Matzo is a type of flatbread which is made in Jewish communities all over the world. This bread is traditionally eaten during Passover, when people of the Jewish faith are not allowed to eat leavened breads, and it also appears in recipes used throughout the year. In addition to matzo itself, there are a number of foods made with matzo, from matzo balls used in soup to noodle kugel which uses matzo as a binder.
Many markets carry some form of matzo, especially if they are in areas with a reasonably large Jewish community. This bread can also be made at home or purchased from Jewish bakeries. For observant Jews, special care is taken when selecting matzo during Passover to ensure that it fulfills the required dietary restrictions.
Traditional matzo is made with just flour and water. Oats, wheat, barley, rye, and spelt are all acceptable sources of flour for matzo. Some cooks also add salt, although others frown on this, and other ingredients like onions may be added, but they make bread unusable for Passover. The dough is mixed quickly before being rolled out, pricked with a fork, and baked. The end result is quite bland, but many people acquire a taste for it.
There are two basic types of matzo. Hard matzo, as one might imagine, is hard, like a cracker, while soft matzo is more flexible. This very simple bread has an important symbolic role in Jewish culture. The bland flavor and simple ingredients remind people to stay humble, and echo the culinary state of affairs during periods of enslavement and hard times. Unleavened bread is also a specific reminder of the Jewish flight from Egypt, when it is said that people did not have time to allow their bread to rise before baking.
To make basic matzo, mix three and one quarter cups of flour with one cup of water to form a stiff dough. Break the dough up into balls and roll them out. You can make round pieces of matzo, or you can roll out a large square sheet and cut it up into crackers; poke the matzo with a fork and bake it at 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees Celsius) until it browns. You may want to store the matzo in an airtight container to prevent it from going stale. You can also grind your matzo to make matzo meal, an common component in traditional Jewish recipes.