Gourmet Gelt

First Maccabbee coin with cornucopiae.

— by Ronit Treatman

Did you know that the Hasmoneans minted the first Jewish coins in history?  Those ancient bronze coins have been reinvented as chocolate treats we eat during Hanukkah.  The mass marketed Hanukkah coins are beautifully molded but made of low quality chocolate.  This year, you can get creative and have fun making your own gourmet chocolate gelt for your Hanukkah celebration.

More after the jump.

Last coin minted by the Maccabees Chocolate Gelt by Elite.

For the Maccabees, minting their own coins was an expression of self-governance and freedom.  In the middle Ages, a tradition developed in Eastern Europe to give Hanukkah gelt (money) to teachers and needy Yeshiva students.  The connection was made between the Hebrew root for Chanukah and Chinuch (education), which is Chanech.  Chanech means “educate” or “mold.”  When I was a girl, this tradition was carried over to the types of gifts we received for Hanukkah.  They were educational gifts such as books, art supplies, and tickets to museum exhibits or concerts.  

How were these ancient Maccabee coins transformed into the chocolate coins that are ubiquitous today?  In the 1920s, American chocolate producers were inspired to create chocolate coins.  These coins were wrapped in gold and silver foil, and sold in little mesh bags.  Currently, the Israeli chocolatiers Elite and Carmit dominate the Hanukkah gelt market.  Their coins are molded with the image of the menorah that was found on the last coin minted by the Maccabees 2,000 years ago.  

A fun, creative, and delicious activity during Hanukkah is making your own artisanal Hanukkah coins.  The best type of chocolate for this is called couverture chocolate.  Couverture means covering in French.  This type of chocolate is made only from premium cacao beans.  It has a high percentage of cocoa butter (36% to 39%).  Due to this higher proportion of cocoa butter, couverture chocolate is richer and creamier than regular chocolate, and has a beautiful, glossy shine after it is tempered and cooled.  When you bite into a Hanukkah coin made from tempered couverture chocolate, it will snap in your mouth!  This snap, rather than a crumble, is an indication of superior quality.  You can order kosher couverture chocolate from Guittard, Scharffen Berger, Bonnat, Barry Callebaut, Chocolate Santander, and Dagoba.  Dagoba is also organic.  These companies begin with green cacao beans, which they roast.  They make their own chocolate from bean to bar.    

To make your chocolate coins, you will need a confectionary coin mold.  You may purchase a mold at fine cookware stores like Fante’s.  I also found specialty Hanukkah gelt molds online at Concepts in Candy.  Alternatively, you may use mini muffin baking cups.  

You will need to temper your chocolate.  “Temper” means that the chocolate will need to be heated, then cooled in its mold.  Once you have placed the melted chocolate into the mold, you may personalize it by adding Marcona almonds, toasted hazelnuts, candied orange peels, fleur de sel (hand-harvested sea salt), or any other favorite ingredient to it.  Allow the chocolate coins to harden at room temperature.  You may then carefully extract them from their molds, and wrap them with gold or silver foil.

By tempering premium couverture chocolate, with a possible addition of your own favorite secret ingredients, you can make really delicious artisanal chocolate coins.  As the Old Italian saying goes, this Hanukkah gelt will be made of “chocolate so good that it will eat itself!”