MandelbrotChristmas Baking with SusieJ

Measurements [American]

  • 4 eggs
  • 250 g sugar
  • Either:
    • 225 g almonds, ground
    • 225 g hazelnuts, ground
  • 110 g semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or broken
  • 325 g flour
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 240 mL whole nuts (optional)
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

Beat together eggs, sugar and ground nuts in a 3-quart saucepan. Heat over low to medium-low heat until lukewarm (30 degrees C to 40 degrees C). If you start to smell scrambled eggs, take the saucepan off the heat immediately. Add broken chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted.

Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder and mix in to egg mixture. It will be more of a thick batter than a dough. Increase heat to medium, and keep stirring and scraping off the bottom to prevent the the mixture from sticking or burning. Stir until until a stiff dough forms; the dough will be about 75 degrees C. Add whole nuts if desired.

Form the dough into two, 3 to 4-inch wide logs on a parchment-covered baking sheet. It's easiest to drop the dough into the rough shape you want, then use a spatula and wet hands (keeping a bowl half-filled with water nearby is a help) to fine-tune smooth the shape. Brush with egg white or smooth with wet hands. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Allow to cool on racks.

Keep oven at 190 degrees C. Slice loaves into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices with a serrated knife, lay flat on cookie sheets, and toast for 10 minutes.

When I explain these to people I say, "It's a Mandelbrot! Umm... An almond bread!" but when they see them, they say, "It's a chocolate biscotti!" Well, yes, sort of.

The original recipe came from my Granma's oldest cookbook, the one written in that old German script that no one, not even Germans, learns to read anymore. It's an interesting book to read, because of the assumptions it makes about a kitchen (every cookbook makes assumptions, from how people measure ingredients to how detailed instructions for "chiffonade" need to be) are far more removed from modern American kitchens than just the usual metric-American conversion and what kind of pans are on hand. Reading the recipe I wondered if the directions really said what I thought they said.

Well, they do seem to. And what they say to do is to heat the eggs, melt the chocolate, add the flour and then cook it like pate a choux. The dough gives a good upper-body workout as it cooks on the stove top. With the cooking and the baking and the re-baking, these could be "thrice-baked" cookies.