Matzo, For The Last Time!

Week Fifty-Three: For The Last Time!


When I first made matzo, there was one important thing that I neglected to mention.  Matzo, you see, is an unleavened bread; but you all knew that.  What some of you may not know is how strict Jewish dietary law is about this.  From the time you mix the water into the flour, you have no more than 18 minutes to get those suckers into the oven.  After that time (which was determined… somehow?), fermentation begins, and any yeast present on the flour or in the air can begin to leaven the dough.

This all means, of course, that you have to work quickly to roll out your matzo.  And this brings me to the reason I neglected to mention the 18 minute window when I first made matzo.  I might be handy with a rolling pin, but I’m sure not fast with one. By the time I’d had the dough all rolled out, my 18 minutes were well and truly up.  I wasn’t about to tell you, Gentle Reader, to roll out dough in under 18 minutes when I myself couldn’t do it.

That’s not to say that I didn’t try, though; but my hasty rolling, however careful I tried to be, was awfully uneven, resulting in patchy matzo that was burnt crisp in some spots, and chewy-thick in other spots.  To get a better matzo, I was going to have to seriously up my rolling pin game, probably through months of arduous practice.

Or, you know, I could go to Plan B: the pasta roller.  I know they’re not common gadgets in American kitchens (the one at my house is on extended loan from a good friend with a truly miniscule kitchen), but I know of no other way to roll out dough so quickly and so evenly.  And yes, it worked like a charm.  I was able to whip up eight gorgeous ovals of matzo, that all browned evenly and perfectly, within the allotted 18 minutes.  I was working alone, but it of course would be more efficient if you had a friend to help out, especially with the docking (that always takes me longer than I think).

This recipe is for whole wheat matzo; if you prefer white flour, you may need to decrease the water a little.  The flavor is good, despite the total lack of time the dough has to develop any flavor-boosting enzymes or acids.  You can roll these to any thickness you like, but I think a thinner matzo works best; it turns out delightfully crisp.  Just be careful to not over-bake these, as they can go from crisp to tough sooner than you think.  Otherwise, as long as you can make these within 18 minutes, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Matzo, For The Last Time!
Adapted from Peter Reinhart
Makes 8 matzo

8 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups) whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup water, at room temperature

1.  Thirty minutes before starting, preheat the oven to 350º F, heating a baking stone as well if you have one.  If not, just bake the matzo on a large baking sheet (not preheated).  Set up a pasta roller (by clamping to a countertop).  Lay out one or two large pieces of parchment paper, to hold the dough after rolling, either on a peel for sliding onto the baking stone, or on the baking sheet.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  Add the water, and stir until a shaggy dough forms.  Your 18 minutes begins as soon as the water hits the flour.  Turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface, and knead just until smooth, about 1 minute.

3.  Divide the dough into eight equal pieces.  Quickly form each piece into a roughly round shape.  Using the pasta roller at the thickest setting, roll each piece out, and set aside on a lightly floured surface.  Dust each piece lightly with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Repeat rolling, using a thinner setting each time, until desired thickness is achieved.  Transfer rolled-out dough to the parchment paper.

4.  When all dough is all rolled out, thoroughly dock each piece with a fork, to prevent puffing in the oven.

5.  If using the baking stone, slide the parchment with the matzo directly onto the stone.  Otherwise, place baking sheet with matzo in the oven.  Bake at 350º F for 10-12 minutes, or until crisp and just barely browned.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

1.  You may choose to roll out half the dough at a time, baking in batches.  As long as you get it all into the oven within 18 minutes, you’re fine.

2.  If you don’t have to keep kosher, the dough will develop significantly better flavor and texture if you let it sit for about 1 hour at room temperature (or in the refrigerator overnight).

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