Almond Mandel Bread
Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish.
Intro by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller
Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish. It’s made by forming an almond-flavored dough into a loaf, baking it, then cutting it into slices and baking those slices a second time. Mandelbrot bears a striking relationship to Italian biscotti; in fact, the two pastries share a common origin.
Baked twice, biscotti are hard and long-lasting. The name comes from Latin (bis means twice and coctum means cooked) and might indicate that twice-baked bread has its origins in Roman times. Italian cooks began to bake sweet biscotti in the Middle Ages. Food historian Gil Marks notes that some historians believe the very first sweet biscotti were baked by Jewish cooks in the Jewish ghetto in Venice. These original biscotti were flavored with anise or nuts and became wildly popular not only in Italy but also in central Europe.
Jews embraced the cookies – using the Yiddish name mandelbrot – and they were soon considered a Jewish delicacy. A key difference was the use of oil instead of butter in Jewish mandelbrot, so that they could be eaten after a meat meal on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. After baking soda was invented in the mid-1800s, some Jewish bakers began adding it to their mandelbrot – resulting in a lighter, fluffier cookie. In America, cooks started substituting dried fruits or chocolate to mandelbrot’s signature almonds, giving a New World flavor to this classic pastry.
Did you know that the first major mistake humanity made had to do with food? It’s fascinating how much good and bad can come through eating. Get more Jewish food thoughts here.
This recipe is loaded with almond just like the traditional cookies.
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Serves: 25 cookies
- 3 cups raw whole shelled almonds (skin on; unsalted) (about 15 oz.)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup expeller-pressed sunflower oil (or other neutral flavored oil)
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups OMM all-purpose flour (12.75 oz)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Heat the oven to 375° and set a rack to the center position.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On another baking sheet, scatter the almonds and bake until fragrant and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to a food processor and coarsely chop.
- In a stand-mixer using the paddle attachment or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the eggs alone first and then with the sugar, about 2 minutes. Reduce to low speed and beat in the oil and vanilla.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. While mixing on low speed, add first the flour mixture and then the almonds and just mix to combine. Using a rubber spatula and gloved hands, form the batter into two, evenly spaced, log-like shapes approximately 3” wide by 10” long on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the cookies set and become lightly browned, about 30 minutes.
- Let cool to room temp, about 1 hour. Reduce the oven to 300℉. Using bench scrapers, transfer the logs to a cutting board and slice 3⁄4” thick on the diagonal.
- Return the sliced cookies to the baking sheet, now lined with a new piece of parchment paper. Bake until the cookies become lightly browned and completely firm, about 30 minutes.
- Let sit for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Hold in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.