Grandma Hannah’s Mandel Bread

In my family, food is synonymous with tradition. Despite having not lived near family in over a decade, I know I am never more than a recipe away. When anyone dear to me is under the weather, matzah ball soup is always the answer. As I bow over the hot broth, adding carrots and celery as tradition dictates, I reminisce about every holiday meal that began with the same soup and know that the warmth and love I feel are passed on to the one I will feed.


This mandel bread recipe, handed down from my Great-Grandma Hannah, evokes similar feelings. It recalls the story I have heard dozens of times: me, as a toddler, rapping on her door when I’d visit, calling “Nana Hannah, Hannah Nana!” until she greeted me at the door. I think of my mother, who will predictably make her grandma’s recipe for every single holiday and family occasion. I know, miles and years apart from these women, that we are all connected when I prepare this family staple.

Mandel Bread


In sharing this recipe, I share a piece of myself and those who came before me. It might be a slight departure from my typical baking practices, but I can’t deny tradition.


For those unfamiliar with mandel bread, I often describe it as a softer version of biscotti. The simple dough, studded with walnuts, is rolled out and filled with jam, then folded and twice-baked to produce a cookie with a crunchy exterior and sweet, soft center.


Mandel Bread


Mandel bread, with the lovely stripe of sweet jam running through its center, looks laborious and complex. However, its appearances are deceiving and it is actually quite simple to prepare, leaving you feeling accomplished and looking like an expert baker.


Once the dough is mixed, start by dividing it into 3 or 4 balls. One at a time, roll out each ball into a rectangle approximately 6 inches by 10 inches. A trick that I learned from years of helping my mom with this task is to roll it out on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to ease the steps that follow. Spoon one to two teaspoons of jelly down the center of the rectangle. Then, lifting the waxed paper, gently fold one side of the dough over the center.


Assembling Mandel Bread


Peel back the paper, then repeat with the other side of the dough to form a large slab, carefully pinching the edges so the jam doesn’t leak in the oven.


Mandel Bread slabs


After baking for 30 minutes, the now lightly browned slab is sliced into approximately ¾-inch thick fingers that are flipped sideways to reveal the sweet filling.


Mandel Bread slices


The cookie sheet is returned to the oven and the cookies are broiled on each side to become brown and crispy. They will brown quickly, so keep a close watch on the oven.


My tradition is to eat the crunchier end pieces first because, by my calculations, they don’t count as whole servings so I can eat as many as I want.


Mandel Bread 2


Grandma Hannah’s Mandel Bread

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Grandma Hannah’s Mandel Bread

This recipe, passed down from my Great-Grandma Hannah, starts with a simple dough, studded with walnuts. It is filled with jam, then folded and twice-baked to produce a cookie with a crunchy exterior and sweet, soft center.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cups chopped walnuts, toasted
  • Favorite preserves or jam


  • Cream eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla together in a mixing bowl. Add flour, salt, and baking powder to the bowl and mix until combined. Stir in nuts and blend. Divide dough into 3-4 parts. One at a time, roll each ball out on parchment or waxed paper to approximately 6 inches by 10 inches.
  • Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of jam down the center length of the rectangle, then fold the outer sides in over the center.
  • Pinch edges of the dough so the jam doesn’t leak and place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with other balls of dough. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until slightly browned.
  • Cut each slab into approximately ¾-inch thick slices and turn each slice on its side so you can see the line of jam. Return the baking sheet to the oven and broil until the edges begin to brown (this takes less than a minute in my oven, so keep watch). Remove from the oven, flip the slices, and repeat with the other side. Let cool before eating.
  • Notes

    - Though I always use vanilla, Grandma Hannah’s recipe offers the options of vanilla, orange, or almond extracts.

    - I used 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour and 1½ cups all-purpose flour and found it still tasted exactly like the original.

    - My mom typically uses good old Smucker’s grape jelly, apricot jam, or orange marmalade. I used my own homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam and blueberry jam with coriander and lime. Any sweet jam or preserves will do.

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *