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News / Life / Clark County Life

Marvelous matzos: Step outside the box with this homemade recipe

Matzos are less about the taste and more about the tradition

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 17, 2024, 6:05am
3 Photos
These thin, crispy crackers are eaten during the Passover season &mdash; but homemade matzos are quite different from what you&rsquo;d get in a box.
These thin, crispy crackers are eaten during the Passover season — but homemade matzos are quite different from what you’d get in a box. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

“Matzos are so delicious,” is something you’ve never heard anyone say. Yet people have been eating matzos (also called matzah) or similar unleavened flatbreads for thousands of years. Matzos famously taste of cardboard, a reputation perhaps well-deserved because this crackerlike bread is made only of flour, water and sometimes salt.

I grew up eating matzos during the Passover season and so did my husband. (We weren’t Jewish but our denomination observed some Jewish holidays and customs.) If there’s one person who thinks matzos are delicious, it might be my husband. He loves to eat them with honey or, best of all, Nutella, but even he acknowledges that matzos aren’t tasty without some kind of topping — butter or peanut butter or jam or something, anything to relieve the flour-and-water monotony.

However, it’s hard for me or my husband to be perfectly objective about matzos because their flavor (or non-flavor) is so intertwined with childhood nostalgia. We didn’t eat them because we wanted to. We ate them because it was our tradition, and traditions are cherished. A big, crisp matzo spread with butter and honey reminds me of a time when things were more black-and-white, when the world, or at least my own small world, seemed simpler and safer. But that’s the danger of nostalgia: It lulls you into thinking that the past was better than it actually was. In reality, matzos have always tasted pretty bad.

Some folks on the internet say that homemade matzos are a step up from store-bought matzos, although I don’t personally know even one human being who’s attempted to make matzos from scratch when the big boxes of salted, unsalted or egg matzos are so readily available from the grocery store. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do know someone: me.

I was inspired by a matzo recipe at www.onceuponachef.com adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe in the New York Times. The recipe includes olive oil, which gives the crackers a modicum of flavor and a texture that cracks but doesn’t crumble, though any other cracker in the world would still be tastier. The matzos are made with just four ingredients: flour, water, olive oil and salt. Another plus of homemade matzo is that you only end up with 12 medium-sized matzos instead of 14 huge squares that don’t easily break into smaller portions.

The recipe calls for a food processor but I don’t have one. I’m sure that someone making matzos in, say, 1200 B.C. wouldn’t have had one, either, and they seem to have managed just fine. I’m happy to do it the Extremely Old Fashioned Way and knead the dough energetically with my hands until it reaches a rolling consistency. It took about five minutes but it was a very relaxing, meditative five minutes.

There are just a few easy steps to matzos — and I use “easy” in a relative sense since the easiest thing would be to buy them. But if you want to give it a go, here are the steps: combine the ingredients, knead until smooth, cut into 12 pieces, roll each piece until paper-thin, bake, turn over, bake again, cool and eat. It’s fun to roll them out and see how thin you can get them. Plus, the irregular shapes are so interesting.

Preheat the oven to a toasty 500 degrees. Combine 2 level cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup water in a bowl and stir with a fork until evenly moist, then turn onto a clean counter (not that yours would ever be dirty). Work the dough with your hands for several minutes until it becomes smooth and a little stretchy but not sticky.

Form the dough into a ball. Cut the ball in half then cut each half in half. Cut each quarter into thirds so that you have 12 dough pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten the ball slightly into a disk or patty. Roll the patty out on a lightly floured surface until very, very thin, like a toothpick, a fingernail or your patience. Each rolled-out dough piece should be 6 to 8 inches wide. It’s fine if it’s not a perfect circle. Let it be any shape it wants to be. Homemade matzos are like edible expressionist art, and quite similar to eating canvas.

Place two or three rolled-out matzos — or proto-matzos, if you will — onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake for two to four minutes but keep an eye on those little rascals or they will burn. (I experimented with several baking times, and it seemed to be different for every batch. I ended up with a few too-brown matzos.) When they’re light gold, take them out and flip them over. Bake for one to two more minutes or until they’re honey-golden with a few puffy bubbles. Cool to room temperature and enjoy (and I use that term loosely) with butter, honey, jam, peanut butter or tahini. You can’t have any of our Nutella so go buy your own.

Matzos

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup olive oil

½ cup water

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix all ingredients in large bowl until evenly moist. Turn out onto the counter and continue working the dough with your hands until it’s smooth and not sticky. Cut dough into 12 equal portions (cut doughball in half, cut each half in half, and cut each quarter into thirds). Roll each piece until paper-thin. Place three to four on a large, lightly oiled cookie sheet, prick all over with a fork, and bake for two to four minutes, turn over and bake for another two to four minutes. Keep a sharp eye on them while baking. Matzo are done when slightly puffy (or scattered with small puffy bubbles) and a light golden brown. Cool and eat.

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