created at: 2013-12-05

So you’ve made it past two of the holiday season’s biggest hurdles: Thanksgiving and Hanukkah (at the same time!). By now you’ve had time to catch your breath and loosen your belt, but the holiday train is just gaining momentum. My December calendar is filled with holiday parties, brunches and open houses. Among these events is my favorite type of party: the holiday cookie contest.

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas to partake in these good-natured but competitive cookie throw-downs. Everyone loves cookies, and in this case, everyone wins. You get to try a new recipe or show off an old favorite, and no matter the outcome, you get to leave with a bag full of sweets!

This year I’m bringing mandelbrodt to my friend Lindsey’s cookie contest. This Ashkenazi almond bread’s nutty, chocolate-y flavor is akin to a really good chocolate chip cookie, and its texture is somewhere between a crumbly cookie and a biscotti, which it resembles. Like biscotti, it’s usually baked twice: first as a loaf, and then again after it’s been sliced into long pieces. If you prefer your cookies on the softer side, just slice and serve them after the first stint in the oven. (Or only bake half of them a second time. That way, you’ll appeal to both kind of voter!)

Mandelbrodt (Mandel Bread)

Makes about 20 cookies

3 eggs
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1 cup oil
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
3½ cups (17½ ounces) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped almonds
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Slowly add oil and vanilla, whisking vigorously until oil is incorporated and mixture looks smooth.

3. In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to egg/sugar mixture, using rubber spatula to fully incorporate the two. Stir in chocolate chips and almonds.

4. On parchment-lined baking sheet, form dough into two 4-by-12-inch logs side by side. (The logs will spread as they bake, so leave two or three inches between them.)

5. In small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the top of each loaf.

6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until loaves are set but still soft to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, reduce oven to 325 degrees.

7. Transfer loaves to cutting board and slice crosswise into ½-inch slices. Lay slices about ¼-inch apart on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. (You may need to do this in two batches.) Bake for 5 minutes, then flip slices over and bake for 5 minutes more. Let cool completely before serving.

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