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until pale golden.
With a thin pancake turner, flip the mandelbrot over. Remove the end pieces. Sugar the tops of the remaining slices and bake for another eight to 10 minutes, until pale golden; rotate the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking period.
Set the cookie sheets on wire racks and let the mandelbrot cool completely.
Store airtight at room temperature for three months, or frozen for six months.
– Unbleached all-purpose flour has a higher amount of gluten-forming proteins than bleached flour, which helps to strengthen the dough and hold in the whole almonds. Avoid adding too much flour when shaping the dough. It needs to be a bit sticky to prevent cracks from forming during baking.
– Wash the orange with dishwashing liquid, rinse, and dry before zesting.
– When cutting the baked cylinders, hold them near the portion being sliced and press gently on top.
– If the mandelbrot become very hard on storage, either dip them in tea or coffee or set a damp paper towel in a small foil cup or glass custard cup in the storage container for a few days to soften them.
Recipe excerpted from The Cookie Bible (Harvest, 2022) with permission from the publisher. Buy the book on Amazon.