Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mandel Bread: the Jewish Biscotti

I met a friend for lunch today who’s part owner of what I think is the best Jewish bakery in Toronto, the Harbord Bakery. No one (I know) can resist their chocolate babka, cheese danish, rugelach, poppy seed cookies or sour cream coffee cakes. And there's no reason they should, I say.

When I asked my friend if she still enjoyed eating pastries after so many years in a bakery, she admitted, “I’m not one for drinking coffee without a ‘little something’ to go with it.” I understood. Neither am I. My friend Lupe was the same way. She loved her dark brewed espressos and cappuccinos almost as much as the not-too-sweet ‘little somethings’ she had with them. 

I’m with Lupe. Little somethings shouldn’t be too sweet. Fortunately, I have the perfect recipe. It’s for Mandel Bread, the Jewish version of biscotti, the perfect accompaniment to whatever. Lupe loved them. I loved Lupe. So all the ducks are in order here.

Mandel Bread isn’t hard to make, but it is a little finicky because you have to bake it twice. The first time you bake a dough in thick logs. Once baked, you cut them into slices, lay them on their side, and bake them again until they’re perfectly crisp (and great for dunking).

There are thousands of mandel bread recipes out there, but I like the way this one turns out. If the batter is a little too gooey to work with when you’re making logs, just add more flour. The recipe is pretty forgiving. You want more almonds?  Throw them in. Want to add some finely diced dried apricots, cherries or cranberries for colour? Throw them in, too.

This was my mother’s recipe. It pleases me to share it with the cyberworld, a world she never entered – until now.

Belle’s Mandel Bread

3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 t. baking powder
¾ slivered or chopped almonds
optional generous handful of diced dried apricots, cherries or cranberries or chocolate chips
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
3 ½ cups flour
1 t. cinnamon
½ t. almond extract

Beat eggs, oil, sugar and salt amd extract. Combine flour, baking powder, nuts (and fruits and cinammon. Combine two mixtures and mix well. Form into 4 logs. Place on greased baking sheet (or lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325 for 45 minutes (or until lightly browned). Cut in diagonal slices. Lay them on their side and bake again for another 10 – 15 until crisp. Cool. Enjoy!

And here's a link to another food site with mandel bread recipes. But try mine first!

Mandel Bread


  1. Very interesting.
    Here in Singapore, we have many ages-old versions of Mandel bread. It's thought of as a very special comfort food - a way to show affection for the person/people you share it with.
    Perhaps, it has taken on this special role because of its fussy and time-consuming baking requirements- all very worthwhile in appropriate situations.
    Wouldn't it be interesting for us all to submit our own favorite recipes for this traditional expression of love and nurturing?
    I'll start the ball rolling with -
    Gladys's Mandel Broit
    4 eggs
    1 c sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 c. vegetable oil
    1/2 c. Crisco (solid vegetable shortening)
    4 tsp baking powder
    3 1/2 - 4 c. flour
    1 c. chopped almonds
    2 oranges - juice and grated rind
    - mix together eggs, orange juice and rind, oil, and shortening
    - add sugar and mix
    - add flour, baking powder, salt, and nuts and mix
    - form into flattened loaves on cookie sheet
    - bake at 400° for 20 minutes or till golden brown
    - remove from oven, slice diagonally, and return to oven
    - bake, turning frequently, till golden on all sides.
    - pour the coffee (tea is fine, preferably with lemon)
    - serve

  2. Singapore Fresser's idea is swell! Allow me to be the first to respond with my version, making it 3 marvellous recipes for marvellous mandel bread.

    Coincidentally, it was given to me long ago by someone else named Linda. She was a great cook, whose recipe for Spaghetti Sauce is one of my most used and shared. When your blog turns to discussion of pastas, I promise to share it.
    Meanwhile, in the interest of confusion avoidance - I usually call it "Linda's Mandel Broit" - I shall call it
    Malca's Mandel Broit
    - beat 2 eggs
    - add 1 c. sugar and beat
    - add 1 c. Crisco (vegetable) oil, 2 c. flour, 2 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp almond extract and mix all together
    - add 2 oz. slivered almonds that you have toasted till brown
    - add 4 oz chocolate sprinkles
    - form into flattened rolls
    - bake at 350° on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, shiny side down - 35 - 40 minutes/ till firm and brown and cut-able
    - reduce heat to about 300°
    - sprinkle with 3/4 pkg vanilla sugar (Dr Oekter brand readily available)
    - move to a cutting board by lifting the sheet of foil
    - slice diagonally, right on the foil
    - move back to cookie sheet
    - bake, turning, till all sides evenly golden brown - up to 20 min.
    I know it sounds fiddly, but once you've done it, it's remarkably uncomplicated. And the cleanup is very quick, thanks to the foil.
    And it's delicious!

  3. Linda, what would happen if you substituted butter for oil in Belle's recipe?
    Your fan forever,

  4. You'd throw up on the spot:)
    Relax, enjoy the oil.

  5. I would like to contribute a recipe for Mandel Bread. I keep hoping that more people will participate in the project by sending in their recipes. But I am grateful to Malca and to Singapore Fresser for theirs. Although I haven't attempted either of them - or Belle's either, for that matter - I will get to them. Meanwhile, I'm keeping a Mandel Bread file.
    I do have a wee MB anecdote to share - a friend who grew up in Montreal just lost his father. A family member managed to get the funeral director to open the (closed) coffin for her. Why? She wanted to put in a package of her home-made Mandel Bread. My friend's father had always loved it.
    Which leads me to wonder - did Tut's tomb contain any home-made treats?
    Now, here's my recipe -
    Faygie's Mandel Broit
    3 eggs
    3/4 c. sugar
    1 c. oil
    2 c. flour
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    2 c. Special K (Kellogg's cereal)
    1 c. coarsely chopped almonds
    2 tsp baking powder
    1 heaping tsp cinnamon
    In food processor - combine eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla
    Process for 2 minutes
    Add almonds - process to combine
    Add cereal - process to combine
    Add flour and baking powder - process to combine
    Refrigerate for 1 hour
    Make 3 - 4 "logs", using all the dough
    Lay the logs across a greased cookie sheet
    Bake at 350° for 25 - 30 min.
    Slice and flip with a spatula
    Sprinkle with cinnamon
    Bake at 325° for 15 min. / till brown
    Flip and brown the other side
    Cool and enjoy.