What is Matzo?
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.
@MissCourt - Honestly, the matzo balls are supposed to have a mild flavor. I always make mine the way that I learned from a Jewish friend. She said that some people like the matzo balls dense, but her recipe makes them light and fluffy.
Mix in a large bowl:
Three big eggs, one cup matzo meal, half a cup of warm water, a teaspoon of salt and a fourth cup of chicken fat. Mix it thoroughly and chill it overnight or for four hours.
Boil half a pot of water and sink a onion in it. The onion needs to be cut in half first. Cover it. Form the matzo ball mixture into golf ball sized balls and put them into the pot one at a time -- keeping it covered.
Cook it for forty minutes and bam! Delicious matzo balls for soup!
@Jacques6 - Hey, thanks for sharing, that sounds delicious!
I've tried making matzo ball soup several times and it comes out really bad. My matzo ball recipe must be wrong because they always just fall apart in the bottom of the pot. Are they supposed to be really small or is there no particular size?
You said that you make your own matzo balls, any chance you could share your recipe? Oh – and is it possible to cook the matzo in the chicken broth so that they absorb more flavor? Just curious, since it might save some time when cooking.
@burcidi - I'm not Jewish either, I just love trying out ethnic dishes. My matzo ball soup comes in two forms -- "made with love" and "made from the can."
I make my own matzo balls, but I change up the broth quite a bit. If I'm in a hurry, I just use low-sodium canned chicken broth. Throw in a onion or two and maybe some garlic -- it comes out delicious.
When I have the time to go all out, I make my own soup stock. It's pretty simple -- buy a roasted chicken and boil it for four hours. Throw in some celery stalks, two onions, a couple of cloves of garlic and half a head of cabbage.
Then you just float the matzo balls in it. Now comes my favorite part -- eating it! Fantastic for Fall and Winter weather. It's a very comforting tasty soup and all the healthy oils in the broth help keep colds at bay.
I'm not Jewish but I love experimenting with matzo flatbreads and matzo meal in different dishes. I think it's a great ingredient in any form. It makes a great snack food when the flatbreads are served with homemade dips. You can make so many different kinds of pastries and breads with matzo meal and even with the flatbread by soaking them in some milk or water.
I'm also on a low-salt diet due to high-blood pressure, so it is an added benefit for me that matzo is low in salt and has no fat whatsoever. I think this can be a great diet food or just an alternative ingredient when you have to watch what you're eating for health reasons.
@fify-- I prefer to purchase matzo too, mainly because so much is needed for Passover since it lasts for a whole week. I've been making it from scratch for the past couple of years though because recently, stores have been running out of matzo the week before Passover. I think people stock up on it and stores go through them much more quickly than they can get shipments in.
It was such a problem last year to find wheat matzo. It wouldn't be a problem if the store had run out of barley or oat matzo. We almost didn't have our required wheat matzo the first day of Passover last year. My cousins had made many trays and saved the day by bringing over a tray for us.
I have learned my lesson. I still buy some matzo if I can find some, but I also have all the flours at home and make it in the morning, just in case the stores run out.
I don't make matzo at home because there are plenty of bakeries and groceries that carry it. I found a great matzo lasagna recipe that I made for the first time this year for Passover. I used matzo instead of pasta to make it. We had people over and everyone loved the matzo lasagna! I'm happy that I've found another dish I can make for Passover that fulfills the requirement and is delicious!
We also love matzo balls at my house. Stores carry matzo flour mix so I just buy that and add water to make matzo balls. Matzo ball soup is a basic must have at home, for Passover or otherwise. It's also my comfort food.
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