Margaret Firestone was the grandmother of my two daughters and was my earliest culinary mentor. Her specialty was the food and desserts of her native Hungary. It seems like yesterday, that we enjoyed these biscotti-style cookies, called mandelbrot (Yiddish for almond bread), while chatting over a cup of coffee. Margaret used many different store bought flavors of preserves to fill her cookies —I never knew what I was going to find inside her mandelbrot. Being a jam maker has its advantages— lots of flavors to choose from that are always fresh from my pot! I am going to make these cookies for you with my orange-apricot marmalade. Margaret would have loved the combination; marmalade was her favorite.
2 loaves, 24 cookies
BAKERS NOTE: Traditionally these cookies are made with almonds. Margaret always made them without the almonds. Our family preference has always been a fruit version.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into tablespoons
1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups unbleached all- purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 cup Sarabeth's Orange-Apricot Marmalade, OR
Sarabeth's Strawberry-Raspberry Spreadable Fruit, divided
1 egg beaten, for glaze
1. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350º F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer with the paddle attachment on medium high speed until the butter is smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar in two additions and beat, occasionally scraping down the bowl, Beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the eggs and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture to the mixer in two additions, alternating with the orange juice. Mix just until the dough clumps together and the sides of the bowl are almost clean.
3. Gather up the dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead a few times until smooth. Divide the dough in half and shape each portion into a 1 inch thick rectangle and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. (The dough can be refrigerated up to 1 day, but it will be very hard, and should stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before rolling out. The dough can also be frozen, double wrapped in plastic, for up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight. You can make both , or you can save one for another time.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly flour the work surface. Unwrap the dough and rap the edges on the work surface (to help avoid cracking during rolling). Place the dough on the work surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 16 x 8 x 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper that is larger than the dough. Using a small offset metal spatula, spread 1/4 cup marmalade over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges. Fold the side edges over 1-inch and then fold the top edge over 1/3 of the dough and the bottom edge up 2/3 of the dough. (Using the parchment paper as a stretcher, carry the folded dough to the prepared half-sheet pan, and carefully turn the dough over, seam side down, onto the tray. Repeat with the second piece of dough and place on the other prepared pan. Lightly brush the loaves with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the sprinkling sugar.
5. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes.
6. While the mandelbrot are still warm, using a serrated edged knife, cut them on a slight angle into 1-inch pieces, This will prevent the pieces from breaking. Place the cookies on a parchment covered half-sheet pan. Return to the oven and lightly toast, about 8-10 minutes. Cool completely. (Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.)
P.S. If they should get a little stale, don't worry, just dip them in a hot cup of coffee like Margaret and I used to do.