My mother hands me my grandmother’s apron.
I imagine the strings of cherry fabric wrapped around her tiny waist, her short blonde head bent over the kitchen counter, measuring out the exact proportion of baking powder and butter. I pretend I can remember the way her hands look as she wipes flour onto the green tea towels she had carefully stitched into the makeshift kitchen garment.
Known for her superior baking skills, she’d spend hours in the kitchen on her days off, happily obliging friends and family members a pie or batch of goodies. She loved giving to others.
Despite the fact that she was an active part of my childhood, I only have a few memories of my grandmother. At this age, my closest link to her is through her cooking, specifically her mandelbread recipe.
I know mandelbread are only cookies, but they’re something that I can touch and taste that hold her memory. They also happens to be delicious. Mandelbread are dry, crunchy and perfect for dunking. Twice-baked oblong cookies (think biscotti), they’re typically associated with the Jewish faith because of their popularity among rabbis and Eastern European Jews.
To me, they just mean Grandma Mesh.
Grandma Mesh’s Mandelbread
1 c. chopped pecans
3 c. flour (reserve 1 T. to coat nuts)
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract
1 stick butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.
Add flour and other dry ingredients.
Add vanilla, almond extract and pecans.
Flour a flat surface. Divide dough into 4 or 5 long rolls about the width of a quarter.
Place the rolls several inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.
Remove from oven. While they are still hot, slice the rolls diagonally into 1-inch slices. Turn on side and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
Put back in oven at 325 degrees for 15 minutes.