“This is the bread of affliction”, my father would drone every Passover as he opened the familiar blue square box. “Matzah is tasteless and dry, not meant to be enjoyed. Eating it should remind you of the sufferings of our people.” As he went on and on and on with his yearly lecture on the harshness of slavery and unleavened bread I sat there slathering on salted butter, devouring sheet after sheet of crispy goodness. Although bland and stomach binding, this so-called ‘bread of affliction’ was a welcome change to the squishy, faintly chemical smelling Wonder loaves my mother bought the rest of the year. Despite the family mandate that matzah eating required a certain degree of complaining to make it religiously significant, my appreciation for the magical combination of flour, water, and fire was born.
Where I grew up in the Midwest during the 1970’s there were only two kinds of matzah available. Manishewitz and Streit’s. Both perfectly square and almost identical in taste, matzah was matzah; or so I thought. It was not until decades later at a community Seder that I discovered that matzah could be round, organic or made from non-white flour.
Gourmet Matzah? Forget the family mandate, my quest for the ultimate “bread of affliction’ was ignited. After sampling every brand and flavor of matzah I could find, it hit me. My ancestors did not eat matzah found on supermarket shelves.
They made it.
And you can too.
My matzah recipe.. Affliction never tasted so good.
2 cups non-self rising flour
1-cup water (rain water is a nice touch if available)
Kosher salt (optional)
Preheat oven, with a baking stone or cooking sheet inside, to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turn off your cell phone.
In order to avoid fermentation, thus rendering it un-kosher for Passover, the matzah can take no longer than 18 minutes to make from the time the water is added. In order to meet this time constraint it is good to have a kitchen helper and to make the matzah in individual batches.
Mix water and flour.
Knead until mixture forms non-sticky dough, adding more flour if necessary.
Roll into thin sheets using either a rolling pin or a pasta machine set to 4.
Cut sheets of rolled dough into rectangles or squares with a pasta cutter or straight edged knife.
Prick the surface of the dough evenly with a fork.
Salt if desired.
Slide the pricked sheets of dough onto baking stone and bake for four minutes or until matzah is slightly browned.
Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack.