Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rebecca's Mandelbrodt

A twice baked cookie that's perfect for dunking!

I faced a major problem in figuring out what to do for Hanukkah this year. While last year's latkes and applesauce turned out pretty darn tasty, the mess they caused in our kitchen (the day before Thanksgiving...) made my mom put her foot down pretty quickly about any Hanukkah adventures we did this year: no frying anything in oil.

Unfortunately, that's a pretty big part of the Hanukkah story. Like, the part, so a lot of Hanukkah recipes involve things being fried in oil, whether they be doughnuts or potato pancakes. I was pretty stumped on what to do, and was resigned to spending a lot of time ferreting around on the internet trying to find something that was both period accurate and didn't involve frying anything.

But then Food Network saved me during the first episode of their Holiday Baking Championship, where one of the bakers made a Jewish cookie called mandelbrodt, and I knew I had found my feature for this week.

What is mandelbrodt? It's basically the Jewish version of biscotti, and is a goody that existed in some form or another since Biblical times, which is pretty impressive. I don't think many dishes can boast that kind of history! The word mandelbrodt literally means almond bread, so it stands to reason that they have a lot of almonds in them, and this recipe doesn't disappoint. Although there's nothing really Hanukkah specific with these cookies, they're still a treat that can be enjoyed more or less year round, except, of course, at Passover because it uses flour. They can also apparently keep in an airtight container for up to three months because of how little moisture is left in them after you're done baking. Pretty useful trick.

According to Duff Goldman - one of the judges on Holiday Baking Championship - most Jewish kids hear mandelbrodt and run", something I'm all too familiar with because I actually really don't like biscotti. At least, I didn't when I was a kid, and it's turned me off the idea as an adult. I should probably give them another try now that I'm not as fussy an eater as I was as a kid. There's no real concrete historical connection between the two cookies, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a case of one inspiring the other, or two very similar things being invented by different people at different times, like the popsicle. Hey, it happens!

The specific recipe I used was written by Barbara Rolek, and can be found here! You begin by whipping sugar and eggs together in a stand mixer until they're foamy, which I'd never done before. This was pretty cool to watch happen!

You're not looking to make a meringue or anything, but once they're nice and fluffy, you should be okay to move on to carefully mixing in the oil, vanilla and almond extract.

Next comes your dry ingredients. This cookie requires a pretty simple arrangement of dry ingredients - you just need flour, salt, baking powder and your chopped up almonds. The dough combined pretty easily despite filling most of my stand mixer's bowl. Sometimes, when I make really big batches of dough in the stand mixer, it really starts to strain and doesn't quite combine the ingredients well, but this time, it worked well!

Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy to handle. I couldn't really get them to roll out into logs without getting a ton of dough permanently fused to my hands, so my second "log" was really more like "a couple balls of dough kind of forced to sit next to each other and hopefully baking them will make them fuse."

I was pretty pleased to discovered it mostly worked after I baked them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I say "mostly" because when I started to cut them, they kind of started to fall apart. Some more than others, and mostly from the second loaf, but for a cookie I expected to be strong enough to build a house with, I was a little frustrated.

Some of them managed to survive the baking progress mostly intact, but a couple really did not hold up well.

Once you've baked them for about ten minutes on both sides, they're all dried out and ready to enjoy! After they've cooled off, obviously.

Keeping in mind that I don't really like biscotti, it's probably not surprising that I wasn't a huge, huge fan of these. I'm honestly not a huge fan of anything that's too hard to enjoy eating it without soaking it in something (I'm pretty sensitive to breaking my teeth!), but while I'm always going to pick a chocolate chip cookie over a piece of mandelbrodt, they were actually a lot better than I thought they would be! They were very almondy, and while I didn't really like eating them on their own, they tasted pretty great paired with a cup of hot chocolate.

My brother would probably strongly disagree with my less than stellar review. To my great surprise, I kept catching him sneaking one or two or finishing off the rest of the container, so I guess I didn't get to test if they'd taste just as good a month or two out from when I baked them. Several of my other family members seemed to enjoy it too, so I figure if you like this kind of cookie, this might be a good recipe to give a whirl yourself. It wasn't too hard to make, it makes a lot of cookies, and they're definitely tasty if you're looking for something to dunk in your hot beverage or just crunch on after basketball practice.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!


  1. Looks delicious! Your Rebecca is beautiful!

    1. Thank you! She is definitely one of my favorites even though her hair still stresses me out, haha.

  2. We love mandelbrodt around here. I first had it at a Jewish food street festival a few years ago, but my friend Rebecca makes it sometimes at school, too. My favourite is her chocolate chip mandelbrodt. Yours looks so delicious!

    1. Ooh, chocolate chip mandelbrodt sounds good! I might have to give that a try next time. :)