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Snacking in Israel:  Mandel Bread

November 24, 2008
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My grandchildren have never been to Israel, but they are already hooked on Bamba, an airy, crunchy, peanut butter-flavored, puffed corn snack that is just as addicting as potato chips. The Osem Corportation in Holon, Israel has been producing it since 1963 with no decline in sales, making up a whopping 25% of the Israeli snack market.Bamba contains no cholesterol, preservatives, or food coloring, and is vitamin-enriched. The peanut butter comes from Argentina and is the last ingredient to be added, as it is poured in liquid form over the air-baked puffs.

However, my first favorite is chocolate spread, described as “an Israeli food that has no equivalent anywhere else on earth.” Spread on bread or pancakes, it is to Israelis like peanut butter is to a lot of Westerners. Though the Weidberg family, who emigrated from Romania in the 1930s, started a candy factory in 1949, they didn’t start making chocolate spread until 1960. Since then, it has become a symbol of Israel, like falafel and Jaffa oranges. I like to spread it nice and thick on a popular plain, flat cookie.

Another chocolate delight is Israel’s winter alternative (October to February) to ice cream—foil-wrapped Krembos. Krembo is a combination of two Hebrew words: krem (cream) and bo (in it). A round biscuit base is covered with a dollop of marshmellow cream and coated in chocolate. It was a favorite homemade treat in pre-state Israel in the 1940s but didn’t become a manufactured product till 1966. The Krembo has become a pop-cultural/national icon, and while considered a children’s favorite, sociologists have found that it is a “comfort food” for US Israeli expatriates.

Our featured recipe, mandel bread—sometimes called Jewish biscotti—is great to dip in hot tea on a cold, winter day. Mandel is Yiddish for “almond,” though lots of recipes don’t include almond. Cherries or chocolate chips can be added to these twice-baked treats. Why not bake some, brew some tea, put your feet up, and enjoy your favorite, cozy, winter-time spot while you read the rest of this Dispatch!

Mandel Bread

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz (124 gm) butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon zest (opt)
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 cups chopped almonds, toasted

Sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add zest, vanilla, and almond extract. Add flour mixture and almonds. Divide dough into thirds. Preheat oven to 325oF (160oC). Grease and flour a baking sheet.

Form each portion of dough into a flat log 10” x 2” (25 x 5 cm). Bake logs for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise, diagonally into 3/4” (2 cm) slices. Place slices, cut side up, on baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Remove and turn each cookie over and bake for 5 more minutes or until pale golden. (makes 36)

By Elinoar Moore at www.inmamaskitchen.com

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