Mary Goldberg’s Passover Mandel Bread

Passover is one of the most important Jewish holidays, a seven-day springtime festival commemorating the liberation of the Ancient Israelites from Egyptian enslavement. It also happens to be one of my favorite holidays because of the incredible food and family traditions it inspires. This year, I’ll be celebrating the holiday on TheShiksa.com with a new annual event called The Shiksa’s Passover Potluck. I’ve invited several of my blogging friends to share their recipe ideas for Passover. You may be familiar with some of the blogs, while others might be new to you. Some of them are Jewish bloggers, while others are not, meaning they’ll bring a new perspective (and some awesome, original flavors) to the Passover table. They’re all terrific, and I know you’ll love them!

To learn more about the Passover Potluck and my fabulous guest bloggers, click here.

To kick things off, I’m bringing a very special recipe to the Potluck table– not from a food blogger, but from a distinguished member of the Tribe. Last Friday, thanks to my friend Jackie at Domestic Fits, I had the privilege of meeting Holocaust survivor Michael Berkowits in his senior living complex. On that same visit, I was also introduced to another amazing woman– 104 year-old Mary Goldberg. You read that right. 104 years old! Dear Mary, bless her heart, is amazingly strong and coherent for her advanced age. She spoke with me about her long life, and also shared a tasty Passover recipe that I know you’ll love. But first, a little more about Mary.

Me and Mary in her Southern California apartment.

Mary Goldberg was born in England in 1908– her maiden name is Mary Ziff. Her mother was English, her father Russian. Her parents immigrated to America when Mary was 9 years old. They lived for a while in Chicago, then made their way west to California, where Mary has lived ever since.

Mary on her wedding day– she was 18 years old. Her husband, a Jewish man from Russia, was 23.

Mary got married at 18 years old and had three children. Her first daughter died of leukemia when she was quite young. Her son and daughter are still alive and well– her daughter is 77 years old, her son is 74. They all celebrate the holidays together here in Southern California. She also has a sister in Denver who is turning 98 soon.

Believe it or not, Mary still cooks from time to time– not much, but once in a while she’ll make chicken soup with matzo balls or kugel. “I was a good cook in my day,” she said. “Every Saturday, I used to bake a yellow cake and bring it down to the beauty shop.” She told me how her mom used to roast brisket in the oven– she remembers on the holidays eating gefilte fish and kugel. I asked Mary what her favorite Jewish food is. She said, “I don’t eat pork, or ham, or bacon. I do like herring, very much. My son brings it to me sometimes, I love it. I also like making noodle pudding– lokshen kugel.”

When we began talking about food, Mary pointed to the top of her refrigerator to a floral recipe box. We got it down and started sifting through it. Mary showed me some of her favorite recipes, including the recipe I’m about to share with you–  Passover Mandel Bread. As we talked about the recipes, she handed me the box. “Take whichever cards you want,” she said. “I don’t cook much anymore. You enjoy them.” I can’t tell you how much this warmed my heart. I chose four cards from the many that were there, including the Passover Mandel Bread. I asked her if I could share her mandel bread recipe with my readers, and she said “Sure!”

Mary and her recipe card box.

Mandelbrot cookies are an Ashkenazi Jewish dessert dating back to the early nineteenth century. Mandelbrot are closely related to the Italian cookies known as biscotti, which were first made in the Middle Ages. The word mandelbrot means almond (mandel) and bread (brot) in German– in Yiddish, the cookies are known as mandelbroit. In America, these tasty little cookies are known as mandel bread. Typically mandel bread are twice-baked, which makes them crunchy. They’re perfect for dipping in your tea or coffee. Because most of the moisture is baked out of them, they also have a fairly long shelf life.

Before meeting Mary, I had never made a Passover-friendly Mandel Bread. Mary’s recipe inspired me to try, with terrific results. The mandel bread has a nice tender texture– it’s on the softer side, even after the second baking cycle. It’s got a lovely hint of citrus flavor (I think it would be great with orange zest/juice too), and the nuts give it a nice crunch. It’s a great treat to have on hand for the week of Passover.

