My introduction to baking began as a toddler when I was scooting around on the floor in my mother’s kitchen. She usually wore cherry red shoes that were always dusted with flour. I followed those shoes around the room, and like any savvy small fry, knew where the good crumbs landed when she was baking.
As I grew (read: ridiculously tall child) and could reach the counter, she began to teach me how she baked. There were no real recipes, just a tutorial handed down from her grandmother, to her mother, to her and then to me.
Right around that time, Good Housekeeping and other magazines started telling homemakers how to make recipes using volume measuring cups. Recruited into the army of modern moms, she never looked back.
Fortunately the old familial baking tutorial stuck in my brain. I’d watch her toss flour onto the table, make a well in the center and add the other ingredients, one at a time. I’d watch her roll out strudel dough so thin you could see through it, yet it never tore.
She made Mandelbrot so often that it would go together in a matter of seconds – flour mixed with other goodies, shaped into logs and baked until they were perfect. No timers were beeping in our house. She knew just when to take them out and when to slice them for their second baking.
It is a work in progress, recreating her Mandelbrot, and now that I bake gluten-free it is even more tricky. All flours are not created equal, and certainly that is true for gluten-free.
I think this recipe comes really close. If I close my eyes while I’m baking them, I can almost smell the old kitchen on baking day. And that makes these even more worthy of sharing. They’re like a little bit like home in a cookie.
It is worth the effort to toast your own whole almonds because the flavor is so much more fresh – do the rough chop yourself because a food processor will make them too fine. While almonds are the nut of choice around here for this Mandelbrot, you can use any other nut you wish. The extra egg white is what helps glue the crumb together for the gluten-free version. You really do need it. No gums in these cookies. I like this mix of GF flours, but as long as you use a little starch, feel free to use what works for you. This recipe uses veggie oil, so it is also dairy free.
And remember, it is quite crumbly so don’t think it is not working – that’s just the way the cookie crumbles (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
- 157 grams whole almonds toasted (12 minutes 350 degree oven)
- 428 grams gluten-free flour (115 gf oat flour, plus 75 white rice flour, plus 100 grams almond flour, plus 70 grams potato starch, plus 68 grams brown rice flour)
- 1 teaspoon flax meal (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- pinch kosher salt
- 160 grams sugar (scant cup)
- 2 lemons, zested (more if you love lemon)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 whole eggs plus one egg white
Preheat oven to 350. Place almonds on a baking sheet and toast (while the oven preheats) for about 8-12 minutes. Cool and chop into large pieces (you will want to see big almond chunks in the cookie). Set aside.
Weigh the flours, add the flax if using, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine.
In a smaller bowl (I use the 2-cup Pyrex glass cup) zest the two lemons. Add the juice, flavorings, eggs and mix with a fork. Add the oil and mix again until combined.
Add to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well mixed. Add the nuts and mix again. Turn onto a floured surface and work just enough flour or starch into the dough turning it a few times just until it is barely not sticky. Don’t go crazy with the flour – you want the dough to be slightly sticky.
Cut dough in half and roll on the counter into two logs about 15 inches long and 2 inches wide and 1/4 to 1/2 inch tall-ish. Carefully place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.
Both logs can go on one sheet, but make sure they are at least two inches apart.
Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 and bake for an additional 20 minutes. They will look very beige and not that appealing. Patience – give them time to pretty-up when they are toasted (remember, they’re twice baked cookies).
Cool about 10 minutes.
When you can just barely handle the log, place on a cutting board and with a serrated knife, slice off the tiny end on the diagonal. Continue slicing on the diagonal – make each one about 1/2 and inch wide or as best you can so it doesn’t crumble. Use light pressure to slice.
Expect some to be lost to the cookie-crumbles-syndrome – but there will still be plenty. A light hand with the serrated knife does the trick.
Place each slice on a baking sheet, standing up. I use two baking sheets this time around because you want each piece to have lots of space. Place in a 325 degree oven for 10 minutes. Rotate baking sheets, turn oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes more or until they are toasty light brown-ish, golden-ish or look like biscotti/Mandelbrot.
Cool completely. Store in a tin and they will keep for a very long time, except they won’t last that long.
GF Mandelbrot will be slightly crumbly no matter what you do, so pay no attention to those crumbs on your lap, on the floor, on the couch. Just enjoy.