Mandelbread or “almond bread” is the Jewish version of Italian biscotti. Like biscotti, mandelbrot is twice-baked, but unlike biscotti, mandelbrot is more cakey. When well-made, I enjoy both. When my sister and I were in our teens, our mother would buy mandelbrot from a bakery in a traditionally Jewish suburb of Chicago. Since we lived in the city, this wasn’t a trip that she often made so when she would buy mandelbrot, it would be boxed up, tied with string and stocked in our freezer. My sister and I thought we were very clever and had figured out a way to somehow wiggle our fingers into the box without removing the string, while we grabbed a yummy slice. We got so good at this trick that we kept going back for more and more. Unfortunately, when my mother went to actually serve the mandelbrot, the box was magically empty! Try these with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk or sweet wine. Get creative and use pistachios and dried cherries instead of almonds and chocolate. Just be sure to make enough! These keep for a very long time in a cookie tin.
Mandelbread from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden and tweaked by me
Yield: About 4 dozen
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Canola oil
Grated zest of one large navel orange (or lemon if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
3.75 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
Generous 1/2 cup whole raw almonds, toasted for about 12 minutes in a 350 degree F oven and allowed to cool
Generous 1/2 cup mini bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 teaspoons of cream or non-dairy milk (I like vanilla soy but any creamy non-dairy milk will do)
Granulated or course-grained sugar for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a standing mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened. Add the oil, zest and vanilla and beat until well mixed.
- Using a whisk or fork, mix together the flour, baking powder, espresso powder (if used) and salt. Slowly beat the mixture into the eggs, scraping the bowl as necessary. Then add in the cooled almonds and chocolate morsels and mix through by hand. With lightly oiled hands, shape the dough into 2 long slim logs with slightly flattened tops and place the on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. They should be several inches apart since they will spread some. Brush each log well with the egg yolk mixture and sprinkle with the additional sugar. I have also used a mixture of cinnamon and sugar at times.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow the cakes to cool for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, raise the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees F. Once the logs have cooled enough to easily handle them, slice each log on an angle into 1-inch pieces. I used a long, serrated bread knife for this. Lay the pieces down flat back onto the parchment or Silpat. They will no longer spread so they can be pretty close together.
- Return the baking sheet to the 400 degree F. oven and bake for about 10 minutes more or until lightly browned. There is no need to turn the slices over. Cool completely and enjoy them right away or store them in a tin if you have will-power.
Chicago has been experiencing bitter cold for the last couple of weeks. But that hasn’t stopped my husband and me from taking long walks. If you know how to dress properly, it can be rather invigorating and I’ll take it over the heavy snow that hit the East coast of the United States last week. The extreme cold, however, does make things very dry despite the use of humidifiers and lotions, so during this weather I allow my cooking to be a bit heavier on fats. This recipe (really more of a guideline than a hard and fast recipe) is pure comfort food. It’s fairly pliable, adapting well to personal tastes and ingredients on hand. Next time I might add some chopped chives and skip the prosciutto. Here is my version.
Lisa’s Au Gratin Potatoes
Yield: 6-8 servings
5-7 medium Yukon Gold potatoes
3-4 ounces prosciutto, cut into large dice and crisped in a frying pan (You can use bacon, if you prefer. This is what I had on hand and it’s also less fatty than bacon.)
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar, grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
About 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1.75 cups of skim milk (You can use whole if you prefer or part skim and part half & half)
2 large eggs
2-3 Tablespoons butter (I used garlic butter because I had Amish garlic butter that we received as a gift from Frances’ parents.)
2 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter an oval or rectangular pan with 2-inch sides. I like my heavy Le Creuset oval gratin pan, but a glass pan will work as well. The pan should be big enough to fit the all of the ingredients. If you are making this for a crowd, you will need a bigger pan.
- In a large pot, cover the potatoes with 2-3 inches of water. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove the potatoes after 8 minutes and run under cold water to stop the cooking. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them about 1/4 inch thick. (I leave on the skins unless the skin starts to come off. In that case, just peel that extra skin away.)
- Line the buttered pan with the potato slices, over-lapping them slightly. After you have one layer of potatoes, take half of the crisped prosciutto and scatter it across the top of the potatoes. Do the same with half of the cheese mixture. Repeat this entire process with one more layer.
- Mix the eggs with the milk and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk to mix well. Pour the mixture over the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with the Panko bread crumbs and the paprika. Dot the top with more butter.
- Place the pan, uncovered in the oven and bake for about an hour. This can be made ahead and loosely covered. When you are ready to serve, uncover the pan and place it in a 350 degree F oven for about 10-15 minutes. Ovens vary but you want the top looking browned and crispy and the potatoes to be tender.
I saw this recipe on the Bon Appetit website and thought they looked like just my kind of cookie – not too complicated and not filled with all kinds of junk. The result is a lovely, cookie that is rich without being cloying and sweet without making your teeth ache. The tahini lends a subtle nutty flavor. The texture goes from a fragile morsel that melts in your mouth when just barely warm to slightly chewy when fully cooled. The real danger in these cookies is that they take no time to prep and bake, so as long as you have the shelf-stable ingredients on hand, you can have these cookies baked and cool enough to eat in about 40 minutes. Can you say instant gratification? Until the cookies are completely cool and have sat out for an hour or so, they remain very fragile. But oh, so delicious! If you plan on transporting them somewhere, you must wait for them to firm up. On the other hand, if you plan on serving them at home, try them when they are still slightly warm. These cookies will hold up well for several days if stored in an airtight container.
Please DO NOT use a butter substitute for this recipe. Sorry vegans, but it just won’t be the same.
Tahini Cookies from Mamaleh’s, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons honey or agave syrup
3/4 cup tahini (I like Soom brand)
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (I used a combination of black and white sesame seeds)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack on the middle shelf. Line two large cookie sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar and honey until fluffy. Beat in the tahini and then add in the dry ingredients, beating slowly so the flour doesn’t fly all over the place. The resulting dough will be quite soft and very slightly sticky.
- Place the sesame seeds in a shallow bowl. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll the dough into a ball. Don’t worry about perfection! Carefully roll the top of the dough ball in the sesame seeds and gently lift the dough onto the parchment with the seeds facing up. The dough is very soft so it may smush a bit. Don’t fret. All will be well! The cookies should be about 2-inches apart.
- Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Remove the pan to a rack to cool and repeat with the second pan. Some people like to do two pans at once, rotating them half-way. That never seems to work well for me since I have a crummy oven, but if you want to go for it be my guest. Allow the cookies to cool. They will firm up if allowed to cool completely but are delicious when still slightly warm and pretty soft. But these cookies are not made for keeping – they are made for eating – RIGHT NOW!