Matzoh Recipe

If I’ve learned anything this week it’s that “simple” flatbreads aren’t actually simple. I shouldn’t be surprised at that, since I’m constantly repeating the maxim that the most elementary recipes are the hardest to pull off well. As the number of ingredients in a recipe decreases, the importance of ingredient quality and technique increases. Further, many flatbreads are tied deeply to cultural norms I know little or nothing about. Clearly I have a long way to go if I really want to master this week’s subject matter.

Still, since I’m already tramping clumsily through the garden of tradition, I think I’ll take reader Elizabeth up on her challenge of making some matzoh. The proportions of matzoh are easy to remember: 2-1 flour to water by volume. Add salt if you wish. For me that will translate into two cups of flour and one cup of water.

Preheat your oven to 500 or 550. Combine the flour and water and knead them into a soft dough, about five minutes. Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and roll each piece as thin as possible. Transfer them to a baking sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt (though this recipe is not kosher, for those who may be wondering), and dock all over with a fork. Bake 3-4 minutes until they’re only lightly browned, the flip and bake another 3-4 minutes until they brown at the edges and on top a bit.

14 thoughts on “Matzoh Recipe”

    1. Hi Linda!

      I’m not an expert in this area, thought I do know I’m not using kosher flour. Also, there are rules about how long you have to bake a dough after it’s been mixed, and it isn’t long. I’m positive I didn’t hit the mark. Others who are more knowledgeable can probably point out some of my other shortcomings!

      Good question, Linda. Thanks!

      – Joe

    2. Passover kosher laws are really, really strict and complicated.

      The basic concept is that it needs to be less than 18 minutes from the time that the flour touches the water until it is totally done being baked. But Jewish law requires applying that rule to matzoh-baking in a very, very detailed and thorough way:
      -The wheat kernels that were made into flour can’t have touched water between the time they were harvested and the time you combine them with water in your kitchen
      -All utensils and the oven itself must not have touched any not-kosher-for-Passover food, not even a trace. If they have touched those things, they need to be made kosher through various processes which often involve boiling water or a blowtorch.
      -The matzoh must be rolled out thin enough and have enough holes in it that there are absolutely no areas that could remain uncooked. Even things like a piece folding over on itself a little bit during the baking process could be a problem (see this article)

      Hope that helps! It was interesting reading about home matzoh-baking because I grew up religious and I don’t think anyone who keeps Passover did it at home. It’s too complex, so it’s delegated to highly-regulated and specialized matzoh factories.

      1. Fascinating, Miriam!

        Thanks very much for the education. I clearly don’t have what it takes to make Passover matzoh, but I had a great time dong this and will certainly do it again. I can’t wait to make matzoh balls it of this!

        – Joe

  1. People write books about this stuff, but I’ll try to be brief. My guess is that the matzoh is kosher. Most flour is kosher, and water is water, not a problem. If your utensils are not kosher that would make the end product not kosher, but just talking about the ingredients themselves it seems fine.

    However, it would not be kosher for Passover. This is a completely different ball game than “regular” kosher, and it’s where the element of timing becomes crucial. Once the flour and the water are combined, you’ve got 18 minutes to get the dough into the oven. After 18 minutes it’s considered leavened dough, and for Passover it’s a no-go. But for the rest of the year, it’s fine.

    If you’re interested in a bit more:

    Joe, I gotta say: Kol haKavod!!

    1. Thanks, Chana! That means a lot.

      I was anticipating (and slightly fearing) your input. But I’m curious. In past conversations you’ve mentioned that “kosher” means “fit to eat.” Why does the definition of what is fit change at Passover? Or is the ritual part of it really the point?

      – Joe

      1. I keep trying to make this shorter, but obviously I’m not succeeding!

        The word kosher means “fit.” Even in English slang, when we say something isn’t kosher, we mean something isn’t right, something doesn’t fit. When applied to food, it means “fit to eat.”

        On Passover the rules are more stringent, so we eat only food that is “fit to eat” (or kosher) for Passover, in accordance with all the particular rules that apply to that holiday. Why and how these separate rules arose for Passover is a question that is making my head spin because I can’t seem to condense the answer! (And because there are so many answers, and of course I know only a drop in the bucket.)

        The laws as we know them today evolved over time. I think there is a clear distinction between the days before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (when the celebration centered on the sacrifice brought to the temple for the holiday) and afterwards, when sacrifices were no longer done. Over time, different rituals evolved to take the place of the sacrifice that was once the central element of the holiday.

        Most of the things that are not kosher for Passover tend to be connected to grains, things that can become leavened with the addition of water and the passing of a bit of time. This ritual sprouts (sorry, couldn’t resist) from the story of the Exodus from Egypt, when we had to be ready to leave quickly and there was no time to bake bread for the journey. This is a simplification, of course, but it’s the general idea. This leads to the reasons for the Exodus, in essence, in order to witness the revelation at Mt. Sinai and receive the ten commandments. The rituals that developed around Passover are all reminders of that central occurrence. So the stricter rules are, perhaps, a level of sanctification as we prepare to remember this integral part of our history.

        I know that’s very disjointed, sorry!

  2. I think to be truly kosher the person making it must also be Jewish. I’m not sure; I just remember reading about a winery in Israel which brought in an expert vintner who was not Jewish, and he had to direct workers verbally, never touching anything himself so the wine would be deemed kosher.

  3. The story that I read was quite condensed – from Wikipedia:
    When the Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread dough to rise (leaven). In commemoration, for the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is called “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread”. Thus Matzo (flat unleavened bread) is eaten during Passover and it is a symbol of the holiday.

    18 minutes seems to be the arbitrary amount of time they’ve decided makes the difference between leavened and unleavened.

      1. Reading that was what made me really think about natural fermentation. I mean, we all know if you leave dough for a long time it’ll ferment, but I’d not thought about degrees of fermentation, and how soon it starts happening. Was reminded of it by the guy who commented in the chapati post about it being better the longer you leave the dough before rolling.

        1. That’s a good point as well. I think of partial fermentation when I think about making butter, buttermilk or sour cream…but not in terms of bread. My mental model of bread rising is on-off…fermented-not fermented. I’ll have to fiddle with that a bit more myself. Very thought-provoking comment, Bronwyn!

          – Joe

    1. The 18 minutes is not quite arbitrary; each letter of the Hebrew alphabet also has a numeric value, and 18 is the numeric value of the word “Chai”, or “Life”. That is also why so many Jews donate to charity in multiples of 18.


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