Bread of the Ages Not getting a rise: Modern cook, with no particular need to hurry, turns out homemade matzo in just 18 minutes.

March 27, 1996|By Kyra Effren | Kyra Effren,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

When Jews gather throughout the world to celebrate Passover at sundown next Wednesday, there will be one common food on every table.

Matzo, the symbol of the Israelites' hasty exodus from Egypt, plays an integral part in the religious ceremony, the meal following, and the eight days of the holiday.

When the word came to be ready to leave quickly, the Israelites had no time to allow the bread to rise, so the dough was baked immediately in the form of flat bread. Today, matzo in the supermarket comes in pristine squares packed in neat boxes. But before the days of Manischewitz and Streit, it was prepared in the home.

Matzo-making gadgets in the Jewish Museum in New York include a "compass" with a wheel on one point to cut the dough in circles, and a docker or arrow rolling pin studded with metal points to make the holes in the dough to keep it from rising.

In an attempt to re-create that fateful night centuries ago, I tried to make my own matzo from scratch.

Using the ingredients listed on a matzo box as a guide, I kneaded matzo meal with water to make a smooth, workable dough. I then rolled out pieces as thin as possible, cut rounds and pricked the surface to keep it flat. I baked it in a hot oven, turning once to ensure even baking.

It took just under the requisite 18 minutes to make, and the resulting matzo was sturdier and heavier than the commercial varieties and similar to the flat breads of the Middle and Far East.

The Israelites could not have chosen a more perfect, portable, long-lasting food for their perilous journey. It took less than 18 minutes to make but has endured for more than 5,000 years.

Matzo

Makes 8 to 10 matzo

2 cups matzo meal or matzo cake meal

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Combine the matzo meal with the water and salt to form a dough. You may need to add more water to make the dough workable.

Knead the dough and roll out and fold a couple of times. Cut into 8 pieces.

Roll out each piece as thinly as possible between 2 sheets of wax paper. Cut into rounds or squares and prick the surface of the dough well with a pastry docker or fork. Work the leftover dough pieces back together to make 1 or 2 more rounds.

Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn matzo over and bake another 4 minutes or until the crackers are very lightly browned and crisp. Cool on a cooling rack and repeat the process.

Per serving: 89 calories; no fat; no cholesterol; no sodium.

Fried matzo

Makes 10 servings

1 box egg matzo

2 apples, grated coarsely

5 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

shortening or butter for frying

Cover crumbled matzo with boiling water in a bowl. Drain immediately in a colander and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

Return to bowl and add remaining ingredients except shortening or butter.

Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or shortening in a frying pan and drop batter by spoonfuls on the pan.

Cook until brown, then turn the pancakes over and again cook until brown. Serve with warm apricot jam.

Per serving: 258 calories; 5 g fat; 107 mg cholesterol; 141 mg sodium; 18 percent calories from fat.

Cheesecake matzo (geschmirte matzo)

Makes 32 pieces

4 matzo

1/2 cup milk

8 ounces cream cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Using an 8-inch square baking dish, soak the matzo in the milk for 1 minute; then arrange on a greased cookie sheet.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the cream cheese, egg, sugar, lemon juice, salt and sour cream till smooth, then spread evenly over the matzo.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake until the cheesecake mixture is set and lightly browned. Remove from oven and cut each matzo into 8 rectangles. Per serving: 60 calories; 4 g fat; 16 mg cholesterol; 42 mg sodium; 54 percent calories from fat.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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