Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mandel Bread: Cinnamon Sugar or Chocolate, Apricot and Earl Grey


Hidden treasures are kept in shoe boxes. For some that might mean their favorite Jimmy Choo's or their collectible Nike's. Others keep love letters and hidden secrets. Kids keep their marble collections, Lego's or doll clothes. In my Omi's shoebox was Mandel bread, laden with cinnamon sugar and hidden between layers of wax paper. The box was brought out with tea served in tea cups, not mugs; thank you very much. We gingerly passed around the box and carefully chose a slice of Jewish biscotti.

Yes, Mandel bread is a type of biscotti and what came first? Italian biscotti or Jewish Mandel Bread? I don't know. Mandel Bread is not as crisp as biscotti, because of its higher oil content, but is baked in the same way. First the loaf of bread is baked, then sliced, then toasted on each side. It may take a bit of time, but the best part about Mandel Bread is that they age well. Well, that is if you can keep them around long enough.


Recently I attended a Bar Mitzvah in Chicago and sure enough Mandel Bread made their appearance. They reminded me of visits with my grandfather and Omi. They reminded me of walking into the apartment entrance and the numerous smells of everyone's cooking greeted us. They reminded me of plastic covered furniture and  the dining room chairs pulled out, so everyone had a place to sit. Mandel bread reminded me of family photographs hanging on walls and my Papa's ribbed tank t-shirts. I even remember his muscles. My Papa had muscles.

Mandel bread reminded me of Sunday night, when we all went a visiting. I loved Sunday nights. Sometimes it seemed like a chore, but looking back brought up many fond memories in the memory bank. I'm only sorry that my family has never lived close enough for Sunday night visits. It was a good tradition and had a way of bringing us together in that tangled knot called family.


Mandel Bread was originally called Mandelbrot which was an almond bread. It was common in Eastern European countries but its precise origin remains unknown. It isn't overly sweet and it keeps well. It is perfect with tea and I presume coffee. It is easily dunked. Commonly made with dried fruit and chunks of chocolate and coated in cinnamon sugar, Mandel Bread is the perfect cookie for that lazy part of the day. It is a cookie meant to be eaten slowly.

I had never made Mandel Bread before last week. It is now on its way to my Zoe who is spending all her free time studying to take her CFA exam. It is meant to revive her when her brain starts falling asleep. Yes, it travels well. I always picture a shoe box of it sailing along with my Papa and family on the great ship Normandy, as they made their journey here in 1938. I don't know if it did, but it sounds good eh?

And now my stores of Mandel Bread are seriously depleted. I kept them in a big Zip Lock bag, but it just didn't seem the same. I want a shoe box for my Mandel Bread. I want them kept like treasure between sheets of waxed paper. I must go shopping for a new pair of shoes.



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After serious research, I found that most Mandel bread recipes are very similar. Some are made with butter, but most are made with oil, so that they can be served with dairy or meat meals. Some don't have a coating of cinnamon sugar, but in my opinion those are missing something. There are many versions with various dried fruits and I came up with one using Earl Grey tea, apricots and chunks of chocolate. I love the traditional, but I think the Earl Grey variety could quickly become my new standard!

The nuts can be varied to suit your taste. I normally would have used walnuts, but I was out. I used pecans instead. You might want almonds.


Cinnamon Sugar Mandel Bread
Makes About 48
Time To Make: About 45 minutes
Time to Bake: About 45 minutes
Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 c sugar
1/4 lb melted butter or 1 c oil (I used oil)
1 t vanilla or almond extract
1 Earl Grey tea bag contents (optional)
3 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 c chopped walnuts, pecans or almonds
3/4 c chocolate chips
1/3 c cinnamon chips (if you an find them are also good in cinnamon version)
1/2 c dried apricots cut into small pieces (optional)
For sprinkling:
1 t cinnamon mixed with 1/2 cup of sugar OR
1/2 of contents of an Earl Grey teabag mixed with 1/2 c sugar
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine eggs and sugar. (A mixer is not needed but be prepared to stir.) Add oil and vanilla and mix well. Add flour and baking powder.  Stir well and add nuts, and chocolate. Dough may be sticky.
At this point I divided my dough in half so that I could make two versions. The first is traditional and you may add cinnamon chips to that. If you want the Earl Grey version, mix in the tea and the apricots.
Now divide dough into 4 pieces. Shape each piece into an 8 to 10" loaf about 4" wide. Roll in the appropriate sugar. Place on parchment lined pans and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cut each loaf into about 12 slices. Cover each slice in appropriate sugar. Place on baking sheet cut side down. Bake 5 minutes and remove from oven. Turn over to bake other side for another 5 minutes. Now get your shoe box and store these for your next cup of tea!

