Homemade matzo is crispy and delicious, golden and perfectly salted with the best flaky sea salt, and none of the dryness of store-bought.
Celebrating Passover Away from Home
The baby was already seated in his high chair, clamouring for food with cooing that sounded strangely like "abba," or dad in Hebrew (but actually meant 'apple').
The seder plate was arranged, perky celery leaves nestled alongside hard-boiled eggs and glistening beets. The wine was about to be poured, a light, beautiful Riesling from the Niagara peninsula only an hour away.
And as I pulled the last tray of homemade matzos from the oven, their freshly-baked, cracker-like skin golden with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt, we all breathed a sigh of relief: there will be Passover here after all.
This year, G and I celebrated Passover far from (all of) our homes, with his brother's family in Kitchener. Readers of the blog may remember our visits to Kitchener from this post, where we made Hubbard squash pie, gawked at the world's cutest nephew, and frolicked in an Amish pumpkin patch.
Those who live in Canada may know Kitchener as the home of one of the country's largest Oktoberfest celebrations, and a sizeable German and Old-Order Mennonite population. Southern-Ontarians may know it as the less-glitzy sister town of Waterloo. No matter how you think of Kitchener, this summary should be enough to illustrate one thing: it is no Jewish paradise.
What do to when you can't find any kosher stores
To be completely honest, when I first decided to spend Passover night in Kitchener, I didn't think too much of it. But then the phone calls and messaged started getting in, and it quickly became clear that the prospect of putting together an elaborate celebration for a holiday you know very little about may not be high on the list of two working parents of an 18-month-old, no matter how nice and accommodating they are.
And so, in the days leading up to our visit, G exchanged a slew of emails with his brother, detailing the various stages of the Seder night and providing a list of ingredients we would need to make that night at least semi Jewish, and fun for everyone involved.
We realized that things like matzo meal, cake meal, potato starch and the customary Seder plate would have to be brought along, packed alongside our shirts and underwear like presents from a bygone era (in G's words: "Jews during the Holocaust had to contend with a lot worse to celebrate the holiday, so shuttup").
But the closer we got to our departure date, the more I started worrying about the matzo (matzah, if you're Israeli).
What is matzo?
The matzo is the ubiquitous cracker of Passover, a dry, cardboard-like substance that Jewish kids like to smear with Hashachar chocolate spread and eat in a hurry, its tiny crumbs spreading over any surface within a one-mile radius.
It's the only bread most Jews will eat for the 7 days of Passover, and to most, much more of a burden than a boon. But above all else, matzo is also brittle, large, difficult to find in a non-Jewish area - and difficult to transport.
As this trip happened on the very first day I've had off after the end of the Jewish Food Project, I knew I wouldn't have time for fancy prep or the search for hard-to-find ingredients. A
nd so, I was hoping I could magically find matzo in Kitchener or in my layover in Toronto, as I made my way through the St. Lawrence Market, or the urban scape of Queen Street West.
But when my hopes amounted to naught, I realized there would only be one recourse: to develop my own homemade matzo recipe.
Is making homemade matzos difficult?
I am happy to report that despite my fears and worries, this wasn't such a difficult task.
The batter for the homemade matzos came together faster than it took me to google the recipe, and the practical aspect of baking these crackers involved no more than fastidious rolling and a (VERY) quick blast in a hot oven on a pizza stone or a pre-heated baking sheet.
The rolling was definitely the hardest part as the dough cannot be allowed to rest for fear that the water and flour will have time to rise, thus making your homemade matzo not kosher for Passover.
Is Homemade Matzo Kosher for Passover?
If you make it exactly as I instruct, then yes, it will be! But not kosher for the Passover Seder.
To be kosher for Passover, a matzo recipe needs to rely on special flour that has been deemed as having no contact with liquids. A cook should take no more than 18 minutes (18 is a holy number in Judaism) from the moment they combine the flour and water to when the maztos have to leave the oven.
So while the timing is easy enough to achieve with my simple recipe, the only challenge is the kosher-for-Passover flour... But if you're in a dire situation and you want to have access to matzos for your Passover seder, then I think allowances can be made.
To be kosher for Passover eve, however, a matzo recipe must contain nothing but water and flour. So if you omit the salt and any flavourings, you'll satisfy that, too.
