Gelt-Covered Cranberries

Tart and sweet come together in this Thanksgivingukkah mashup.

Jewish Week Online Columnist
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There’s another Hanukkah miracle of sorts to contemplate this year. In 2013, for the first time, and not again for several thousands of years, Hanukkah converges with Thanksgiving.

Actually, if you look a little closer, it’s not that simple. As we are the people of the book, I did some reading. Here’s what I found: Because Jewish holidays begin at sunset, the first night of Hanukkah falls on Wednesday, just before Thanksgiving. Given that, we only have to wait until 2070, when the first night of Hanukkah falls precisely the evening of Thanksgiving.

There’s more to this, of course, having to do with the Jewish calendar and political questions such as when Thanksgiving day was once celebrated: the last Thursday as opposed to the 4th Thursday in November. A reversion to that custom would throw off the whole equation.

All that Talmudic-type study will make for terrific conversation over turkey. But what’s really important is that we have this very festive occasion to celebrate, and to me, it seems fitting to combine Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.

Most importantly, it takes the focus off the gifts and puts it on the gratitude. As Jews, we give thanks that the Maccabees fought for our religious freedom thousands of years ago. As Americans, we give thanks that we live as equals and are free to worship as we choose.

Someone, somewhere came up with the name Thanksgivvukah for this holiday and that’s fine with me. But it’s not a Jewish holiday if there’s no special food for it, and we’ve never had Thanksgivukkah before. So it’s up to us to invent some appropriate goodies to eat.

Now, when I was a kid we didn’t get eight days of gifts. We got money, gelt. I remember my fetter coming over and handing us coins and for my older brother, a dollar bill, which was a fortune for both giver and getter.

I don’t remember when the real gelt became chocolate. But my children and grandchildren think the foil-wrapped candy is the real thing. And in our family we do give gifts and gelt. The chocolate kind.

So I went with that, and created these Cranberry-Gelt Truffles. Everyone loves chocolate of course, but I like to think of these as a delicious way to give thanks for lots of things, including Thanksgivingukkah, using Jewish Hanukkah gelt and those wonderful red berries that are indigenous to America.

Truffles take time and can be messy. Don’t hurry things. The ganache, or chocolate base, needs to be cold enough to work with. It’s smart to wear disposable gloves because some of the chocolate could melt in your hands.

You can use actual dark chocolate coins or the dark chocolate of your choice, to make it easier and save the bother of unwrapping so many pieces of candy. If you do use candy coins, make sure to weight them and don't use milk chocolate. It cooks differently and it’s more complicated for home cooks to use.

Please don’t be concerned that the truffles are not perfectly round and same-size. They’re supposed to look like the odd-shaped fungi they’re named for!

Chocolate truffles are perishable. Keep them in the refrigerator until serving time.

Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author and cooking teacher in Stamford. Her latest book is Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, at www.ronniefein.com for more Thanksgivingukkah recipes, like sweet latkes with cranberries, and follow her on Twitter at @RonnieVFein.

Ingredients: 
36 fresh or dried cranberries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or about 36 dark chocolate candy coins
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (approximately) cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, crushed toasted coconut, ground toffee, sprinkles, finely ground nuts, crystallized sugar
Recipe Steps: 
Wash and dry the cranberries and set them aside.
Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add the cranberries and cook for about 2 minutes or until just beginning to split.
Remove the pan from the heat and let cool.
Remove the berries to a dish.
Grind or chop the chocolate into small pieces in a food processor.
Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the liquid is hot and bubbles form around the edges of the pan.
Pour the milk over the chocolate and whirl in the processor until thoroughly blended.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Stir in the vanilla, coconut oil and salt.
Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until cold.
Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper, parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Using cold hands or a spoon, and working with one piece at a time, shape small amounts of the chocolate mixture (ganache) into disks, place one cranberry on top and wrap the ganache around the cranberry to form balls.
Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll the balls in cocoa powder to coat them completely.
Roll the balls a second time in one of the other coatings, (or roll them twice with one of the other coatings). Makes about 30.
Note: The amount of chocolate called for is enough for 36 smaller truffles but invariably some of the berries will be too soft to work with. You can make this recipe without a food processor (chop or grate the chocolate, use a whisk to combine the chocolate and hot coconut milk).