I’m all about comfort food these days. And Chocolate-Dipped Mandel Bread is about as comforting as you can get.
What is mandel bread? The simple answer – it’s the Ashkenazic Jewish version of biscotti. The name is Anglicized, from the Yiddish mandelbrodt or mandelbrot, meaning almond bread. Like biscotti, this cookie is a worthy dunker that will amp up your enjoyment of any cup of tea or coffee.
I hadn’t thought much about mandel bread in recent years. In fact, truth be told, I’ve been rather disloyal to my ethnic roots this year. I’ve done Italian Wine Cookies and Pistachio Dried Cherry Chocolate Biscotti, but no Jewish cookies.
But that doesn’t mean I had completely forgotten about mandel bread. Fact is, I love it.
The path back to my Jewish cookie roots began when I did an article for the Jewish Food Experience on Amy Kritzer and her new book, Sweet Noshings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts. Before a phone interview with Amy, I read her cookbook. Lots of the recipes looked fabulous, and I’ll get to more of them soon. But her Espresso-Cherry Mandel Bread really caught my eye. I especially liked her add-ins (including cardamom and espresso powder) to this traditional cookie.
After the interview, I asked her permission to post about her mandel bread recipe. Amy kindly agreed and I was off to the races, so to speak. (Amy’s publisher sent me a copy of the book for my Jewish Food Experience piece. Neither Amy nor her publisher knew that I would do this post when they sent me the book.)
This Chocolate-Dipped Mandel Bread is very slightly adapted from Amy’s recipe. And, where I thought it made sense to provide extra commentary, I did so in the notes section of the recipe.
By the way, although I described mandel bread as Jewish biscotti, Amy points out that mandel bread is softer than its Italian cousin. The mandel bread slices I cut are larger than the biscotti I typically make. However in each case, the size of the cookie is a matter of personal taste.
I really do like Amy’s cookbook and hope that you’ll check it out. As you’ll see in the recipe below, she provides clear, simple directions. Her tips and comments on steps in the recipes make the book a good one for a novice baker as well as a more experienced one; she is a guide who provides lots of information, but doesn’t talk down to the reader. The recipes are take-offs on Jewish standards. It’s not your bubbe’s version of rugelach or mandel bread. But then again, you can ask your bubbe (grandmother) for that, or find it from a more traditional cookbook. Here, you’re going to get extra add-ins like espresso powder or new versions, like Baklava-Spiced Rugelach.
Chocolate-Dipped Mandel Bread
A slightly softer cousin to biscotti, Mandel Bread is a traditional Ashkenazic Jewish cookie. This version is chock full of dried fruit and spices, then chocolate-dipped for a truly special finish.
- 2 Eggs
- 1 cup (235 mg) Vegetable (or grapeseed) oil I used canola oil.
- 1/2 cup (115 g) Full fat sour cream
- 1 tablespoon orange zest (from one orange) I used a navel orange.
- 3 cups (426 g) All-purpose flour
- 1 cup (200 g) Granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Baking powder
- 2 teaspoons Ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon Instant espresso powder
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup (125 g) Slivered almonds, roughly chopped
- 1 cup (150 g) Dried cherries (if large, chop them as well)
- 12 ounces (340 g) Dark (bittersweet) or semi-sweet chocolate, or a combination
In a large bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, or using a hand mixer, beat the wet ingredients (eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest) on medium speed until combined.
In another large bowl, mix/whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, instant espresso and salt) until combined.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, just until mixed.
Stir the slivered almonds and dried cherries into the dough. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 2, or up to 24, hours. Dough will seem oily, but that oiliness will dissipate once the mandel bread is baked.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C, with 2 racks close to the center of the oven. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and, with wet hands, form each piece into 2 logs that are about 3" x 7" (7.5 x 23 cm). Bake 4 logs on each baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating the pans halfway through the baking.
Remove the mandel bread from the oven, let cool 5-10 minutes, or until cool enough to slice and carefully cut into 1" (2.5 cm) slices. Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F/120 degrees C.
Put the slices back on the baking sheets and bake for an additional 10 minutes per side, or until crispy. Cool on a cooling rack.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (heat for 15 seconds at a time until melted, stirring each time). Dip the ends of the mandel bread in the chocolate and dry on parchment paper. You can also refrigerate the dipped mandel bread to help the chocolate harden faster.