However, I feel that the goal of these homemade matzos is to provide an alternative that allows people to celebrate the spirit of Passover wherever they are. Whether they strive for absolute kosher recipe or not, I believe everyone should have the means to honour the spirit of a holiday. So that's why I developed this recipe, and I make no claims for absolute kosherness.
Why you should make this matzo recipe
The best part of making homemade matzos is definitely the taste.
Golden and perfectly salted with the best flaky sea salt, a homemade matzo is crackly and delicious, without any of the brittleness and dryness of their commercial counterparts.
As you are making them at home, you are perfectly in control of the ingredients, and can ensure that nothing but the best flour and olive oil goes into your matzos.
They are a blank canvas waiting to be topped with inventive spices and flavourings (lavender and lemon, garlic and rosemary, or just plain old oregano would be clear favourites in this household).
Even days outside the oven, the homemade matzos remain perfectly noshable. And in my book, that's the clearest mark of a winning recipe.
To be kosher for Passover, a matzo recipe needs to be super basic. These homemade matzos contain nothing but:
- all-purpose flour
- kosher salt
- mild olive oil
- warm water
- flaky sea salt
How to make homemade matzo for Passover
Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and place a pizza stone (ideally), pizza tray or a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet (realistically) on the bottom oven rack.
In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients, using ¾ cup water to start, until they come together to form a dough. If the dough seems dry, add more water, a touch at a time.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Working a piece at a time, flatten each ball slightly and roll it out as thinly as possible with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. You can trim the dough pieces as well. Use a fork to prick holes in the surface of the dough.
lf salted matzo is desired, brush or spray the dough surface lightly with water and sprinkle with salt to taste.
Carefully place some of the pieces of dough onto the pizza stone, pizza tray or baking sheet. They should fit snugly. Bake until the surface of the matzo is golden brown and bubbly, 30 to 90 seconds. Using tongs, carefully flip the homemade matzo pieces and continue to bake until the other side is golden browned and lightly blistered, 15 to 30 seconds. Just let the matzoh get a few dots of light brown; do not let the matzoh turn completely brown as it will taste burnt. Keep careful, constant watch to keep the matzoh from burning; the exact baking time will vary from oven to oven and may get longer with subsequent batches.
Make ahead & storage
So the next time Passover creeps up on you, don't waste time looking for commercial matzos. They will be just as gross as last year's, and you will be forced to try and use them up before the holiday ends.
Instead, take just a bit of time to make homemade matzos in advance - they'll keep well in a tightly-sealed container, or a ziploc bag (I haven't tried freezing them, though I imagine it would work fine as long as you re-crisped them in the oven).
Or better yet, if you're not too worried about flour contamination on the eve of the holiday, enlist your family and friends to roll a bunch of these paper-thin, crackly homemade matzos the day of the Seder. It'll be a whole Seder pre-party!
If you're not Jewish, this matzo recipe can still be for you. Use these homemade matzos instead of crackers year-round, for snacks and hors d’oeuvre. Or make them for your Jewish friends, and help them realize that Passover doesn't have to be about dry, inedible foods that we attempt to cloak with sauces and spreads. Matzos can be delicious, and all it takes is less than an hour of work.
Go nuts with the toppings, and re-discover the joy of Passover through homemade matzo.
More Passover Recipes
See the step by step web story
To check our our step-by-step video story on how to make homemade matzos for Passover, go here.
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Last-minute homemade matzos
- 4 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour plus more for rolling (I imagine a combination of whole wheat or spelt flours would also work great)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
- 4 tablespoons mild olive oil
- 1 cup warm water plus up to an additional ½ cup (I have used the whole 1.5 cups in my matzos)
- Flaky sea salt fresh herbs, dried herbs, garlic, or any other toppings you'd like (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and place a pizza stone (ideally), pizza tray or a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet (realistically) on the bottom oven rack.
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, using ¾ cup water to start, until they come together to form a dough. If the dough seems dry, add more water, a touch at a time.
- Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Working a piece at a time, flatten each ball slightly and roll it out as thinly as possible with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
- If you're looking for neat matzos, trim the rolled-out dough pieces into rectangles (I prefer the rustic look myself). 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 pieces of dough onto the pizza stone, pizza tray or baking sheet. They should fit snugly. 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. Just let the matzoh get a few dots of light brown; do not let the matzoh turn completely brown as it will taste burnt. Keep careful, constant watch to keep the matzoh from burning; the exact baking time will vary from oven to oven and may get longer with subsequent batches.