Monday, September 13, 2010

Storecipe of the Week: Jewish Biscotti aka Mandel Bread

Mandelbrot, which literally means almond (mandel) bread (brot), is a twice-baked hard bread similar to Italian biscotti.  According to Jewish Cooking in America, "With a large Jewish population in Piedmont, Italy may have been the place where Jews first tasted biscotti and later brought them to Eastern Europe.  In Italy they are often eaten as a dessert dipped into wine or grappa. In Eastern Europe, Jews dipped them into a glass of tea, and because they include no butter and are easily kept they became a good Sabbath dessert" (Jewish Cooking in America, Joan Nathan [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1998 p. 354).

Growing up, mandel bread was a staple in our house, especially around the Jewish Holidays.  My mother's friend, Paula always made the best kind with chocolate chips and a ton of cinnamon and sugar.  Paula would bring over a HUGE batch and we would eat some and then freeze the rest.  We wanted to have it for as long as possible, so we would just take out a few pieces at a time to enjoy it throughout the next few months.  Today, I make Paula's mandel bread every year for the holidays.  When I bake it, my house smells like the good old days when my mother and I would be preparing for our own holiday dinners together.  I just love it.

I was so excited when I received a submission from Skokie, Illinois native, Charlotte, about her mother's mandel bread.  Charlotte shares a very sweet story with an incredible recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Many, many years ago just before my Mom died, my mother-in-law wanted me to get her my mother's recipe for mandel bread. Well, everyone feels that they make the BEST mandel bread, but I have to say our entire family always thought that my Mom beat everyone else's by a mile. At this point, in 1975, I was married with one son and did some baking but I had never tried to make my mom's recipe. So I asked her for it and wrote it down for my mother-in-law. Well, of course she nor anyone else with the recipe could make it the way my mom did. Shortly thereafter, on May 18, 1976 my mom died. My daughter was born 8 days later and was named after my beloved mother. The mandel bread was the last thing on my mind at that time. A few years later I finally decided to give the recipe a try so I had to ask my mother-in-law for the recipe since I hadn't kept it for myself. Well, I guess there is something to be said for passing things down, because to this day I have been told by many, many people that I am the only one that can make the mandel bread the way my mom did and this is a very treasured memory for me.

3 Eggs 
1 C. Sugar 
3/4 C. Vegetable Oil 
3 C. Flour 
1 Tsp. vanilla 
2 Tsp. Baking Powder 
1 tsp. Cinnamon 
6 oz. of Chopped Walnuts or Chocolate Chips
Extra Cinnamon and Sugar to dust 

Putting the Memory Together:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat togther (by hand) the eggs and sugar. Then add the oil. Next add the flour 1 cup at a time, reserving a little to use to sprinkle on the baking sheets. Add the vanilla, baking powder and a dash of cinnamon after the first cup of flour. Stir until well mixed. 

Then add the nuts and/or chocolate chips. 

Butter and flour two cookie sheets. You make four rows of dough - 2 on each sheet. 

Sprinkle the dough with cinnamon and sugar. 

Bake for 20 minutes until lightly browned. 
Cut each loaf into single pieces, about 3/4" thick, and turn each one on its side.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Flip the cookie on its other side and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar again.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Watch closely to make sure not to overcook. 

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