This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's book, Entree to Judaism for Families filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
Mandelbrot means “almond bread” in Yiddish, but its origins are the biscotti cookies that were created in Italy more than 700 years ago. These biscotti originally contained no fat or sugar and were baked twice so that they would be very hard and dry and last for months on ships at sea. Biscotti recipes traveled north to Germany, where they became very popular with the Jewish community because they could be made in advance of Shabbat and stay fresh for days.
Around the early 1900s, oil or butter was added to the dough along with different nuts, dried fruit, or chocolate chips, and our modern mandelbrot was created. During the Depression and World War II, butter and cooking oil were expensive and hard to come by, so mayonnaise was often used in their place. Mayonnaise is the secret ingredient in these mystery mandelbrot.
Hellmann’s mayonnaise was created by Nina Hellmann in 1905 to use on sandwiches and for sale in her German husband’s deli in New York City. Perhaps the Hellmanns were Jewish? Who knows, but Hellmann’s mayonnaise makes these cookies delicious!
The almond tree is the first tree to bloom in Israel in the early spring, making this recipe perfect for Tu BiShvat.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a 3-quart mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
- Divide the dough in half and form into 2 long, narrow loaves on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and cool 5 minutes.
- Carefully transfer one loaf to a cutting board. Using a chef ’s knife, slice the loaf on the diagonal into ½-inch slices. Lay the slices cut side down on the cookie sheet, and repeat with the other loaf. Return the cookie sheet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, turn the slices over, and return to the oven to bake for another 5 minutes or until golden. Cool completely before storing in sealed container.
Look at the label on the jar of mayonnaise and read the list of ingredients. Discuss why it makes the cookies taste so good and light. What other recipes could use mayonnaise instead of oil?
- This recipe is perfect for children of all ages because no electrical equipment is necessary and the dough is easy to work with.
- An adult should transfer the hot loaves to a cutting board, but after 5 minutes, supervised children can use a chef’s knife to cut the dough into slices
- Only children over the age of seven or eight should be allowed to turn the hot slices over, because the cookie sheet is very hot.