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Are Gingerbread Houses for Jews Too?

Image courtesy of William Greenberg Desserts

First, we had Hanukkah bushes. Then came Mensch on a Bench.

But is the world ready for Hanukkah gingerbread houses, a Semitic spin on the most goyish of holiday foods?

William Greenberg Desserts thinks so. The venerable bakery — which sells only kosher products — offers festive gingerbread abodes, complete with microscopic mezuzahs and miniscule menorahs, as it has for the past decade.

Hanukkah Gelt's Dark (Chocolate) Backstory

Buying fair trade chocolate — in the form of gelt, or even sufganiyot — makes particular sense on Hanukkah, when we celebrate freedom from tyranny. Photo courtesy of Ilana Schatz.

When I first learned about the issue of trafficked child labor in cocoa fields, I immediately thought of the gelt that I’ve eaten every Hanukkah since I was a young girl. The sweetness of its taste in my mouth while playing dreidel is deeply embedded in my memory.

But now I had been introduced to its true bittersweet character.

Today, young children are trafficked and forced into working on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, where more than half the world’s cocoa is grown. Many have been kidnapped from surrounding countries and brought to the Ivory Coast against their will. They are forced to work long hours, often without pay, and receive no education. Their work involves hazardous chemicals and pesticides and dangerous machetes.

Sweet Chocolate-Filled Sufganiyot

Photograph courtesy of Ilana Schatz

On Hanukkah, chocolate need not be confined to gelt. After tasting one of these warm, chocolate-filled sufganiyot, you won’t want to return to the old jelly-filled standard.

Use fair trade chocolate to ensure the freedom of cocoa workers on the holiday that celebrates the Maccabees’ fight against oppression.

¾ cup warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour (keep some handy for your work surface)
¾ cup sugar
½ tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, separated
Peanut oil, as necessary
¼ cup 70% Fair Trade bittersweet or milk chocolate
¼ cup raspberry jam (optional)

Peanut Butter Gelt Cookies for Hanukkah

Photograph by Deborah R. Prinz

This easy recipe incorporates chocolate Hanukkah gelt and rich peanut-butter cookies. Not only is the cookie delicious with the chocolate, but it provides a great way to feature the gelt. Try to find high-quality gelt made with good chocolate that has few (if any) additives. Using dark chocolate gelt will keep this gluten-free cookie parve.

The gelt of Hanukkah recalls the booty, which included 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 ancient Israel, striking, minting and distributing coins expressed Hanukkah’s message of freedom. The Maccabees’ descendants, known as the Hasmoneans, who ruled Judea, started to strike coins. As the book of 1 Maccabees records, Syria’s King Antiochus VII said to Simon Maccabee, “I turn over to you the right to make your own stamp for coinage for your country” (15:6).

Enjoy stamping these cookies with chocolate gelt — and eating and sharing them over the holiday.

Keeping Up with the Pollans

Foodie Family: The Pollan women are (from left to right) sisters Dana, Tracy and Lori and their mother, Corky. Photograph by John Kernick.

The members of my family are, for the most part, smart, accomplished, attractive and close to one another. I’ve always been pretty keen on them. But now that I have a window into another family, the Pollans, I sort of feel as if my own is somehow lacking.

Of course I knew that Michael Pollan was basically the spiritual leader of the sustainability (and sensible eating) movement in the United States. I knew that Corky Pollan was the writer whose Best Bets column I always flipped to first when she was at New York magazine. I knew that Tracy Pollan played the smart, beautiful girlfriend of Alex P. Keaton on the 1980s sitcom Family Ties, and that she later married her leading man, Michael J. Fox.

But I didn’t know — did you? — that all of these Pollans (along with two more beautiful and accomplished sisters, Lori and Dana) were members of the same nuclear family.

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