Mandelbrot, a classic Ashkenazi cookie that is twice-baked like Italian biscotti, is especially at home beside a cup of hot coffee. These dairy-free cookies, also called kamish bread, are simple to make and keep well for days.
If you’re a fan of the soft and chewy, you may be tempted to stop right here and move along to the next cookie. But you shouldn’t, because crispy in this case is indubitably good. Nibble away, dunk it in your comforting hot beverage of choice, and you’re about to fall hard for mandelbread.
Many lands and peoples have their version of a twice-baked cookie, though probably the most well-known, thanks to a certain coffee house chain, is Italian biscotti. This is my people’s, always lingering somewhere in the background of friendly gatherings and neighborhood bakeries, even though it wasn’t a part of my mom’s repertoire. There is some disagreement about why the cookies are so called, mandel meaning “almond.” Some say that it’s because almonds are traditionally included in the cookie, which is reasonable enough, except that most recipes I’ve seen don’t actually call for almonds of any kind. I’m more inclined to go with the theory that these cookies are vaguely almond-shaped in cross section and hence, like so many other Yiddish things before them, took on the name of the shape they resembled. The brot part of the name just means “bread” and so you’ll sometimes see these called mandel bread. Many Ashkenazi Jews, so I hear, call these kamishbrot or kamish bread, which is also what twice-baked cookies are called in the Ukraine.
Chocolate chip mandelbrot are a bit new on the scene, what with chocolate being a newer-to-Western-history ingredient, but quickly came to dominate the mandelbrot scene. And for good reason. The chocolate adds a wonderful contrast to the crunch of the cookie. Plus, you know, chocolate.
Oh, and, according to our fearless leader Gil Marks, the surname Mandelbrot (and its variations) indeed derive from the cookie. That includes the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot of fractal fame, for whom the Mandelbrot set is named.
How to make mandelbrot
The ingredients for madelbrot are simple pantry staples: flour, sugar, baking powder (like chocolate, a relative newcomer on the scene), oil, eggs, and orange juice, plus chocolate chips (for our version—you can replace all or part with chopped almonds or other nuts, which would be traditional, as well as delicious). I do recommend going with the orange juice in this recipe, because, although it’s subtle, it adds a great flavor note to the finished cookies. Bottled orange juice works well too, but you can substitute almond milk if you don’t have orange juice around.
Have I mentioned that mandelbrot are a one-bowl recipe? Yep. You dump everything into a bowl and stir until it clumps together into a rich dough. Then you stir in the chocolate chips (or other add-ins), and that’s it.
After stirring in the chocolate, the dough gets divided in half and patted into logs. It’s baked the first time whole, then, when cool enough to handle, sliced and baked again, just for a few minutes, cut sides up.
Need more traditional treats next to your coffee?
- Israel Coffee Cake – another one-bowl wonder that elevates any mug of tea or coffee.
- Israeli Apple Cake – a simple tea cake style snacking cake studded with cubes of perfectly baked, spiced apple.
- Israeli Babka Roll – a bit more involved, with a yeasted dough, but infinitely worth the effort.
Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (parve)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour – 360 g
- 1 cup sugar – 200 g
- 2 tsp baking powder
- dash of salt
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup orange juice – 60 ml
- 1/2 cup oil – 120 ml
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract – optional
- 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips – 10 oz or 250 g
- Preheat oven to 350F and line a sheet pan.
- In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients except for the chocolate chips, until they form a smooth dough.
- Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and mix them in evenly to the dough.
- Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into a log, 10-12" / 25-30 cm long and 4-5" / 10-13 cm wide. Flatten the tops slightly and position about 5" apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 35 min, until golden on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, slice each loaf into pieces about 1" / 2.5 cm thick. Lay them cut-sides up and return to the oven to crisp, 4-5 minutes.