More Omi Recipes:
German Apple Pancake
No Eggs Potato Kugel
Ilse's Passover Mocha Nut Cake
Spritz Cookies




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34 comments:

  1. That just looks divine. And I am all for shoe shopping .. we need that box! Don't we?

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  2. Mandelbrot or almond biscotti..the name matters no to me, I just know they look fantastic! And both sugar coatings sound just as amazing, Abbe.

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    1. The sugar is the best part. When I was a kid I used to lick it off first!

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  3. Beautiful tea service and lovely memories. This bread looks wonderful and the perfect nibble with a cup of tea..

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    1. Thanks Karen! I must make more soon! They aren't to sweet and really hit the spot!

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  4. Beautiful clics Abbe..I must try this..it's as if I have tasted it..I think a friend's mom..years ago..in the early 80's..made this..

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    1. They are worth trying-but only if you want to keep making them again!

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  5. Not only have you given us a great recipe for Mandel Bread, you've given us a great recipe (OK, excuse) for buying new shoes. :-) I've never made this -- sounds so interesting. Terrific pictures! Thanks.

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    1. They are better than biscotti. Not quite as crispy. Mrs. KR would love them! I actually liked these pictures. Took me long enough, huh?

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  6. thanks for the fond memories, Abbe. You're right, papa DID have muscles!

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    1. Any time, cousin. When are you heading out this way?

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  7. Wow Abbe. That is a wonderfully written post and fascinating story about mandel bread. We often wish for similar things don't we? Life is just not the same as it was years ago. Some changes are good, but many are sad and gone forever. Those simple times are so clear in my memories - the smells, the homes, the clothing. So clear. Beautiful post and beautiful photos!

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    1. You are so sweet Tricia! Wonder what our kids will remember.

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  8. Your story was so wonderful about Ilse and Papa. And the shoebox ! Pictures were beautiful. Thanks for the memories.With much love, Mother

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  9. I'd definitely dip mine in cinnamon sugar! Such lovely memories associated with this yummy recipe :)

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  10. I love learning so much from your posts! If I can find the time I am going to make your Mandel Bread. I've been wanting to bake something to take to a friend as a thank you for including me in her guest list at her son's recent bar mitzvah and this would be perfect to enjoy over coffee as we look through all the photos of the event.

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    1. Let me know how they turn out Holly! Call if you have any questions! And thanks!

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  11. I probably don't need to tell you what 14 yo boys kept in shoes boxes in the 1970s. Turtles (of course, wink wink). XOGREG

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    1. LOL! Though we did have a turtle named Turty! He lived in a terrarium, until I felt sorry for him and found him a new home.

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  12. I never pictured mandelbrot as a biscotti, but like that it's softer. Sometimes my biscotti turn out so hard it's difficult to eat without worrying your teeth are going to crack! A great gift Abbe for someone studying.

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    1. You are right Paula and that is why I like mandel bread better! Never head how my daughter liked them!

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  13. Lovely pictures! I do love biscotti but the looks of that fabulous sugary coating on your Mandel bread sounds delicious -- especially with the Earl Grey!

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    1. iI loved the traditional, but the Earl Grey was so good, especially with the apricots! Can't wait to come up with more versions!

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  14. Damn delicious!!!
    i can barely smells the cinnamon from the photograph....
    Dedy@Dentist Chef

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  15. That looks good! I can eat biscotti, non stop so this is making me equally drool.

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    1. Then you better not make these Kankana!

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  16. seriously...mandel bread is one of my favorite things, and when it's all stuffed to max capacity with stuff like this? perfect.

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    1. Thanks Shannon! Is there anything you haven't gotten your hands on?

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