“It” refers to the best Mandelbrot in the whole world. Pure and simple. I know what you are thinking: your Grandma Rifka, your sister Sarah or your Aunt Leah makes some pretty darn good Mandelbrot- those crispy biscotti-like cookies filled with nuts, raisins, perhaps dried cranberries and maybe even some chocolate chips. But I am a purist and so I insist that my mother-in-law, Rhoda Weston’s Mandelbrod is better. Almonds, raisins, almond flavoring and a custom mixture of cinnamon and sugar are all she uses to achieve that perfect blend of crunchiness but not tooth-breaking consistency and sweet but not overly sugary flavor, ensuring a perfect compliment to a cup of tea or coffee. If you are one of Rhoda’s kids, grandkids, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, nurses in her doctors’ offices, household help, clergy or favorite retail vendors, you know exactly what I am talking about. And I know that even if you haven’t actually said the words to her, you never want her to show up without it!
While there is no agreement as to its origin, the word Mandelbrot has German/Yiddish roots: mandel (nut) and brot (bread) and was a favorite of Eastern European Jews. The recipe below appeared in a newspaper some sixty years ago but has since become a Weston tradition and we now simply call it Rhoda’s Mandelbrot. We know that whenever we walk into Mom’s kitchen, a tall, clear glass jar with a stainless steel hinged top will be filled with these delectable cookies. The only thing we don’t know is how many “ends” we’ll find. After all, there are only two ends to every log. We keep hoping that one day she’ll present us with a jar full of those extra crispy ends.
Recently, another beautiful grandson entered our world and we attended his naming. Of course great grandmother Rhoda sent an aluminum tin full of Mandelbrot in honor of the occasion. Or so we thought! Nino, the baby’s father refused to put the cookies out for the guests and hid them on top of the refrigerator. Apparently, like precious gold or coveted drugs, this batch was his private stash!
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday: baking Mandelbrot (only my second time!); putting them in a tin to send to my boys in Chicago and St. Louis, and connecting with a time-honored and treasured family tradition. Excuse me while I go make myself a cup of tea and steal a couple of pieces.
Rhoda Weston’s Mandelbrot
Yields: 48 pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
6 oz. corn oil
¾ cup sliced or slivered almonds
¾ cup golden raisins
2 tsp. almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
Cinnamon and sugar mixture (more cinnamon than the commercial blend)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat the eggs, sugar and oil together in a large mixing bowl. Add almonds, raisins and extract and mix well. Add flour; mix well and form into a glossy ball.
Divide the ball into four quarters. Form each quarter into an 8-inch length bar. Place two bars on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Repeat procedure with other two bars.
Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
While still warm, slice each bar on the diagonal. Turn slices on their side and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.