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The Kamish Konnection

January 26, 2012 By:
Rivka Tal, Jewish Exponent Feature
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A TASTE OF ISRAEL

I've heard it said that there are really a very limited number of recipes in the world -- that there are basic ones from which all others evolve. Who was the first person in the world to have the idea of wrapping little pastries around a savory filling? He/she could possibly claim the patent for wontons, kreplach, empanadas and pierogi. But I wonder if the same can be said about kamish bread (or brodt) and mondelbread (or -- brodt). Biscotti, too?

Mondelbread are those chewy twice-baked sliced cookies made with oil. An old-fashioned type of treat, mondel means "nuts" in German as well as in Yiddish, and these cookies were traditionally made with crushed walnuts. Great for dipping into a steaming cup of tea, they kept for ages in a sealed container.

But here's a culinary curiosity: My mother, of blessed memory, and many other ladies in Minnesota, where I grew up, called these treats "kamish bread." How did this dichotomy of names evolve?

Then there's biscotti. These Italian-kamish-bread-cousin-cookies are traditionally baked with anise, but have since incorporated all kinds of substitutes: hazelnuts, filberts, dried cranberries, chocolate chips and almonds (though not all at once).

The name biscotti comes from bis, meaning "twice," and cotto, meaning baked, since the cookies are baked twice. They tend to be much harder and almost always necessitate a dip in wine or coffee or tea.

I leave the mystery up to you to ponder -- just bake and enjoy!

Minnesota Kamish Bread by Ione
(Pareve)

1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups flour
2 and 1/2 tsps. baking powder
4 oz. almonds, slivers or coarsely chopped

Cream sugar and oil thoroughly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla. Sift flour with baking powder and mix in.

Stir in chopped almonds. (This can be done either by mixer or by hand.)

Gather the dough up into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover and chill overnight or at least for a few hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350°. With floured hands, divide dough into two pieces.

Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and lower heat to 250°. With a serrated knife, carefully slice the rolls diagonally into 3/4-inch slices and place cut side-down on the cookie sheet.

Toast for about 25 minutes until lightly brown (be sure to watch them!). Remove to wire racks to cool.

Chocolate Chip Poppy Seed Kamish Bread
(Pareve)

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
3 eggs
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup chocolate chips (minis are best)

Cream sugar and oil. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour with baking powder and salt; mix in.

Stir in poppy seeds and chocolate chips. Follow the directions above for forming and baking rolls.

Anise Biscotti

Let's salute the Italian connection with a very simple Anise Biscotti recipe. Anise seed has a distinct, sweet, licorice-like taste.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsps. baking powder
2 tsps. anise seed

Cream the sugar and oil. Add vanilla, eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour with baking powder; mix in. Stir in anise seeds. Follow above directions for forming and baking rolls.

Passover Chocolate Mandelbrot
(Pareve)

Mandelbrot are extremely adaptable -- here is a recipe for Passover.

2 cups sugar
1 and 1/3 cups oil
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract or 2 tsps. vanilla sugar
2 and 3/4 cups cake meal mixed with 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup potato starch
2 oz. chocolate chips (or more)
1 cup chopped nuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsps. sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat the sugar and oil. Mix in the slightly beaten eggs, vanilla, cake meal and salt and potato starch.

Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Form rolls as above.

Combine cinnamon and sugar and sprinkle over the rolls. Follow baking directions above.

Rivka Tal is a former Minnesotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 45 years. Email her at: [email protected].

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