Passover starts on Saturday evening at sundown, and that means eating all the festive holiday foods. The most iconic Passover food is matzah, an unleavened bread that symbolizes the flight of ancient Jews from Egypt. According to the story, the Jews were in such a rush to flee, they had no time to allow the bread to rise. So, the story goes, it was baked on their backs like a flat cracker. Annually, Jews gather together to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, from slavery into freedom, over a meal of ceremonial foods like matzah and haroset.
As a non-Jew who married into a Jewish family, I never acquired a taste for commercially made matzah. Several years ago I started making it myself in our pizza oven. It’s a bit of work to roll everything out and get it thin, but it’s otherwise a very simple recipe — flour, water, olive oil and salt. Of course you can vary the recipe depending on your family’s preferences. One year we added ground pepper in addition to salt, we sprayed one batch with olive oil, and we tried using whole wheat flour instead of all purpose white flour. Everything worked! It’s a great family project if you can draft some helpers, and well worth the effort if you want to enjoy matzah with all the delicious traditional foods for Passover.
Below the video is the recipe I found online from Leite’s Culinaria that gave me the basic proportion of ingredients. But as you can see from the video, I made the dough in the food processor, then rolled it out in the pasta maker. Last year we made a short video showing how we made it. I’m sure my husband’s ancestors would be horrified at the all the electric appliances I used! But I am also sure you can do it by hand and it will taste just as good!
Chag Sameach! (A traditional Passover greeting that means happy festival!)
Homemade Matzoh from Leite’s Culinaria
4 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons mild olive oil (or, if you’re not keeping kosher for Passover, you can substitute canola oil)
3/4 cup plus up to 1/2 cup warm water ( I found it took more water!)
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Ideally you would place a pizza stone on the bottom oven rack, but realistically a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet will work just dandy.]
- In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients, starting with just 3/4 cup water, until everything comes together to form a dough. If the dough seems dry, add a little more water, just a few drops at a time. Be sparing with the water and do not add so much that the dough becomes sticky.
- If you do not need the matzoh to be kosher for Passover, let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. If you do need the matzoh to be kosher for Passover, proceed immediately to the next step so that you can attempt to finish everything in 18 minutes. You may want to ask for help to ensure that you complete it in time.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Flatten a piece slightly and pass it repeatedly through a pasta maker, reducing the thickness each time until you eventually reach the thinnest or minimum setting on your pasta machine. Alternately, you can simply roll the dough as thinly as possible with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
- Trim the rolled-out dough pieces into rectangles. (How many pieces of matzoh you get depends on how thinly you rolled the dough.) Use a fork to prick holes in the surface of the dough. lf salted matzoh are desired, brush or spray the dough surface lightly with water and sprinkle with salt to taste.
- Carefully place some of the rectangles onto the pizza stone or baking sheet. They should fit snugly but should not touch. Bake until the surface of the matzoh is golden brown and bubbly, 30 to 90 seconds.
- Using tongs, carefully flip the matzoh pieces and continue to bake until the other side is golden browned and lightly blistered, 15 to 30 seconds. Keep careful and constant watch to keep the matzoh from burning; the exact baking time will vary from oven to oven and will get longer with subsequent batches. You want to let the matzoh get a few dots of light brown but don’t let the matzoh turn completely brown or it will taste burnt.
- Let the matzoh cool before serving. (When our testers made this, they devoured it within hours—and sometimes minutes—of pulling it from the oven, but typically with this sort of baked good you can keep it in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag at room temperature for up to a couple days.)
Originally published March 19, 2013.