January 19, 2012
You Say Biscotti, I Say Mandelbread
If there is one thing we can say about cookies in the United States it is that there is a huge variety. Go into any supermarket and the cookie aisle is endless. Unfortunately, many companies are just inventing variations on the same cookie. Who knew the world needed mint, vanilla and new shapes of Oreos? Which reminds me why I am a home baker—the ability to create new and unusual cookies all the time.
I just returned from Rome, Italy and I saw piles and piles of cookies wherever I went. There were many varieties of biscotti, cookies that look just like our grandmother’s mandelbrodt, just with a fancier name. They also looked a lot harder than the ones I know, but the Italians eat them dipped in coffee or wine, or maybe have tougher teeth than we do.
After a few days of looking for interesting cookies, I realized that 90% of the cookies were the same vanilla cookie dressed up in a million different ways: sprinkled with chocolate chips, dipped in chocolate, sandwiched with Nutella, shaped into a heart, piped into a swirl, etc. The most unique cookies I found were in the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. I bought a sampling of all the cookies offered at El Mundo de Laura. The seven or so types of cookies were just enough to satisfy the 7 kids and 4 adults in our group as we waited to buy tickets to the Forum and Colosseum.
One or two of the cookies tasted familiar, such as the chocolate coconut one that tasted like my Cracked Top Chocolate Cookies. There was also a unique crunchy gingerbread cookie finger and a little espresso cookie that everyone liked. Most of the cookies were of the crisp kind, which normally kids reject in favor of chewy cookies, but maybe they were open to ideas. After all, when in Rome…
Here are cookies that reminded me of the cookies I saw in Rome.
Makes 60 cookies
1 cup whole blanched almonds
4 tablespoons parve margarine, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus one egg white
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. On a large, parchment-lined jelly roll pan, toast the almonds in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan midway through. Let cool for 10 minutes and then chop roughly.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the margarine and the sugars with an electric mixer on medium-high speed or by hand with a whisk until creamy. Add the eggs and white and mix. Add the anise seeds, vanilla and almond extracts and mix again. Add both of the flours and baking powder and mix. Finally, add the toasted and chopped almonds and mix or knead with your hands until the almonds are distributed throughout the dough.
Re-line the same cookie sheet you used to toast the almonds with parchment. Divide the dough into 4 and then shape each into long, narrow logs, about 2 inches wide and 8 inches long. Place on a cookie sheet, 3 inches apart. Use a silicone spatula or your hands to smooth the top and sides of the logs. Bake for 30 minutes. Slide the parchment and logs onto a cutting board to cool for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325ºF. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice the logs on an angle into ½ inch-thick slices. Place the slices cut-side down on top of a new piece of parchment on the cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes; 7 for soft, 10 for crunchier cookies. Slide the parchment and cookies onto a rack to cool. Store covered with plastic or in an airtight container at room temperature for five days or freeze for up to three months.
Makes 6 to 7 dozen
2/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 cup parve unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup dry coconut flakes
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, for coating cookies
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, cocoa and coconut. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk well after each addition. Add the vanilla and whisk again. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix well with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. Place the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line three baking sheets with parchment, or bake in batches. Place the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Use a tablespoon to scoop up the dough and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll the cookie balls in the confectioners’ sugar until they are heavily coated with sugar. Place the cookie dough balls on the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies for 12 to 16 minutes, depending on how chewy or crunchy you like your cookies. Slide the parchment onto cooling racks and let cool. Store covered with plastic or in an airtight container at room temperature for five days or freeze for up to three months.
makes 70 2-inch cookies
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 sticks margarine placed in the freezer for 20 minutes, cut into 10 pieces
10 ounces parve semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons parve margarine
4 tablespoons parve plain soymilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Place the flour, cocoa, and confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process a few seconds to mix. Add the margarine pieces and process until the mixture comes together. Gather into 2 balls, flatten each and wrap in plastic. Place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes or overnight.
When your dough is chilled, preheat oven to 400°F and cover 3 cookies sheets with parchment paper, or bake in batches. Remove the dough from freezer and unwrap. One ball at a time, roll out dough on parchment paper sprinkled with flour. I like to roll the dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper, peeling back the top layer of parchment and adding a little flour to the dough as I roll. Try to roll the dough a little less than ¼ inch thick. Peel off the top piece of parchment and use small, no larger than 2 inch, cookie cutters to cut shapes. You should have a small metal blade spatula or knife ready to transfer the cut cookies onto the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll any dough scraps.
Bake for 10 minutes and let cool in the pan for 2 minutes and then slide the parchment off the pan to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate filling.
Melt the chocolate and margarine in a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering water until melted and smooth. Meanwhile heat the soymilk in the microwave for 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the heated soymilk, vanilla and confectioner’s sugar to the chocolate. Mix well and then place in the fridge for 15 minutes before using. If you can pour the filling, it is not yet thick enough to fill the cookies. If the filling gets too hard to spread, place in the microwave and heat for a few seconds and stir.
To assemble the cookies, spread about ½ – 1 teaspoon of the chocolate filling on the bottom of one cookie and cover the chocolate filling with the bottom of another cookie. You can also use a pastry bag to squeeze the filling onto the cookies. Squeeze gently to spread filling just to the edges.
©The Kosher Baker: 160 dairy-free desserts from traditional to trendy