Ahh, the best thing I know to do with coffee is biscotti – or mandlebrot, the Jewish equivalent made “parve” with oil instead of butter.
Mandlebrot (also Mandelbroit) translates from Yiddish as almond bread. Jewish biscotti - my dessert of choice, and a staple in my mother’s cookie jar, and always on hand in my grandmother’s kitchen. My grandmother’s version was simple, yet sublime. The ultimate coffee dunker: baked in small loaves, sliced, then returned to the oven for added crunch.My mother’s recipe was sweeter, lighter, the dough thinner, almost batter-like.
In search of the perfect biscotti/mandelbrot, I can almost channel my grandmother’s recipe, and when I follow it, it’s out of a jumble of memories: the buttery baking aromas of her kitchen, the fragrance of roses and tomatoes in her summer garden, her noodle kugel and cheese blintzes.
Now that I am a grandmother, myself, I keep my own “endless biscotti jar,” which means I make a batch nearly weekly as our one simple concession to dessert with expresso after dinner. I’ve also started my own tradition of sorts . . . constantly tweaking the ingredients, changing the proportions, adding variations of flavor, zest, liqueuers, spices. Fortunately, the basic cookie concept is very forgiving in yielding delicious results. With enough caffeine to be a stimulant in its own right, this particular recipe combines chocolate and instant coffee crystals, inspired by a recipe (for Chocolate Pound Cake) from the Joy of Chocolate, a little gem of a cookbook, by Judith Olney, (first published in 1982). For sensible proportions, I’ve also referred to a chocolate biscotti recipe from Dorie Greenspan.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small pot, melt butter and chocolate. Add brown sugar, vanilla, instant coffee crystals to mixture and blend well. Let cool, add to egg mixture and blend well.
Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon into a bowl and add a pinch of salt. Add to egg mixture and with a dough paddle, mix ingredients on low speed until blended.
Stir in nuts, orange zest and mix on low speed. Note: dough will be sticky.
Turn dough onto well-floured surface, divide in half. Shape into 2 log-shaped rolls, each about 2 inches in diameter and 12 inches long. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Use spatula to smooth dough. Brush the tops of the logs with egg mixture. Sprinkle with more cinnamon in desired.
Bake in oven about 25 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Let stand until cool enough to handle. With a serrated knife, carefully cut into diagonal slices about ½-inch thick; dough will be slightly soft inside. Return slices in one layer to baking sheets.
Bake about 10 minutes until lightly toasted, crisp and dry. Watch carefully so cookies don’t brown throughout or they will be too hard and dry. Cool on a rack. Dust with confectioners sugar if desired. Keep in airtight containers.