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Chocolate-Walnut Mandelbrot

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Chocolate-Walnut Mandelbrot

Tips: Mandelbrot are the Jewish equivalent of biscotti, and there are innumerable variations on this theme. Traditionally, I believe, the recipe for mandelbrot includes oil and almonds and is flavored with almond extract. I adore almonds, but they make the mandelbrot even more difficult to slice than it already is, so I’ve substituted walnuts (and a large quantity of walnuts) here. The chocolate flavor comes from two sources—Dutch process cocoa and bittersweet chocolate.

These are not too sweet, crunchy, and very chocolate—perfect for dunking into coffee, tea, or milk. While these must age at least overnight before they’re served, they’ll keep for at least two weeks at room temperature if stored airtight, so they make a great “do ahead” dessert. You’ll need an electric stand mixer, large cookie sheets, and parchment paper for baking, as well as a large, very sharp, serrated knife to slice the mandelbrot. These require time and some patience, but I think they are well worth it.


  • 2-1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 4 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup safflower OR corn oil
  • Grated zest 1 large orange
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs, graded “large”, preferably at room temperature
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Adjust oven racks to divide oven into thirds; preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two large cookies sheets (17-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches) and two smaller (15-1/2 by 10-1/2 inches) cookie sheets with parchment paper. Reserve the two smaller cookie sheets for the mandelbrot’s second baking; place the two large cookies sheets next to one another on a large, flat worksurface. Have ready a ruler. Tear off a piece of wax paper about 16 inches long and place it next to one of the large lined cookie sheets. Sift a fine coating of flour onto a large area of the wax paper; keep the flour and your sifter nearby.

Into medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, combine 1/4 cup sugar (reserve remainder) and chopped chocolate. At high speed, process in brief bursts of 15 seconds each until chocolate is finely ground. Set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle beater, combine remaining 1 cup granulated sugar with oil, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well-mixed. Add eggs one at a time, beating at a low speed until each is blended in.

Still beating at a low speed, add half of sifted dry ingredients. Scrape bowl and beater(s) thoroughly. Add ground chocolate-sugar mixture and blend in; again scrape bowl and beater(s). Add remaining dry ingredients; if necessary, increase mixer speed slightly to combine ingredients. Add walnuts and blend in only until evenly distributed. The dough will be very thick and sticky.

Scrape dough onto floured sheet of wax paper. With lightly floured knife, divide dough into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time and keeping your hands lightly floured as necessary, form each quarter into a thick rope about 8 inches long. Place rope on a lined large cookie sheet, parallel to a short end but several inches away from that end. Flatten rope into a rectangle approximately 8-1/2 inches long by 2-1/2 inches wide by 1/2 inch thick; the exact dimensions are not critical, especially as these will spread somewhat during baking. Repeat with remaining quarters of dough. When done, you should have 4 rectangles on the two large, lined cookie sheets; each rectangle should be several inches from its neighbor on that sheet as well as several inches away from (and parallel to) a short end of the sheet. If there is excess flour on any of the rectangles, use a dry pastry brush to gently sweep it away. Place in preheated oven.

Bake about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, switch pans back-to-front and between racks. The rectangles will spread and lose their raw look; they may also develop some cracks in their top surfaces. Remove baking sheets to cooling racks. REDUCE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO 250 DEGREES F.

While rectangles are still hot, they will be sliced. Carefully remove the parchment paper (with the rectangles still on it) from the hot baking sheets; if it’s easier for you, cut the parchment paper in half to do this, so that each half contains one rectangle. Place the rectangles, still on parchment paper, on cooling racks while they wait to be sliced.

Slice one rectangle at a time on a cutting board. You’ll need a very sharp serrated knife. These cannot be sliced as thin as some other mandelbrot I’ve seen; the thinnest I can manage is about 2/3 to 3/4 of an inch. You’ll have to experiment with cutting techniques to see what works best for you. Sometimes, if I cut very gently with a sawing motion, that works best; on other occasions, I’ll cut very gently with a sawing motion through about the top third, then, if the mandelbrot start to crack or split, I press the knife straight down through them. In any case, expect a few mandelbrot to emerge broken from this process—it’s no big deal.

When each rectangle has been cut, loosen the slices gently from the parchment paper with a broad-bladed metal spatula. Transfer the slices gently to one of the 15-1/2 by 10-1/2 lined cookie sheets, placing each cut side down; the slices can be placed very close to one another. I place the slices from two rectangles on each baking sheet, and they fit handily. When you’re done slicing and all the slices have been placed on a baking sheet, place the filled baking sheets into the 250 degree oven.

Bake for 10 to 11 minutes. If pressed gently, the cut side facing up may still feel semisoft, but these will crisp as they cool. Switch sheets back-to-front and between racks. In addition, working with one sheet at a time, carefully and gently flip mandelbrot so the cut side that was down is now facing up. Bake an additional 10 to 11 minutes.

Remove sheets to cooling racks. With broad-bladed metal spatula, place individual mandelbrot on other racks. Cool completely before storing airtight at room temperature; store at least overnight before serving.

Yields: 36 to 40 mandelbrot

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