Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cardamom and Saffron Mandelbrot

I love the holidays!  I love the occasions to gather over food with loved ones, the opportunities to reflect on the year that has passed, and to simply enjoy being together.

I also love the family recipes that get brought out around holidays and the stories that go with them.  A friend and I had an early Hannukah brunch where we made Jewish classics with Indian flavors.  She made curried sweet potato latkes, and I made an interpretation of matzo ball soup (recipe coming soon).  The highlight though, might have been cardamom and saffron mandelbroit, adapted from another friend's family recipe.  It came with instructions from Aunt Alice and my friend's mom, and this post-script: "Aunt Alice was the coolest. She was a big, fleshy, jolly, southern Jewish woman from Atlanta with a drawl and a really sassy sense of humor. I am told that at one point she owned a cat named "Damnit" so she could have the thrill of hollering "Come here, Damnit!" off her porch in the evening."

Damnit would totally come running if he smelled these coming out of the oven!  They are delicious--not too sweet, not too hard, but like a cross between a very dry cake and shortbread.  And very nutty too!

I adapted Aunt Alice's recipe for vegans by substituting flax meal and water for the eggs (1 tablespoon flax meal + 1/4 cup water = 1 egg).  Flax meal is a wonderful substitute for eggs in recipes that use them to bind the ingredients together.  It will not help your baked goods rise however!  If you would prefer to use eggs, just switch out the flax meal and water with 4 eggs.

Yum!  Perfect to have around the house for the holidays, or good for any day along with a cup of tea!

Cardamom and Saffron Mandelbrot
Adapted from Aunt Alice's recipe and Nehama Stampfer Glogower's instructions
Takes 2 hours
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 cup (plus a little extra) raw almonds
1/4 cup flax meal
1 cup warm water
1 pinch saffron
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
6 cardamom pods, powdered fine
1 cup oil (I used grapeseed, but I wish I had had almond oil)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit.  Toast the almonds for 15 minutes.  When cool, pulverize to coarse meal in a food processor.  Set aside a few tablespoons to dust the cookies.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl, mix flax meal, water and saffron.  Let congeal while you mix together the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl.  Beat the sugar, cardamom and oil into the other wet ingredients.  Add dry ingredients, and stir until combined.

With wet or oiled hands, form the dough into three 'snake-like things', and place them length-wise and evenly spaced on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes 'until it looks toasty'.

Mix the set-aside almonds and a little sugar together.

Slide the parchment paper with mandel bread off of the baking tray onto a counter.  Sprinkle the tops of the snakes with the almond and sugar mixture, and cut into even pieces, about 1/2 inch.  

Lie them flat on the baking sheet and return to the oven.  Turn the temperature down to 300 degrees.  Bake for 10 minutes to dry them out.  Turn them over, and bake for 10 more minutes.

Thanks Aunt Alice!  Let the holiday baking begin!


  1. these look gooooood. I can't wait to try to make them!

  2. They are like badam kheer in cookie form!