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Posted on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Make your own matzah once and you'll never eat the store-bought kind again

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu, Contributor

Passover began this past Friday, April 6.  Rather than merely lasting for one day, as with most holidays, Pesach ([PAY-sahk] = Hebrew for “Passover”) is an eight-day commemoration of the Jews’ flight from Egypt and escape from slavery. And one of the ritual foods to eat is matzah.

Matzah [MAHT-suh], the bread of affliction.

Matzah, the flat bread which serves as a remembrance of the chaotic rush in which the Jews fled to freedom, with no time to let dough rise.

Matzah, which Jews are commanded to eat during the ritual Seder on the first and second nights of Pesach, but which they traditionally eat each day of the holiday… thus leading to eight days of kvetching about GI problems and a longing for something — anything — more interesting to eat than matzah pizza.  Lemme tell ya — even Wonder bread looks good after eight days of matzah!

But you know what? This is because they’re eating the cardboard-like matzah that you find at the grocery store, which could be leftover from last year, but who could tell? The secret to enjoying matzah is to bake your own.

Except that this is more difficult than it sounds.

It’s not just about stirring together some flour and water, rolling out the dough, and baking it — that part’s easy. I even thought it was fun!  But then, I’m a little odd….

There are very specific rules about this process, and I’ll spare you the dissertation about Jewish law. Suffice it to say that to make officially-sanctioned matzah, the flour used must be guarded against contact with water that would cause the grains to ferment and become leavened; some Jews will only eat shmurah matzah, which has been guarded since harvesting. And then, once the grain has been ground, it must be quickly mixed with a bit of water to make a dough, rolled, pricked (to avoid bubbling), and baked within a mere 18 minutes, with a rabbi supervising at all times.

However, I’m not officially Jewish, so the rules don't count at my house! I made my own matzah, and will never eat the store-bought slabs again. This was absolutely addictive just schmeared with a bit of butter; use it to make my Chocolate Caramel Matzah, and you may need to find a 12-step program.

I can’t claim that this is my own concoction, and frankly, it’s so good and is so notable that I wouldn’t dare to tinker with it. This matzah recipe has survived for 500 years because it is a part of history. It was submitted as evidence against Angelina de Leon during the Spanish Inquisition, at a trial that convicted her of being a Jew.

According to an article in The New York Times about Jewish foods of the 16th century:

“It was a few days before Passover in 1503 in northern Spain. Angelina de Leon was kneading a dough of white flour, eggs and olive oil, flavored with pepper and honey. She formed walnut-size balls, flattening them into round cakes and pricking them with a fork.Maria Sancho, the family maid, was watching. This was exactly the sort of recipe that the Inquisition authorities had told servants to report….  All of which would provide proof that this was a household of secret Jews - (Conversos) who had ostensibly converted to Catholicism under pressure from the Church but who had clung to their Jewish rituals.”

Baking my own matzah is a ritual that I only adopted for the first time this year, but one which I will cling to each Pesach from now on.

Chag Pesach Sameach!  [HAHG PAY-sahk sah-MAY-ahk] = “Happy Passover.”

Angelina de Leon’s Matzah (from The New York Times Passover Cookbook)

2 cups white flour
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour and pepper. Stir together the eggs, honey, oil and water; pour over the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Turn the dough out onto a countertop and knead until it forms a cohesive ball.
Divide the dough into 6 portions. One by one, roll them out into 8-inch rounds; prick all over with a fork, then place onto a very lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake matzot (plural of “matzah”) for 10 minutes, until crisp and golden. Let cool completely on a rack.

Repeat with remaining dough, to make 6 matzot.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests … whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should also visit Mary’s blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.

The phrase “You Should Only Be Happy” (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.



Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

I am eager to try this! I love matzah and making things from scratch, so this will have to be my next project. Thanks so much, Mary! Keep 'em coming!

Mary Bilyeu

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Oh, I hope you have fun and that you enjoy this. It's really very easy to make the matzah, and it is SO good! Please let me know about your adventure ... :)


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 6:01 p.m.

It's tan food.


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 7:37 p.m.

And it's delicious!