Growing up in a Jewish-Italian family in New Jersey, I’ve taken to calling myself a pizza bagel. My heritage rendered my childhood kitchen an epicenter for piles of challah French toast, saucepans of bubbling tomato sauce, and more than anyone’s fair share of cookies. One crumbly treat in particular graces my oven time and time again: mandelbrot.
In my world, this cookie has two names. When my dad’s side of the family makes them, they are called mandelbrot; when my mom’s side gets together for dessert, we’re munching on biscotti. Technically, the recipes for the twice-baked loaf cookies are different, yielding slightly different textures. Mandelbrot has a higher fat content, making them a little softer than their crunchy Italian counterpart. Considering that I’ve now made different recipes for each cookie dozens of times, my final product’s crunch-level is somewhere between the two. You won’t risk breaking a tooth, but don’t dunk it in your coffee for too long.
My mandelbrot get their tender, crumbly texture from my favorite Italian ingredient: olive oil. Adding subtle fruity and peppery notes to the dough, the olive oil echoes the stronger flavor profile of the candied ginger. The cookies wouldn’t be true mandelbrot without the addition of roasted almonds, as the name literally translates to “almond bread.” Not only do the almonds add a satisfying crunch, they also provide a rich, creamy compliment to the sweet and spicy ginger. I like to use coconut sugar in this recipe because, compared to white sugar, the slight caramel flavor allows the eater to place their attention on the dessert as a whole, not only on the treat’s degree of sweetness.
Olive Oil, Almond and Candied Ginger Mandelbrot Recipe
1/3 cup roasted almonds
¼ cup candied ginger
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of Kosher salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup blonde coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Chop roasted almonds and candied ginger finely and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until smooth, then whisk in coconut sugar until dissolved. Add extracts, orange zest, and slowly stream in the olive oil, whisking the entire time.
Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until incorporated, then fold in the almonds and candied ginger.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form it into a ball. Divide into two sections and roll the dough into logs, each about 12 inches long. Transfer to prepared baking tray and flatten slightly.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven until slightly cooled. With a serrated knife, cut logs into ½-inch slices on a diagonal. Return mandelbrot to the oven and bake for ten minutes, then flip the cookies over and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.