A Roundup: Gelt For Grownups | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

A Roundup: Gelt For Grownups

A Roundup: Gelt For Grownups

Divine
They look classic, but taste better. Courtesy of Divine Chocolate

The chocoholic now has real choices on Chanukah.

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Chanukah gelt used to mean cash money. Dreidel was a form of gambling, and the winner collected. But nobody really remembers that, because in the 1920’s, Loft’s Candy came out with the first mesh moneybags filled with gold-and-silver foil wrapped chocolate coins.

Kids these days would rather feast on chocolate than pocket a nickel, and grownups are following suit. Into and out of the mouths of babes, right?

The market is getting fat with fancier gelt: expensive, artisanal chocolates meant for folks well over voting age, and a few discriminating children.

Ironically, nobody really knows why coins are symbolic of Chanukah in the first place. In her book, “On the Chocolate Trail,” Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz speculates that cash “recalls the booty, including coins, that the Maccabean victors distributed to the Jewish widows, soldiers, and orphans, possibly at the first celebration of the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple.” In addition, during the days of the Ba’al Shem Tov (1698-1760), Prinz continues, it was customary for rabbis to travel great distances to teach Torah, but only accepted payment during Chanukah.

More recently, Prinz writes, the chocolate coins eaten by children in Belgium and the Netherlands on the Dec. 6 feast of St. Nicholas may have also inspired Chanukah’s gelt.

But the standard chocolate coins taste pretty awful, although most kids don’t seem to mind. They don’t taste like real chocolate, and they feel like wax in your mouth.

Fortunately, for all of us who want to conjure up those wonderful childhood memories but would actually like to eat good chocolate, there’s wonderful news: The trend of making everything artisanal and small-batch and local and organic has hit even our humble gilt-wrapped coins, and elevated them.

“The market has shifted on everything we eat,” Prinz says.

Epicurean gelt is hot today. These coins are full-bodied, with an intense chocolate flavor, a just-right balance between cocoa and sugar and the rich and creamy, velvety mouth-feel you expect from quality chocolate. They’re costly, like any high-quality chocolate, and those who are concerned about such things as single origin cacao beans, fair trade practices, organic and non-GMO ingredients will find what they’re looking for.

For those in the market for good gelt, here are a few select kosher choices. After all, “Chocolate is a religious and spiritual experience,” says Prinz, and she’s a rabbi.

Veruca Chocolates makes “Gelt for Grownups.” Their product, made of Guittard couverture chocolate, comes in three varieties: dark chocolate with either cocoa nibs or sea salt, as well as milk chocolate. The coins replicate those of 4th century BCE Judea. They are beautifully airbrushed with an edible gold or silver finish, so there’s no need for an additional foil cover. They are packaged in a box, and may be purchased on the Veruca website, at their Chicago retail outlet and elsewhere on the web.

Lake Champlain Chocolates sells boxes of milk chocolate coins, each decorated with dreidels and menorah, and wrapped in silver foil. They also offer a variety of dark, mint and milk chocolate coins, a bag of winter coins and a chocolate coins gift jar. Their chocolate is fair trade certified and is available on their website as well as at Whole Foods and other, smaller specialty food stores and health food shops.

At Divine Chocolate, find blue-and-silver 70 percent dark chocolate coins and gold foil wrapped milk chocolate coins in mesh bags. The chocolates are fair-traded and benefit the local, small-scale Ghanian farmers of the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative, which invests in schools, clean drinking water, medical clinics, and women's entrepreneurship projects. The farmers are also shareholders in the co-op and thus share in the profits. The coins are especially appropriate for Hanukah because they are stylized to look like Ghana Cedi coins which feature a cocoa tree and Ghanian motto: “Freedom and justice.” This year, Divine Chocolate will donate 10 percent of all Hanukah gelt sales from its custom FTJ and Truah webpage to the work of Fair Trade Judaica and T’ruah. You can also buy the gelt coins at Whole Foods, Ten Thousand Villages stores and other independent natural food retailers.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher in Stamford. She is the author of The Modern Kosher Kitchen and Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com.

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