Sunday, November 29, 2015


One of our bakers shared with Villa Fortuna Bakery the stories behind the recipes she chose for her buddies, Colleen and Debbie.  Rich in history and tradition and filled with her love, Gail seemed to have stepped from the pages of Villa Fortuna herself.  Baking for the book's heroine, Lizzy, is part of her upbringing. With her hands she finds solace and subconscious connection to the past, and its traditions, she has long denied.  But not for Gail! Thank you sweet girl!

Crumb Cake = for Colleen

Mitzi was my Grandmother. She was known in the family as a great baker, but by the time I was old enough to pay attention, she had stopped baking. She was an excellent cook and that is how I knew her and only as a baker through family stories (including hers). I didn't really get into baking until late high school and early college - what we did not know at the time was also near the end of her lifetime. My Mom often tells me that I must have inherited my baking skills from her because I didn't get them from my Mom. This project has been great because it brought a new recipe of my Grandmother's to my attention. My co-workers and kiddos are already asking for it again, so that is a good sign, right?

Mandel bread/Biscotti = for Debbie

I signed up for two partners thinking “No problem, I’ll just make two of the same thing.” Then in my lovely messages with Debbie, I learned that her son has an anaphylaxis reaction to milk protein. I looked at all of the recipes that I was going to do and they all had either sour cream or buttermilk. She was super sweet and said that if I needed to do that, it would be fine. But the public health worker and allergy girl in me completely vetoed her gracious gesture and the stubborn headstrong girl in me decided that this was a sign that each partner deserved her own recipe.

This is a recipe that I’ve been trying to get for well over 15 years. Cele and my Mom grew up together and have been friends since Junior High and also moved out together on their own right after High School.

Mandel bread and biscotti are the same thing. One is the Jewish name and the other is the Italian/Italian-American name. Cele is Jewish like my family and married to an Italian-American man, so the recipe is perfect for her. Cele is famous for her mandel bread/biscotti. Every year, she makes around 100 batches…if not more. She is starting to slow down now, but she still makes it frequently.

She gave me the “recipe” in 2000 after I begged her for it many times. I say “recipe” because it was a total bait-and-switch. I’d never made anything completely inedible until I tried that “recipe.” I still get nightmares about it. I vowed then that I would never make mandel bread until I could make Cele’s. Fifteen years later, my Mom wheedled it out of her and when I saw that it was milk-protein free and looked through it to see that it looked plausible, I knew that I had to make it for Debbie and her family.

Mine is not quite as good as Cele’s, but it is definitely the right recipe. I’ll have to make it often in order to figure out if there are any baker’s tricks that aren’t in the recipe. It’s still very good, though.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing the story of how you came about the recipe. We so appreciate the efforts so that Dale can have a share in the VF bake swap and it can be a family affair. Hugs. Will update you later this week.

  2. And Gail, thank you so much for adding me as your baking partner when I signed up late! :)

  3. Wow, I buy biscotti a lot. Love to dip it in my coffee and try the different flavors. Will have to try this. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely day.

  4. Reading the stories of your reasoning behind your recipe choices is precious, Gail. Well done!



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