Grandma Esther’s Mandelbread
Check out Our Guide to Yom Kippur Break Fast Eating!
When I emailed my grandma recently to ask for her mandelbread recipe, she sent back not only the same ingredients and instructions that my mom turned out to have handwritten on an index card and my sister Kate had included in her high school senior project, a cookbook called “From my Grandmother’s Kitchen,” but also a recipe for her favorite cake of the season, an oil-based Italian plum cake.
When I called Grandma Esther to thank her for sending the mandelbread recipe, she said what I had inferred from her inclusion of the plum cake: that mandelbread just wasn’t a cookie she held in that high esteem. “No one ever eats it,” she said. She’s not wrong: put a plate of mandelbread next to Uncle Michael’s Chocolate Pudding Pie with Whipped Cream and the box of Lilac Chocolates Aunt Beth brings to holidays, and you can’t be surprised that my cousins, uncles, and I don’t leap for joy at the homemade biscotti-like cookie.
Like biscotti, mandelbread is a little austere. Though there’s a time and a place for a hard, dippable cookie, I’m the first to admit it’s no soft, goeey chocolate chip cookie–or chocolate pudding pie. Nevertheless, mandelbread, a cookie with origins in Jewish Eastern Europe, is an ideal cookie jar cookie. It keeps well, gives you a satisfying hint of sweet when you crave it, and is great for packing in a lunchbox or picnic basket.
If you’re observing Yom Kippur, get them ready for your cookie jar early this week so you can double fist a few as you stuff your face, starving, with the obligatory bagel and lox you’re holding in your free hand.
From my kitchen, looking back to my grandma’s, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes about 60
You can use any combination of dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate that suits your fancy!
The secret to success here is twofold: one, chop the filling ingredients very, very finely. Nothing should be larger than a mini chocolate chip. Second, don’t get frustrated with the dough. It’s very soft, but if you flour your counter well enough, you’ll find your logs can be filled and folded without overwhelming disaster. Best part is, no matter how messy they appear, they usually bake up pretty damn well. Enjoy these with a cup of tea or wine.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons orange juice
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the filling
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup finely chopped dried fuit (try raisins, cherries, or papaya)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
For the topping:
1 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
In a large bowl, beat eggs until they are thick and lightened in color. Add oil, vanilla, orange juice, and
sugar and beat until this mixture is well blended. Add the flour one cup at a time, and the salt. Once the dough
begins to form a ball, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and kneed the dough 10 to 15 times. Divide the dough into three 10 inches by 3 inches logs that are each about 1 inch thick. Refrigerate these logs for at least 30 minutes, but no longer than an hour.
In the meantime, mix the mandelbread topping in a small bowl, and the ingredients for the filling in a large bowl.
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
When you are ready to roll your mandelbread, remove one log from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle that is about a 1/2 inch thick. On one end of the dough, place about 1/3 cup of filing, and spread it the length of the dough. Roll the dough, as you might a jellyroll, ensuring that the filling does not fall out. After the filling is safely locked into the dough, shape the roll into a 3 by 10 inch log. If any filing does fall out, simply press it back into the dough. Repeat the rolling and shaping process for each log of dough. Lay the logs on a baking sheet, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until firm and quite golden around the edges. Remove the cookies, which will not be fully cooked, and slice the logs into 1 inch cookies. Return the sliced cookies to a cookie sheet, and place the cookie sheet in the oven for another 30 minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and cool completely.