Before leaving Mary, I asked her what her secret for longevity was. She shrugged and said, “Well, I don’t know. I like people. All the things that you see around me– the pictures– they’re all my children and grandchildren. I’m a lucky woman, I had good children. I live a good life.” Throughout our interview, she spoke with pride about her family. After meeting with Mary for a short time, I think her secret is simple… she appreciates the love in her life, and the love of her family. When she says, “I like people,” she really means it. She’s a genuinely warm, friendly, and positive person, and she was very happy to share her story.

I thought this would be the perfect way to start our Passover Potluck– with age and wisdom. Thank you Mary Goldberg!

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Mary Goldberg's Passover Mandel Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 3/4 cup + 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup matzo cake meal
  • 1/4 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
Servings: 20
Kosher Key: Pareve, Kosher for Passover
  • In a mixing bowl, whisk together oil and 3/4 cup sugar. Beat in the eggs till well mixed.
  • Whisk in lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt.
  • Use a large spoon to stir in the matzo cake meal, matzo meal, and potato starch till a wet, sticky dough forms (the consistency should be half dough, half batter).
  • Stir in the slivered almonds and chopped nuts.
  • Cover the batter with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, up to 48 hours.
  • When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and grease a baking sheet, or line it with parchment paper for easier cleanup. Lightly grease your hands with canola oil. Lightly grease your hands with canola oil. Use the dough to form 2 long, thick rows or rectangles on the baking sheet. Each row should be between 3 ½ - 4 inches wide. Make sure you leave at least 2 inches between the rows, as they will expand during baking.
  • Bake mandelbrot for 30 minutes. Take mandelbrot out of the oven. Place the rows on a cutting board and let them cool for 10 minutes. Handle the rows carefully, they are delicate and prone to crumbling.
  • Slice the rows into ½ inch wide biscotti-sized slices.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of sugar into a shallow dish. Roll each cookie in sugar. Again, handle the slices somewhat carefully to make sure they don't crumble.
  • Put the slices cut-side down back onto the cookie sheet, then bake for another 10-20 minutes, until firm with crisp edges. The longer they stay in the oven, the crisper they’ll be. Keep an eye on the texture and don’t over-bake, or the mandelbrot will dry out. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a rack.
  • Store in an airtight container. Mandel bread will last several days because most of the moisture is baked out of it. For a longer shelf life, wrap each individual cookie in foil, place in a sealed plastic bag, and freeze for up to three weeks.
  • These are especially delicious when dunked in coffee or tea. Yum!

Comments (25)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Love your blog, Tori! Thanks for the yummy recipe and inspirational story – I love hearing about stories like Mary’s :)

  2. Can’t wait to try these. I am the dessert maker for one of the seders I attend, and this recipe will now be a part of the dessert tray.

  3. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    The recipe sounds and looks wonderful. The story more so.
    It is a treat to read your articles and commentary. Thank you.

  4. A 104 year old Jewish lady hands you her recipe box and tells you to take a few, plus a Holocaust survivor chef gives you one of his own recipes ?? Tori, if you ever wondered if this was your calling, wonder no more ! These folks knew you were the right person to give these recipes. I haven’t made any of your recipes yet, but I am so hooked on your stories and research..Please keep writing ! Thank you so much.

  5. Mary is just precious, and I truly loved her story!
    I also have a treasured family recipe for mandel bread, which is probably the age of this one, if not older. Rolling the slices in sugar was something with which I’m not familiar…sounds so good! Thanks for sharing a lovely story and recipe!

  6. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I found a similar recipe years ago in Family Circle magazine. The ingredients are: 1/2 cup margarine, room temp.,2 cups sugar, 6 eggs, 2 3/4 cups matzoh cake meal, 3/4 cup potato starch, 1 cup mini choc. chips, 1 cup chopped or sliced almonds, 1 tsp. cinnamon mixed with 2 tsp. sugar. 1. Heat oven to 350. Coat lg. baking sheet with cooking spray. 2. In a lg. bowl, beat margarine & sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. 3. Sift together cake meal & potato starch. Stir into the sugar-margarine mixture until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips & almonds. 4. Form into 2 loaves, each about 2 inches wide, on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with cinnamon-sugar mixture. 5. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove loaves from oven and cool slightly. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place slices on baking sheet and return to oven for 12 to 15 minutes more until slightly crisp and lightly browned. Cool slices and serve. Makes 24.
    There’s also a wonderful chocolate cookie on the Martha Stewart website. Both of theses cookies are delicious!

