It's unclear how and when Ashkenazi Jews began baking mandelbrot, but Joan Nathan, in her book Jewish Cooking in America, suggests that the large Jewish population in Italy's Piedmont region may have been responsible for disseminating the recipe to German friends and family.
Though the term mandelbrot literally means "almond bread," many modern varieties abound, some with the addition of butter, chocolate chips and dried fruit. This is a traditional recipe, similar to the one my grandmother used to serve with steaming glasses of tea.<<< Less
Preheat oven to 350F. Place eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until thickened and slightly foamy, about 2-3 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl, and reserve. Add 1 cup sugar, oil and vanilla to eggs, and beat until blended, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and orange zest to eggs, and mix on low speed until incorporated. Add almonds and mix just until incorporated. Dough will be unified, but still slightly sticky.
Spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray, or lightly grease with oil. Wet hands lightly, and form half of dough into a 10-inch rectangular loaf and place on cookie sheet. Repeat with other half dough. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until loaves are browned and firm, but still slightly soft when pressed. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove to a cutting board. Using a bread knife, slice loaves on the diagonal into 3/4-inch thick slices. Return to oven and bake until surface is dry and edges are lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely.
Adeena Sussman is a food writer and chef based in New York. She writes the bimonthly food column "Season to Taste" for Hadassah Magazine.