Here’s the backstory: I am 100% Jewish. I can say the Hanukkah prayer. My sisters and I grew up eating chopped liver, gefilte fish, and tzimmes. I make challah and matzah ball soup for the holidays, rugelach on occasion, and have always bought mesh bags of gelt in December. I married a Jewish guy, under a chuppah (he stepped on the glass, too), and we followed the tradition of naming both of our daughters after family members who have passed away.
But, yet, “kinda Jewish” is probably a much better descriptor. The Hanukkah prayer is the only one I know in its entirety. My husband is the first Jewish person I ever dated. And I was relieved to learn in the delivery room—both times—that our we-don’t-want-have-a-bris conversations no longer mattered.
I’ve always been OK with my “kinda” identity, but now I have an extremely curious 3.5-year-old who is in love with Christmas lights. And blow-up reindeer. And Santa everything. And, she wants to know where our lights are. Our initial, breezy conversations (Honey, we don’t put up lights on our house because we don’t celebrate Christmas) ended with the same definitive answer each time: Well, I am not Jewish.
We tried to reason with her, ask her for more information, and lay down the law. None of the tactics worked. Then, last week, I took a moment and really thought about it. While she has lived through Hanukkahs and holiday dinners, and while we have told her that we’re Jewish, we’ve never made a big deal about it.
I realized in that moment that I needed to buck up and put my “kinda Jewish” into overdrive. This is the year that Hanukkah will become a thing in our house. Our new menorah is set in the center of the dining room table, candles already in it, so that we can talk about what’s coming each night during dinner. We picked up two new dreidels last weekend and she has been practicing her spinning. My husband and I have committed to torturing ourselves coming up with creative hiding spots for Finn, her (self-named) Mensch on the Bench.
And, because all good things start in the kitchen, we made gelt. Typically, she is not a kid who knows much about chocolate, but ‘tis the season, right? If she is going to eat chocolate, I want it to be good and I want her to know that Hanukkah traditions start not just from history, but also from what happens in our house.
So this weekend, I stirred together chocolate melted together with tahini and dropped little rounds on a sheet of parchment paper. She sparkled them up, one grain of sugar at a time, as 3-year-olds do, asking me repeatedly, What are these again Mommy? Something for Hanukkah? And together, we continued to figure this December thing out.
Tahini Chocolate Gelt
This is not fancy chocolate making—no tempering or candy molds required. This is kids cooking at its finest: a microwave (or double boiler), a spoon, parchment paper, and toppings. The tahini adds a nutty background flavor, but also makes the coins a bit softer. While they can be stored at room temperature, they will be less prone to melting, while eating, if enjoyed straight from the fridge.
As for the toppings, we went with gold sprinkles to replace the wrappers, but you can use whatever is already in the house. I also made a few for the adults, using sesame seeds and Maldon salt.
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
1 pinch kosher salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Gold sprinkles, sanding sugar, sesame seeds, flaky salt
In medium microwave-safe bowl, combine chocolate, tahini and salt. Cook 1.5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, or until smooth and melted. Alternatively, melt chocolate and tahini together in a double boiler. Stir in vanilla extract. Let sit 10 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small spoon, drop rounds of chocolate onto the parchment paper, leaving a space between each one to accommodate spreading. Top with sprinkles. Place baking pan in the fridge; 1 hour, or until firm. Remove from parchment; store in airtight container, preferably in the fridge.