Mandel bread flavored with orange, sesame seeds, ginger and dried cranberries
I’ve posted a bit about my mom before, and I’ve also shared her recipe for mandel bread, a biscotti-like cookie with Jewish/Eastern European roots. It’s my go-to for whenever I need a quick host gift, and I’m surprised I don’t know the recipe by heart by now, but someday I’ll get there. I do know it well enough that I can change things in it, usually in the form of different mix-ins or toppings.
In “No Hands,” from singer/songwriter Mirel Wagner’s self-titled album that came out this year, she sings “I’ve been riding my bicycle all day long/ up and down the old dusty dirt road/ Look, Mother, no hands/ See the sun filter through the trees, I am happy/ Feel the wind and the speed, can’t see the danger/ Look, Mother, no hands.”
I’m not sure of Wagner’s intentions for the song — and considering the eerie, sometimes-disturbing nature of some of her other lyrics (“No Death” is a good place to start…), I could be totally off base here — but especially with Mother’s Day coming up, it resonates with me in a couple ways. There’s the quite literal one: that after so many times trying out this particular recipe of my mom’s, I’ve made it my own staple. And in the bigger picture, a lot has happened in the 12-plus years since she died, and of course not all of it has been easy — but despite the bumps in the old, dusty dirt road, I’ve made a really great life for myself, and I know it’s one she’d be really proud of.
The mandel bread I know usually has walnuts and/or dried fruit or chocolate with cinnamon-sugar on top; in this I kept the dried fruit (cranberries), but added orange zest, ginger and sesame seeds, and topped it with more sesame seeds, plus cinnamon, sugar and powdered ginger, which gives it a bit of a kick.
Makes one loaf, about 12 pieces. Adapted from my mom’s cookbook.
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup cranberries
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds + more to sprinkle on top
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from one orange (about 1 tablespoon)
3/4 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
Mix of cinnamon, raw sugar and powdered ginger to sprinkle on top (to taste)
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
• Whisk together eggs and sugar. Whisk in oil, cranberries, sesame seeds, vanilla, orange zest and ginger. With a wooden spoon, add flours and baking powder and mix until combined.
• Shape the dough into a flat log on the baking sheet (yes, it will be quite sticky). Sprinkle sesame seeds on top (to taste, about 2 teaspoons?).
• Bake for 30 minutes, then cut into 1-inch slices and sprinkle the cinnamon/sugar/ginger mixture on top. Bake for another 15 minutes.