The million dollar question this time of year is not where to find strega for your chocolate mousse cake, but what night does Hanukkah really begin, anyway? Tonight. Which means that you've got until around 5:00 to come up with something riveting to take to Shabbat dinner.
Your Aunt Erma to the rescue. Actually, Phil Weinstein's Aunt Erma. Earlier this year Weinstein, a cartoon animator from Burbank, launched a line of mandel bread, the Jewish version of biscotti with a tender, cookie-like texture also known as mandelbrot, based on his grandmother's recipe (when she died, Aunt Erma was the family member who salvaged the recipe).
Weinstein began tinkering around with the recipe a few years ago. In February, he incorporated the business and ordered his first cookie boxes; by April he had successfully irritated several local rabbis (using the words "horse shit" when referring to kosher certification prices probably had something to do with it).
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For now, the biscotti, like many Jewish baked products, are "kosher style," meaning they're made with kosher ingredients. Weinstein's version is sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar and contains chocolate chips rather than almonds -- something that 88-year-old Aunt Erma, who lives in Maryland, thinks took a lot of chutzpah. "She reminds me every time I talk to her that she likes the kind with nuts and raisins better."
Aunt Erma's Bakery: PO Box 786 Burbank, (818) 301-5775, www.auntermas.com. Aunt Erma's Mandel Bread is available at the Beverly Hills, Grove and West Hollywood Whole Foods, or you can buy boxes online for $6. Order a "decent enough size order" and Weinstein says he'll deliver it for free in the Los Angeles area.