Mandelbrot is the Jewish or Eastern European version of biscotti. I grew up avoiding it at Jewish holidays, because it always struck me as stale and tasteless. Many years later I fell in love with Italian biscotti, probably around the time I discovered that drinking coffee was the key to my existence as a professional pastry chef. I often made biscotti to serve at the end of meals and jammed it full of almonds and lots of other tasty sweets. Not at all boring, stale or tasteless. It seemed utterly unrelated to the mandelbrot of my youth. Then last weekend I went to a brunch to celebrate the Molly Yeh’s new book, Molly on the Range, and there were lovely platters of Mandel Bread. The cookies were studded with chocolate and topped with colorful sprinkles. The brunch was perfectly prepared from her book and I tried everything. The Dukkah Donuts, Caramelized Challah Waffles with Brisket, Token Salad and Spinach Feta Rugelach were all super familiar foods to me, but Molly put her mark on them and elevated each one. They have all the comfort of my grandmother’s recipes, but a twist that makes them…better. At the end of the meal I got a cup of coffee and I realized I hadn’t tried the Mandel Bread yet. Here goes, 30+ years of avoiding these cookies and I decided to trust (reluctantly) that Molly wouldn’t disappoint. Not only were they not disappointing, I loved them! Three of them. I am a complete sucker for marzipan and that was my first bite. It is such a lovely texture in the midst of this crunchy cookie. “Mandel” means almond in Yiddish, so they have to be in there, but how freakin’ clever to use marzipan instead of whole almonds. I wanted to dump them in my purse for later, but got the book instead and made them the very next day.
Molly is as lovely and generous as she seems on her site. It was such a pleasure to meet her and to eat all of the amazing food from her book.
You can find Molly’s recipe here: Marzipan and Sea Salt Mandel Bread.*
*The version in her book, Molly on the Range, uses 3 1/4 cup flour, and I actually added a few more tablespoons to the dough before I shaped the two logs. This may just be a matter of the type of flour I use, but the dough should be quite soft, but hold it’s shape when you form the two logs.
In the book she suggests using colorful sprinkles and I think it is a wonderful idea, especially if you want to give them as holiday gifts, which I am preparing to do.
Be sure not to over bake the dough on the first baking, or it will become brittle and not cut nicely. It should be just set on the top if you tap it, but still quite blond.
Bake the slices until they just start to color, but they should still be quite light in color. They will seem soft until they cool off. You can bake them longer if you like your cookies very crunchy.
I love this book!