Let my matzo go! Let go of its "you-can-only-eat-it-once-a-year" bondage. Let go of the preconceived notions that it's merely tasteless cardboard. Let go of the idea that it has no place in the pantheon of great breads. And definitely let go of the belief that only Jews can eat matzo. Pfft, I say! Remember the old campaign for Levy's rye bread? You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's? Well, you don't have to be Jewish to love matzo either. So I say, let go! Embrace the matzo!
I'd guess that most folks have at least a passing familiarity with the Matzo Story (nice little overview here). The tl;dr version: Jews have to high-tail it out of Pharaoh's Egypt, no time to let the bread rise so it's grab-and-go and off they went to wander in the desert for 40 years until they reached the Promised Land. Every year at Passover the journey is commemorated with an eight-day celebration and that means that every speck of flour needs to be eradicated and only matzo is allowed. There are actually a LOT of foods that aren't allowed (called chametz), and there are some serious rituals involved in getting rid of them, depending on one's level of observance. (I grew up Reform. VERY Reform, almost to the point of "why bother." Suited me just fine. I am, after all, the girl who once made a matzo sandwich for lunch…with ham.) Things like bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, and beer are all in the no-no category. Overall, it's not a fun time for foodies, my friends, especially since A) substitutions need to be made (You haven't lived until you've tried a "cake" made with matzo meal. Really! Try it! Blarg.) and 2) the traditional Jewish foods, which in the best of times can clog an artery in under 10 seconds, become even heavier. (This could be why Jews are so big on having their kids grow up to be doctors, preferably cardiologists. They're good to have around when you get a matzo ball hung up in your aorta and need a quadruple bypass.)
Religious significance aside, when you get right down to it, matzo is really just a cracker (or a flatbread if you want to get all fancy about it). And who doesn't love a good cracker? It's definitely something I've thought about making for a while, especially since I really do like matzo and eat it year-round, but I never got around to it. So this month's #BreadBakers theme—spring, Easter and Passover breads—was perfectly timed. Okay, Passover BREAD is kind of an oxymoron, but we'll let it slide.
The recipe for traditional matzo is very simple: Flour. Water. Boom, done. And if you're REALLY a stickler for tradition and you happen to have an industrial size mega-kitchen and a staff, you'd better make sure that it's finished in 18 minutes flat, from initial mix to final bake. Thankfully, I am not a stickler for tradition (see sandwich, matzo and ham), so I added a couple of extra ingredients and took my time making it. Matzo schmatzo. This stuff is manna from heaven.
Not to get all puffed up here, but I can honestly say this matzo is the best I've ever eaten, hands down. And I've converted many a non-believer too. One taste, and everyone went from, "Eeew, why would you want to make matzo? I HATE matzo!" to "Can I take some home? When are you going to make it again? Would you make some just for me? Can I have some now? Are we there yet?" It's seriously good stuff. Seriously. We've all been spoiled. Boxed matzo? Feh. Never again.
So what is it that makes it so freaking good? If I had to pick any one thing, I'd say how thin it is, which makes it extra crispy and light. As much as I (used to) like boxed matzo, it did always strike me as being a little thick and kind of dry. This homemade version, however, is thin and light and crackly, with a sprinkling a coarse sea salt that really gives it flavor, and flavor is NOT something you'd expect from matzo. Manischewitz and Streit's, you'd better watch out.
- 454g / 1 lb. all purpose flour
- 198-212g / 7–7.5 ounces warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (optional, for sprinkling)
- Place a baking stone in the oven (you don't have to use one but it's better if you do) and preheat to 500°.
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl, then turn out onto a work surface and knead a few times until it comes together. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rest about 15 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, cover and set aside.
- Take one piece of dough, flatten it slightly, and dust lightly with flour. Run it through the pasta machine, starting with the lowest (thick) setting up to the highest (thin).
- Place the rolled dough onto a lightly floured work surface and either use a fork to perforate the dough all over or use a docking roller.
- If desired, sprinkle lightly with sea salt flakes—you really don't need much—and press into the dough.
- Cut dough into squares or rectangles (a pizza cutter is great for this), then transfer the dough to the baking stone, several sheets at a time.
- Bake until the dough starts to bubble and brown slightly, then flip over and bake again until golden and bubbly.
- Repeat until all the dough is baked.
