Mandel is Yiddish (and German) for "almond."
Brot means "bread." The truth is these cookies
should be called mandelbrot, but my family always
used the English/Yiddish compound. Why we mixed up
the two languages I¹m not sure. A friend once
suggested we just call them biscotti judaica, Italian
for "Jewish cookies." After all, they look,
taste, and are even made like Italian biscotti. (At
least one food authority thinks they may have originated
from the ghetto in Venice.) You should have seen my
sister Carrie and I trying to teach my mother the
word biscotti. Just when we thought she had it, she¹d
flubbed the word "spaghetti" instead. Anyway,
these cookies are terrific.
bread comes in many varieties. Some have chocolate
chips, others are made with matzo cake meal so they
can be eaten on Passover. Although I¹ve seen
"mandel bread" made with hazelnuts, the
phrase "hazelnut mandel bread" is actually
an oxymoron. The trick is that the cookies are baked
twice. First they are shaped into logs and baked until
set. Then they are sliced into cookies and baked again
to dry out. The resulting cookie is a little bit like
a rock--in a good way. They are best dunked in coffee
(an Italian might use vin santo). Despite these numerous
steps, they are easy to make. My mother, who lost
her sight several years ago, can literally make them
in her sleep. And hers are always delicious.
There are several secrets to these cookies, not
the least important of which is using fresh, good
quality almonds. My mother sprinkles the dough with
vanilla sugar, available in small packets from Germany¹s
Dr. Oetker or made simply by putting vanilla beans
in a canister of sugar and letting them sit for a
few weeks. Alternately, you can roll the cookies in
cinnamon sugar before the second baking.
Yield: Makes about 4 dozen cookies
cups whole almonds, with skin
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, about 1
small 6-ounce can, defrosted but not diluted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Crisco (100% soy bean) vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus an additional 1/2
cup if necessary
2 packages (about 3 tablespoons) vanilla sugar or
3/4 cup Cinnamon Sugar
2 cookie sheets
oven to 350ºF.
two cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease generously.
Place the whole almonds on one of the cookie sheets
and set in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes, just
until you can smell the scent of toasted almonds.
Stir them around once or twice while toasting and
be careful not to let them burn. Remove from the oven
and cool. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor
fitted with a metal chopping blade. Pulse the processor
about 15 times, just until the almonds are coarsely
chopped. Do not worry if they aren¹t uniform;
some pieces should be bigger than others.
a large mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice
concentrate, vanilla extract, vegetable oil, eggs,
sugar, and salt until well blended. Using a wooden
spoon, stir in about 2 cups of the flour with half
of the almonds until blended. Add another 2 cups of
flour and the remaining almonds. The dough should
have the consistency of loose Play-doit should
be able to hold its shape without looking dry. If
it is too wet, add additional flour, no more than
1/2 cup, until it will hold its shape.
a large spoon, scoop about half of the dough into
a log shape down the center of one of the cookie sheets.
With the back of your spoon or a flexible spatula,
shape the dough into an even log about 2 inches across,
1 inch thick, and 12 to 15 inches long. Repeat with
the remaining dough on the second cookie sheet. Smooth
out the logs so they look uniform. Don¹t try
to crowd two logs on one sheet because they will expand
slightly as they bake and you will need the extra
space for the second part of the baking process. If
using vanilla sugar, sprinkle one whole package over
the surface of each of the logs to cover. Set in the
middle of the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes,
until the logs are somewhat firm to the touch and
look cooked through (slight hairline cracks on the
surface will indicate that they are ready).
from the oven and cool. Turn down the oven to 250F.
Transfer the logs to a cutting board. To make them
easier to handle, you can slice them in half on an
angle using a sharp serrated knife. With the same
knife, continue to slice the logs on an angle about
1/2-inch thick to produce biscotti-shaped cookies.
Lay the cookies sliced side down on the parchment-lined
cookies sheets (you may need an extra cookie sheet
in order to have enough room). If you didn¹t
use the vanilla sugar, place the cinnamon sugar in
a wide soup bowl and roll the cookies as you cut them
in it before placing them on the cookie sheet. Return
the cookies to the 250F. oven for 20 minutes
to dry out. Turn each cookie over and continue baking
for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool.
Transfer to an airtight container. The mandel bread
will keep for up to 3 weeks stored airtight and will
freeze for up to 2 months.
Crisco oil? I just like it better. Crisco makes a
neutral tasting soybean oil. As I¹ve said before,
I find both canola oil and corn oil to have distinct
flavors and oiliness when used in desserts (or anything
for that matter). Although I usually recommend cooking
or baking with peanut oil, I find the peanut flavor
fights with the almonds for dominance in these cookies.
about smaller cookies? If you prefer your mandel bread
the size of petits fours, make smaller logs of dough,
about 1 inch wide, and decrease the initial baking
time by about 8 minutes.
and dry out as directed above.