I had never eaten matzoh before I made it last weekend. In fact, I probably still haven’t eaten what my Jewish friends consider “real” matzoh, since my free-form flatbreads looked very different from the perfectly square packaged crackers that line the shelves of my supermarket’s Passover display.
But as Passover begins at sundown Wednesday, I thought it was a propitious time to try to make my own matzoh. I was also not in the mood to try any of the Easter-themed recipes that were popping up on food blogs, and which were overly-cute and finicky. I didn’t much feel like making tiny rabbits out of marzipan or baking individual cakes in the shapes of Easter eggs.
Matzoh, in contrast, was simple and savory — with a rich religious and cultural heritage that didn’t involve me piping dozens of carrots in multi-colored frosting. It was exactly what I was looking for.
This recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Bread Bible, but the recipe is originally from Noel Comess, founder of Tom Cat bakery in Queens, New York. The recipe takes liberties with the original recipe for Matzoh, which is traditionally made from plain flour and water. Beranbaum adds olive oil for crispness, and salt, wheat flour, and rosemary for flavor. According to Jewish law, the dough must be baked eighteen minutes after the dough is mixed, otherwise it is considered “leavened” and unsuitable for Passover. But Beranbaum’s dough rests for a full 30 minutes before shaping.
But while this matzoh is not strictly kosher for Passover, it is a recipe well worth adding to your year-round baking arsenal. The flavors are earthy and satisfying, with the rosemary and salt adding a savory punch to the simple dough. The matzoh make a loud and satisfying crackling sound when you tear off a piece, which adds to their appeal. These matzoh would be perfect alongside any meal, no matter what the occasion.
Maybe I’ll even make some for Easter dinner.
Adapted from The Bread Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum
2 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water, at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for oiling the dough
1/2 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the water, olive oil, and rosemary. If you are using an electric mixer, mix with a paddle attachment until the dough comes together and cleans the sides of the bowl. If you are mixing the dough by hand, use a spatula, bench scraper, or your hands to mix the dough. If the dough is not coming together, you can add some more flour one teaspoon at a time until it forms a ball.
Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand flour one to two minutes on a floured work surface. The dough should be smooth, elastic, and satiny.
Pour a teaspoon of olive oil onto a plate. Turn the dough in it, until it is coated with olive oil. Cover the dough and plate with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, place a rack in the center of your oven and place a baking stone on it. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut the dough into six equal parts, shape into balls, and flatten into disks. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest 10 minutes.
Take one of the balls of dough and place on a well floured work surface (keep the other balls of dough covered until you are ready to work with them). With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rough circle, 12 to 13 inches in diameter. As you roll it out, lift and turn the dough at regular intervals, re-flouring the work surface as necessary, to keep it from sticking. You should try to get the dough as thin as possible – otherwise your matzoh will be too doughy and will not crisp up.
Dust a baking sheet with flour or corn meal. Gently lift the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven on top of the baking stone. Cook for 3 minutes. Open the oven and pierce any large bubbles that have formed with a knife to deflate.
You will need to flip the dough, which is best done by using a pancake turner to lift the dough off the baking sheet and flip onto your pot-holder covered hand. Then gently placing the flipped dough back onto the baking sheet. Bake for 3-5 minutes more, until the bubbles are lightly browned.
When done, take the baking sheet from the oven and use a spatula to transfer the matzoh to a rack to cool.
You will have just enough time while one matzoh is cooking to roll out the next matzoh. Repeat this process with the next five balls of dough.