  7. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Oh Tori, I LOVED reading all about Mary and her life. You are so lucky to meet such wonderful people in your travels. I wish Mary a very blessed Passover! I just printed the recipe and will make these and think of Mary when I do.

    BTW I have a folder now that is stuffed with your recipes I have printed!!

    XO
    Carol

  8. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    This is a great way to kick off the Passover Potluck. What a great story and recipe. Mary is a very wise woman, not to mention an inspiration at 104!!

  9. this story was beautiful and you were very lucky to meet Mary. I am going to try her recipe for mandelbrodt. What other recipes did she let you take? WOuld love to try them. Thank you.

  10. awww what a Beautiful Story You shared about a Lovely Lady Mary.It really touched my heart.I will try to mmmake the mandelbrot for sure because Biscotti are my Favourite’s.Wishing You both a Happy Passover.
    Thanks
    Alice xo

  11. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    What an amazing lady Mary is. How lucky you got to meet her Tori. She is so inspiring, I loved reading about her and seeing the photos. Thanks for sharing this with us. The recipe is lovely but for me it is the lady behind it that is the real draw. You warmed my heart today.

  12. Just found and…love-love-love your blog!
    The above story warmed my heart to no end.
    You really revealed yourself to be a menschala
    by only taking 4 recipes from that priceless box.
    I am not sure I could have showed the same restraint.
    I would kill to have recipes from either of my grandmothers (of blessed memory.)

    I hope you have (or will) print the other 3 of Mary’s recipes.

  13. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Great Story! She is a sweetheart! I have been looking for a recipe for Mondel Bread. I have had a wonderful tasting Bread from a bakery in Queens, New York but have yet to ever find a recipe like that one. It Was rolled with layers of chopped chocolate inside and had the wonderful flavor of almond paste. Covered in chocolate. Yummy If anyone knows of one Please pass It along. Thank You

    1. Did you add the nuts? After adding the almonds and nuts it is more like cookie dough, which is fine… you want to be able to shape it into rectangles, so it shouldn’t be overly wet. If you’re concerned the batter isn’t wet enough, you can add another egg.

  14. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Hi Tori, I added the extra egg and a drop more oil and it came out fine, delicious, in fact, and not too sweet. Thanks for a gret recipe! I’ll be bringing it to the Seder tomorrow night. Zissen Pesach!
    Sooz

  15. Hi Tori, I added the extra egg and a drop more oil and it came out fine, delicious, in fact, and not too sweet. Thanks for a great recipe! I’ll be bringing it to the Seder tomorrow night. Zissen Pesach!
    Sooz

  16. Very good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 starsVery good - 4 stars
    Just finished making dough
    Looks a bit thick
    Did not realize you could add another egg
    Still think it will be great
    Not sure I will roll in sugar
    Less calories
    Looking forward to enjoying

  17. Oh My. I loved the story of Mary because it’s the same as my grandmother’s travels. she came from Russia with her family (4 sisters) and parents and wet to Chicago. once she retired she moved to the valley to be near us. I wonder if her path ever crossed with Mary. ask Mary if she knew the 4 Cohn sisters. Mary’s recipe is very much the same as the famous Jewish cook, Judy Zeidler, here in LA. I just made the dough and it seem much to much like batter. I had to use flour so I added extra but still to soupy. can you make a suggestion?

  18. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Great recipe. I laughed at your comment about keeping it a few days. I hope it can last until the end of this message!

  19. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    Made it for Seder – it was a BIG hit – :) – tasted great and such a special recipe with a history!
    Mine came out very crumbly; first cut slices fell apart, then I switched to a serrated knife, and most of the slices, after second baking and cooling were holding their shape. Are they supposed to be this “delicate”? I could not find matzo cake meal, and grinded matzo meal in a coffee grinder to finer grind. Is this OK to use grinded matzo meal in this recipe – to replace matzo cake meal?
    The light and dry texture and taste is great though! -thank you so much for bringing it back!

    1. Hi M, these are a bit more delicate than regular mandel bread due to being made with matzo rather than flour. Using finely blended matzo cake meal should help… the one that is premade is usually blended finer than we can make ourselves at home. Glad you enjoyed them!

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