Mandelbread: The Cookie Underdog

Posted on Tue, 02/06/2018 - 9:53am

By Sara Whipple, Zingerman’s Bakehouse

Maybe I'm a sucker for underdogs (if it's possible for a cookie to be an underdog—they're all winners in my book!). But for reasons I can't understand, in all my years of baking and selling food for Zingerman's Bakehouse mandelbread has never been that popular. It's at the top of my go-to list for a snack or a gift!

Mandelbread, also known as mandelbrot, is our surprisingly amazing citrus almond cookie Eastern European origins. You might recognize them as biscotti. Mandelbrot in Yiddish translates to almond bread in English. But they’re so much more than that. It is not too sweet, not overly brittle, but certainly full of great flavor and crunch. The perfect partner to your morning or afternoon hot drink of choice.

The key to our mandelbread is the fresh lemon and orange zest, coupled with the almonds that are blanched (so they're skinless) and toasted (so they have maximum flavor). Those vibrant ingredients are held together with our staples of great baking: organic wheat flour, sweet cream Wisconsin butter, fresh eggs, cane sugar, and Madagascar bourbon vanilla.

All those tasty ingredients come together to be rolled and baked. Then each loaf is hand sliced on the bias and baked again to a golden blonde. It all adds up to a toasty twice baked cookie unlike any other. And all that extra attention pays off in each bite. Their flavor is big, bright, rich and satisfying.

 

Mandelbrot certainly have staying power too. They’re texture lends itself to lasting in a jar or a box. Although, why would you want to keep them around for very long when you could be eating them?! It’s been said these cookies were popular in Eastern Europe among rabbis, merchants and other itinerant Jews, as a staple dessert that kept well. Perhaps that was also because they are so portable.

I find them sturdy enough to carry on a plane or ship as a gift, tasty enough to liven up any boring coffee break or meeting, and even a convenient bereavement offering in my experience (just open the box and serve, no knives or plates needed). But most of all I just love curling up with a piece of mandelbread, a cup of hot black tea, and a blanket, while watching it snow outside! Each and every time, I am taken aback by just how good these cookies are.

And when you're done gobbling them up, check the bottom of your package to see if you're lucky enough to have a few crumbles and almonds that have broken loose. Don’t you dare throw them out! Those are crunchy bits of flavor gold! Pour them on yogurt or a bowl of fresh fruit. It's the best!

 

---Send a gift box of mandelbread

 


 

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Zingerman's Bakehouse

Sourcing our ingredients locally has many benefits, not least of which is literal field trips to visit our future ingredients as they grow. To this end, one June morning a contingent of the bakehouse grain commission headed west to Living Earth Farm in Sawyer, Michigan where rye is being grown for us this season. I think rye is delicious and I know our customers agree, many using our rye breads as staples in their diet each week and famously enjoying it on sandwiches at Zingerman’s Delicatessen. However, this ancient grain took a major back seat to wheat in the 1900’s when very fluffy and sweet breads became more popular. Now, though relatively easy to grow, particularly good for the soil, and hearty under a variety of weather conditions, rye is used primarily as a cover crop to improve the soil in between main crop seasons and is typically not harvested for food in the United States. Because it is no longer widespread in our state, it is necessary to work directly with farmers to access these grains whole, fresh, and from Michigan. The rye growing at Living Earth Farm is a special departure from today’s typical baking and farming and I’ve been looking forward to seeing its progress for months.

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