These buttery, nut-and-dried-fruit-packed cookies with a hint of whiskey have a pleasantly crumbly texture.


Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

Active Time:
25 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 15 mins
48 slices

For cookbook author Joan Nathan, the beauty of unearthing an old recipe is that it can connect you to your past — that’s how she feels about the Mandelbrot originally published in Food & Wine’s November 1980 issue, and which F&W named a F&W Classic — one of four holiday recipes that stand the test of time — in 2022, and interviewed Nathan about the history of her classic Mandelbrot recipe. 

The recipe for these almond-based cookies, which are like a sweeter version of biscotti, came from a woman named Ada Baum Lipsitz, says Nathan. Lipsitz, in her 80s when Nathan met her, had debilitating arthritis, but Nathan says her hands would spring back to life when she molded mandelbrot or braided challah. “I learned a lot from her,” Nathan says. “It’s your attitude about living that’s the most important.” 

Lipsitz shaped the mandelbrot by plopping the dough into loaf pans, which yields a taller cookie. Nowadays, Nathan says she’d shape the mandelbrot free-form into a shorter loaf directly on a baking sheet, but that either method will work — it’s all about what’s best for you. That’s the approach Nathan takes to the recipe itself, too. “I look at this recipe and think I would probably put in chocolate chips, just because of my grandchildren,” Nathan says, adding that she’d use high-quality bittersweet chocolate. She might replace the golden raisins with Craisins for a modern twist, and she’d definitely opt for unsalted butter, not pareve margarine, which the original called for. “Yeah, you can get mandelbrot from a local bakery,” Nathan says, “but there’s nothing like helping someone make it, listening to their stories and tasting the memories.” 

Try the cookies twice baked for an extra toasty and crisp treat, or stir in optional chocolate chips to bring these cookies to the dessert table. To toast, preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the desired amount of mandelbrot slices on a large baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly toasted on 1 side and crisp around the edges.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter (8 ounces), softened to room temperature

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) whiskey or brandy

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (about 17 ounces)

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 cup slivered almonds

  • 1 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in the upper and lower third positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. Place softened butter in a large bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating with a wooden spoon until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with spoon after each addition. Stir in whiskey and vanilla. Set aside.

  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture in 3 additions, stirring well after each addition. Stir in almonds, raisins, coconut, walnuts, and, if using, chocolate chips.

  4. Divide batter evenly into 3 mounds on prepared baking sheets (with 2 mounds on 1 baking sheet, spacing at least 5 inches apart). Using wet hands, shape each mound into a 10- x 4-inch log with a flattened top. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let loaves cool completely on baking sheets, about 1 hour. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

To Make Ahead

Wrap mandelbrot in plastic wrap, and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.

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