I really think rolling the dough with a pasta machine is key to a crispy matzo. It really does need to be thin to achieve that. I used the pasta attachment on my Kitchen Aid to roll it out, going down to the thinnest setting (8). If you don't have a pasta machine, you can roll it out by hand—if you have giant Popeye arms and love getting a workout—but if you do and you think you've got it thin enough, roll it some more. Yeah, THAT thin.
The first couple of batches I made, I started rolling the dough right away, which is the way it's traditionally done (that 18-minute thing). Since this is no way kosher matzo (literally and figuratively kosher), I think it's much better to let the dough rest a bit so it's easier to work with.
Docking the dough is very important, because if the cat distracts you by yacking up a hairball and you forget to dock, you will end up with what is basically a square, crispy pita bread. I did it so you don't have to.
Of course, what with me being the anal-retentive fruit loop that I am when it comes to uniformity, there was no way I was going to randomly poke holes in my dough with a fork. Even my docker wasn't good enough. BUT…I finally found another use for my Swedish rolling pin (What? You mean EVERYBODY doesn't have one?) Perfect little uniform holes. I may have finally justified its purchase.
I tried spritzing the first couple of batches very lightly with water to make the salt stick, but this dough is so thin, it got mushy and was difficult to transfer to the baking stone. After those first attempts, I stopped spritzing and just sprinkled the salt on, pressing it in lightly. That was all it needed.
A baking stone is definitely the way to go, but if you don't have one, a sheet pan will do the trick. Place it on a lower rack to bake.
I have a small peel that I used to transfer the dough, two sheets at a time. I have a large baking stone so I was able to bake about 8 at a time, but it took me a few tries to get the hang of transferring the sheets without making a mess of things.
Definitely keep a close eye on the matzos as they're baking because they can go from perfecto to cinders in the time it takes to blink. Tongs are great for turning the sheets.
Researched from sources all over the web. They're all basically the same but after a little bit of experimentation this is what I liked the best.
So now that you've made the matzo, what else can you do with it? Well, there are always the matzo balls. And then there's chocolate-covered matzo, but why ruin a great piece of matzo with some yucky chocolate, hmmm? I go right for the savory. Matzo brei.
I'm pretty sure that every family does this differently, mostly with an emphasis on sweeter side of things. We've always done a savory version, loaded with caramelized onions. I usually wing it but writing "wing it" doth not a good recipe make.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4–6 sheets matzo (depending on how large or small you made the sheets)
- 2–4 tablespoons of butter (depending on your preferences and the state of your arteries)
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper to taste
- Break the matzo into medium to large-ish pieces and spritz lightly with water. (The usual recipes tell you to run the matzo sheets under water but that's for boxed matzo which is much larger and thicker. Soaking these thin sheets would make them disintegrate.) Keep spritzing until the matzo is damp and pliable, but not soaked. Set aside.
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt half the butter, then add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently until the onions are caramelized and golden brown.
- Add the other half of the butter, then add the broken matzo and stir to combine with the onions.
- Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste and stir to incorporate all with the matzo. Let cook for a minute or so until starting to set, then break up the eggs and cook to your preferred eggy firmness.
Adapted from watching Gramps. It was the only thing he ever cooked. Love you, miss you.
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the BreadBakers home page.
We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. This month Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla has chosen breads from around the world that are traditional for Easter, Passover or Springtime.
If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's our International Easter/Passover/Spring Bread Basket, in alphabetical order...
- Bacci Bread by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Casatiello by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Choereg - Armenian Easter Bread by Chef Mireille's East West Realm
- Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove Bread) by Cook's Hideout
- Cornish Saffron Easter Bread by Pastry Chef Online
- Folar (Portuguese Easter Bread) by Passion Kneaded
- Hot Cross Buns by En la Cocina de Caro
- Hornazo De Salamanca - Spanish Easter Bread by Ruchik Randhap
- Hungarian Egg Twist by Hostess at Heart
- Hungarian White Bread by Magnolia Days
- Individual Braided Easter Bread by Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
- Italian Easter Bread by La Cocina de Aisha
- Lambropsomo - Greek Easter Bread by Spice Roots
- Lithuanian Easter Raisin Bread by My Catholic Kitchen
- Mennonite Paska by Food Lust People Love
- Pääsiäisleipä - Finnish Easter Bread by Bakers and Best
- Pane di Pasqua - Italian Easter Bread Wreath by Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Polish Bobka Easter Bread by Seduction in the Kitchen
- Russian Kulich by That's My Home
- Springtime Sweet Bread by Cooking club
- Strawberry Fritters by Cindy's Recipes and Writings
- Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread) by Simply Veggies