I love to bake. I make pain au chocolat that my mom, bless her heart, says rivals what she’s had in Paris. But you can’t forget your roots, can you? In my family, baking tradition is very much rooted in humble mandelbread.
Whenever I explain to people what that is, I call it Jewish biscotti. After all, the concept is similar: a twice-baked loaf cut into slices.
The name comes from the Yiddish words for almond, “mandel,” and bread, “brodt.” Of course, in one of those funny twists of fate, my family’s recipe, origins unknown and recorded in my grandfather’s slanted handwriting, does not call for almonds – unless you count the generic suggestion of “nuts” as a mix-in. Our mandelbread is practically foolproof and a breakfast addition perfect for staving off mid-morning hunger pangs.
Before I learned to bake anything else, I helped my mom with mandelbread. When it came time to mix the wet and dry ingredients together, she’d always defer to me or one of my brothers. She said it was because we had the strength of youth. I think there was more to it than that. (Although now that I am over 30, I have to admit that this step is roughly akin to stirring concrete.)
The beauty of the recipe is that unless I have let my supplies slide, I always have the ingredients: eggs, sugar, canola oil, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla and mix-ins. I make a batch maybe every other month and always have some in the freezer.
Mandelbread is the BuzzFeed quiz (“What’s Your Mandelbread Style?”) of baked goods, especially when it comes to those mix-ins. I tend to stick with chocolate chips, or sometimes dried cherries and chocolate chips. My dad favors the chewy, neon-colored dried fruit more often found in fruitcake.
How long you bake it is also open to interpretation. The more time it spends in the oven, the crunchier it gets. My mom likes her mandelbread softer, closer to a butter cookie consistency. My grandpa likes it crunchier, a la biscotti, and to his daughter’s dismay has been known to toast it even after it’s fully baked. I’m somewhere in between, though more and more I have found myself in my grandfather’s camp.
He’s 94 now, and between his mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter – not to mention his own baking – he has seen many batches of mandelbread. So I can’t argue with his feelings on the topic.
“I like it any way,” he says. “Any way you make it is good.”
24 servings pieces
Chewy, crunchy, full of nuts and/or fruit and/or chocolate, this non-dairy/pareve mandelbread recipe is versatile and adaptable to many tastes. It’s simple to put together and makes a great project for kids, who can help mix the dough and pat it onto the baking sheets.
The recipe can easily be halved or doubled.
Make ahead: The mandelbread can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. The slices can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen in a zip-top plastic bag for several months.
From Washington Post Food section editorial aide Becky Krystal.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may replace up to 1 cup with an equal amount of whole-wheat flour or white whole-wheat flour)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit or other mix-ins of your choice (chop as needed)
4 or 5 large eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract, or a combination
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have two large rimmed baking sheets at hand.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in the nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit or other mix-ins.
Whisk together 4 of the eggs, the oil and the vanilla or almond extract in a medium bowl until well incorporated.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture; use a wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. If the mixture seems too dry, stir in the remaining egg. You might need to use your hands to knead the dough to ensure it is fairly uniform. (A little unincorporated flour is fine.). Don’t worry about overworking the dough.
Divide the dough into quarters, arranging two of them side by side on each (ungreased) baking sheet. Shape each section of dough into an oval 8 to 9 inches long and about 1/2 inch high.
Bake one sheet at a time for 15 to 20 minutes, until the mandelbread loaves are dry to the touch on top. They will not be cooked through.
Remove from the oven; transfer each parbaked loaf to a cutting board. Cut each loaf into 6 equal slices, laying them flat on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or longer, depending on how crisp you like your mandelbread. Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring the slices to a wire rack to cool completely.
Repeat with the remaining loaves.
Per piece: 240 calories; 4 g protein; 31 g carbohydrates; 12 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 30 mg cholesterol; 100 mg sodium; 1 g dietary fiber; 12 g sugar.