Delicious seasonal gingerbread cookies are iced to resemble coins.
Let Gingerbread Chanukah gelt be your new festive tradition!
If you celebrate Chanukah, chances are you’ve eaten Chanukah gelt. And chances are it was made of chocolate. Foil-wrapped chocolate coins have become a pretty ubiquitous part of our festive celebrations at this time of year.
But did you know that Chanukah gelt used to be real coins? It’s likely that your grandparents and maybe even parents were given money on Chanukah, to treat themselves to a gift, and to encourage giving tzedakah – charity. As times have changed and presents have become the norm, Chanukah gelt has morphed into an edible reminder of the tradition.
Check out my Ultimate Guide to Chanukah Food Traditions here!
But why does it have to be chocolate?
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing against chocolate at all! But if the purpose of modern gelt is simply to remind us of a custom from a by-gone age, surely it can be made of anything we like?
That was the thought that was drifting through my mind a few weeks ago, when I was also called upon to bake some refreshments for my daughter Kipper’s school open morning. As I lovingly cut out four dozen spicy gingerbread cookies it hit me – gingerbread gelt!
In praise of gingerbread
Hailing from Northern Europe and particularly popular in Scandinavia, gingerbread cookies or gingersnaps are widely enjoyed. They are a favourite treat in the winter months, as their rich spiciness is deliciously warming. They also go marvellously with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine.
Traditional shapes for gingerbread cookies include hearts, stars and snowflakes, animals, and of course gingerbread men. Gingerbread houses, reminiscent of the tale of Hansel and Gretel, have been made since the early 1800s, with the blue and white frosted ‘Hanukkah House’ making an appearance in the last few years.
Since coins are simply circle shaped, making them from gingerbread dough was a matter of simplicity! I made some plain circles and some using a fluted cutter to give a reeded edge. I also used cutters of different sizes so that I would have different denominations of coinage!
Gingerbread is traditionally decorated using royal icing. I made a simple vegan version that sets hard and shiny, just like the original. I used it to pipe coin-inspired designs onto the cookies. You can add numbers, currency symbols, mottos, Chanukah shapes like menorahs and dreidels, or even a portrait of the queen, if you’re feeling ambitious!
Have a go!
As you can see in the photos, my icing skills are not what you’d call professional! My piping did improve as I worked my way through the cookies though. Don’t be afraid to have a go – I think slightly wonky decoration makes these gingerbread gelt cookies look charmingly homemade. And they’ll taste delicious either way!
This recipe makes 48 cookies. It sounds a lot, but my family managed to polish off a dozen before I’d even had a chance to ice them!
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Gingerbread Chanukah Gelt
- 100 g dairy-free margarine (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp)
- 100 g golden caster sugar (½ cup)
- 100 g golden syrup (approx. ⅓ cup OR 5 tbsp)
- 70 g treacle (approx. 3½ tbsp)
- 400 g plain flour (3⅓ cups)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1½ tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp mixed spice
For the vegan royal icing
- 150 g icing sugar (powdered/confectioners sugar) (1 cup)
- ⅛ tsp xanthan gum (I eyeballed the measurement by taking half of a ¼ tsp)
- 25-30 ml water (1½-2 tbsp)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicon baking liner.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the syrup, treacle, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice. Turn the motor to a medium speed. The ingredients will initially come together to a crumbly consistency, so continue to mix until a soft dough forms - this might take a few minutes.
- Tip out the dough onto a floured surface and knead very briefly. Divide the dough into halves or thirds for easier rolling out.
- Roll out one piece of gingerbread dough to a thickness of 4mm. Use plain or fluted round cutters to cut out cookies. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet, leaving some room between the cookies, as they will spread slightly as they bake.
- Repeat with the remaining dough. You will probably have to bake them in batches.
- Bake the gingerbread at 190°C for approx. 8 minutes, until they are just beginning to colour at the edges.
- Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks. Once completely cold, decorate with icing.
To make the icing
- Mix the icing sugar and xanthan gum, then add most of the water and stir well to give a smooth icing. The consistency needs to be quite thick - it shouldn't 'collapse' or run away - but if it's too thick it will be hard to pipe. Use your judgement to add just enough water to give the right thickness.
- Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a no. 2 writing tip. Decorate the gingerbread cookies with numbers, currencies, Chanukah symbols etc. Allow to dry.
- Enjoy your Gingerbread Chanukah gelt!
If you’re short on time or just don’t rate your icing skills, you can also decorate the Chanukah gelt gingerbread by pressing designs into the surface before baking. Cut out festive shapes like candles or menorahs from card, wrap in foil, then gently press onto the cookie. The dough is fairly robust and should hold the pattern during baking.
More Chanukah treats…
Can’t get enough delicious Chanukah treats? Why not try some Chanukah gelt hot chocolate, some Chanukah mince pies, a chunk of crispy Chanukah chocolate bark, or a fabulous jam doughnut pull-apart challah?
I’m linking this up with #CookBlogShare.