Every year, I can't wait for the holidays. When I was growing up (my mom is Jewish, my dad is Chinese), we celebrated Chrismukkah and threw dumpling-making parties. They were non-denominational and everyone was invited. On Christmas Day, we made latkes and donuts and gingerbread houses—and ate bagels and Chinese food. The way we saw it: Let's celebrate everything. And eat everything in the process.
Nowadays, my holidays are pretty similar. They still revolve around food and we still celebrate everything. But with my blog, My Name Is Yeh, the celebrations happen months in advance. Like this year, in October, I worked on this Hanukkah cookie recipe and a stollen recipe. So the season gets drawn out, which isn't a bad thing.
We have some new traditions, too. My friend always hosts a cookie swap and it's so much fun. This year, I want to involve my daughter Bernie in some way—maybe have her help decorate cookies (though she’ll only be about eight months old). We usually host a Chrismukkah party at our house, with latkes and lefse, so my husband Nick's side gets represented as well.
A few years ago, I made homemade gelt for the holidays. I shot a video with another baker, whose name is also Molly. It was her idea to make homemade gelt and I just thought it was the coolest thing ever. You form circles of melted chocolate on parchment—truly could not be easier—but there are so many ways you can go from there. You can top the chocolate with different nuts or seeds or dukkah or spice blends or sprinkles.
This year, I wanted to do something similar for Hanukkah. Why not put homemade gelt on a really tasty cookie? Because, when it comes to dessert, Christmas has a monopoly on cookies during the holiday season. Donuts and latkes get most of the focus during Hanukkah and, to be totally I honest, I don't love frying things. So I wanted to find a way to celebrate Hanukkah and get in the holiday vibe, but not have to get the deep fryer out. These cookies are super simple—and giftable.
One of my favorite things about gelt is that it's always super-sweet milk chocolate—and I love milk chocolate with hazelnuts. I have this almond cookie recipe I make a lot, so I subbed out the almonds for hazelnuts, then added a little orange zest (orange and hazelnuts work so well together, and of course orange and chocolate work so well together). It's a nice, big, thick cutout—a little soft, a little cakey. And the homemade gelt goes on top.
Gold sprinkles add the perfect extra something. (We used a lot of sprinkles growing up.) They're happy and just really great decorating tools. Simple, yes, but they make anything so much more festive.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ground hazelnuts, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugars until pale and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the orange zest and mix to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each, and then add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until blended.
At this point you can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour, or up to two days, or you can get going on rolling out your dough and cutting out your cookies immediately.
When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2-inch (1.2cm) thick. Cut out your shapes (2 1/2–inch/6.4cm circles) and then transfer to a baking sheet, 1-inch (2.5cm) apart. Re-roll scraps and cut out more shapes.
Bake until they’re lightly browned on the bottom; begin checking for doneness at 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes and then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To decorate, melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwavable bowl in 30-second increments, stirring after each. Melt until it’s just smooth and then remove from heat. Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate onto the top of each cookie, spreading it around into a little Gelt-sized circle. Top with sprinkles and let set in the fridge or at room temperature.