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Aunt Helen’s Mandelbrot

Use a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease were the words of advice I received from Aunt Helen when she heard I was going to make her mandelbrot recipe. Do not use a mixer, she reminded me. So with wooden spoon and mixing bowl at the ready, I made mandelbrot. However, before I give you the recipe, here are two important bits of history:

1. My grandma Freda (my mom’s mom) died before I was born and I am named after her. (In Judaism, you name babies after people who are deceased, as a way of keeping their memory alive.) Anyway, my grandma’s sister, Helen, was very close to my mom, and consequently, was like a grandmother to my sister and me. We’d celebrate holidays together, and every year on our birthdays, Aunt Helen would give us a batch of her homemade mandelbrot (with nuts for my parents, with chocolate chips for my sister and me). When I was 11, we moved out to California and Aunt Helen continued to bake the mandelbrot, shipping it to us across the country. Sure, there were a lot of crumbs, but it was always still delicious. To this day, Aunt Helen still mails us mandelbrot on our birthdays.

Of course, this recipe was passed down to my mom, and now, to me. The only difference between their batches and mine is theirs have a lot more burned pieces, although I do believe that’s by choice.

2. Mandelbrot (aka mandelbrodt or mandel bread) is a twice baked cookie made with oil. In Yiddish, mandel means almond (or according to Aunt Helen, nut) and brot means bread. Traditionally, it is made with nuts and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I however, prefer it sans nuts and with chocolate chips. It’s often described as Jewish biscotti but to me, it’s a lot thicker and crumbles quite easily. And there’s no right or wrong time to eat mandelbrot–I’ve been known to have a few pieces for breakfast while other people enjoy dunking it in coffee for dessert.

Photos of the process here [1].

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips


  1. Mix eggs and sugar with a wooden spoon. Add vanilla and mix.
  2. Mix the flour, salt, and baking together. Add to the egg mixture, alternating with the oil, four times.
  3. Add chocolate chips and mix. Batter will be stiff. (She’s not kidding, it’s stiff!)
  4. Refrigerate overnight, or at least three hours. (Aunt Helen recommended overnight.)
  5. Roll into four logs, approximately 1 1/2″ in diameter.
  6. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes, remove from oven, and immediately slice into 1″ pieces. (Both my mom and Aunt Helen said it’s very important to not let the logs cool because they will crack when you slice them.)
  7. Place cookies on their side on cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes more.

Recipe from Aunt Helen.