As a child, I so looked forward to when my Uncle Jack would come to our house…he often had a loaf of mandel bread with him. Those days were a special treat, Uncle Jack’s mandel bread was pretty much my favorite food in the world, second only to…..Twizzlers. Orange juice dough, candied cherries, almonds and raisins – a whole lot of yumminess! The best was when a slice was cut in a way that a whole cherry was included…I can still feel the excitement I felt then.
I associate mandel bread with his visits in the summer, but for my family, mandel bread has become part of our Hanukah tradition. It has also become my most-requested Christmas gift from my Christian friends. Everyone loves mandel bread!
This is one of those wonderful family recipes without too many details. I have attempted to quantify and explain as best I can what is typically needed. I have made numerous variations over the years, wetter dough, drier dough longer cooking, shorter cooking. Honestly, they had all tasted great, so a lot of this is preference. Use this recipe as a guide and adjust to your own tastes.
Making mandel bread is a long affair, mostly because I make a lot when I make them. So, there are several things to consider before you start:
1. Make sure you have at least 2 – 3 hours
2. If you do not have an extra large mixing bowl, halve the recipe
3. This takes A LOT of flour. This batch used about 12 cups of flour!
A great thing about mandel bread, it freezes very well. In fact, it doesn’t actually freeze, so we tend to keep ours in the freezer and eat it directly from there.
My Uncle Jack is now in his late 90’s; sadly, his Alzheimer’s has probably taken away all his memories of his making mandel bread and the joy it brought us all. But we remember…
So, once you are set to bake, enjoy the process and enjoy the mandel bread!
Uncle Jack’s Mandel Bread
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (canola)
3 cups sugar
6 eggs (locally hatched)
6 level tsp baking powder
1/3 cup warm water
2/3 cup orange juice
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
2 tsp vanilla
1 box raisins (I use 1/2 black and 1/2 golden)
1 container candied cherries (size of the container depends upon your preference)
2 packages whole almonds
1 level tsp salt
flour, enough to make stiff (this can vary from 8 to 12 cups)
1/4 cup cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
Heat oven to 375F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a VERY LARGE bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs. baking powder, water, orange juice and lemon juice.
Add vanilla, mix well.
Stir in raisins, cherries, almonds and salt.
Stir in flour, start with 3 cups, mix well then add 2 cups at a time, stirring each time until the dough is very stiff and fairly dry. If the dough is still sticky but very stiff, you can add in a touch of flour each time you are forming a loaf. This process will suffice for your arm workout for the day.
Shape into loaves about 1-inch thick. The loaves can be big or small. Bigger loaves just take a little longer to bake. I tend to make a mix of large and small loaves (but bake the large and small loaves separately). Place on lined cookie sheets.
Mix together the cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle on the top of the loaves.
Bake each tray of loaves for 20 – 25 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Note: I have had loaves take as little as 15 minutes and as long as 1/2 hour. Just be careful not to burn them (not the darker loaves from when I forgot to set the timer for the last 3 minutes that turned into 10 minutes – they didn’t burn, thank goodness).
Slice horizontally into ~1″ thick slices.
Makes about a dozen loaves, plus or minus.