HALLIE EPHRON: Our New England neighborhood takes its holidays seriously, particularly Christmas. Across the street, Jean dresses up the goose on her front steps like Mrs. Claus. Trees and candlelights go up in windows. Traffic becomes a nightmare. And every year it seems like more and more houses light up.
We're the anomaly. Here's a picture of our house, a dark blot between our Christmassy neighbors. This is what a Jewish family house with Irish and Italian neighbors looks like in December.
This year Hanukah falls smack on top of Christmas. We don't make a big deal out of the holiday but we do have our traditions. We eat lots and lots of potato latkes. With sour cream. Whole fat sour cream. Lots of whole fat sour cream. And salt.
Another treat is Mandelbrot. That's twice-baked Hanukah cookies, like biscotti only Jewish and made with oil instead of butter.
"Mandel" means almonds, "brot" means bread. It's probably traditional to use almonds in the cookies but I use chopped walnuts or pecans. My recipe also calls for maraschino cherries. Go ahead, admit it: you love them, too. And you officially have my permission to eat lots of them.
Thanks to Bertha Mandel, my one-time neighbor, for this lovely recipe which is so easy to make and so delicious.
BERTHA MANDEL'S MANDELBROT
3/4 c sugar
1 heaping T marmalade
1 c oil
3 1/2 c flour
3 oz chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c raisins
1 c nuts (toasted skinned almonds or chopped pecans or walnuts)
1 small bottle of drained maraschino cherries (confession: I use a big bottle)
Greased cookie sheet
Preheat oven to 350
Grease a cookie sheet (or two)
1. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs
2. Add oil, sugar, marmalade, vanilla and mix together
3. Add raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, cherries and mix together
4. In a big bowl, dump the soda and baking powder and flour and whisk it together
5. Gradually mix the other already mixed (steps 1-3) ingredients into the flour
6. Shape the dough into two or three mounded rows on a greased cookie sheet
7 Bake at 350 for 25 minutes
8. Cool and cut diagonally with a sharp knife.
9. Put each piece on a cut side and sprinkle it with cinnamon-sugar
10. Bake for another 10 minutes
Cool. Save in a covered container.
When you're ready to serve them, these are wonderful briefly warmed in the oven, cinnamon-sugar side up.