I am an acquired Jew, if such a person even exists. Raised by extremely lax Catholic parents I got confirmed at 13 and never looked back. The Buddhist phase lasted about 6 months in my 20’s and ended when fellow Buddhists started calling me at home putting pressure on me to find new recruits. If I had wanted to go door to door I would have embraced Mormonism. Religion pretty much disappeared from life for a long while – a few Jewish friends introduced me to the rituals of Judaism and an eventual marriage to a very non observant Jew piqued my interest for Jewish food that I could find edible when the holidays rolled around. I spent years collecting books and recipes of the Italian Jewish and Sephardic traditions, having given up on Gefilte fish and brisket pretty early in my short-lived Jewish adventure.
If you won’t find me at temple on Friday nights, my interest for Jewish food has stuck and it gets renewed at every holiday. Today it’s Passover and I was invited to a Seder where the ten plagues will be recited and the escape from enslavement in Egypt commemorated. Tradition has it that the Jews left in such a hurry there was no time for the bread to rise and that is why unleavened bread is still eaten at Passover. Which brings me to the matzoh conundrum – I understand that if you are Jewish matzoh probably tastes fabulous and carries memories of Seders past but, to me, it’s just a piece of cardboard out of a box. It can be cooked with eggs for matzoh brie or used for a spinach pie but, eaten by itself, it’s cardboard. So, this year, inspired by a little piece by Mark Bittman who was trying to replicate the Sardinian bread “carta da musica” (music sheet), I decided to make my own matzoh. Really, it’s just a flatbread or an oil cracker but the basic principle is still there: unleavened bread.
Even if no one else at the Seder tonight will be turned on by my experiment, all so used to the tastes of their tradition, I know I will be a happy camper.
2 C AP Flour
1/3 C Olive oil
1/2 C Water
1 ts Sea Salt
- In a standing mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the flour, salt and oil. With the mixer running, add the water in a steady stream and mix until a soft ball of dough forms. The dough should easily pull away from the paddle and if you need to, adjust either the water or flour accordingly.
- Cut the dough in 10 or 12 balls and, on a floured board, roll them really thin, as thin as a sheet of parchment.
- Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and spritz them lightly with water (if you have a water spritzer, use it). Sprinkle some sea salt on top and bake at 500F for 5 to 6 minutes, until you see bubbles appearing and they start browning slightly. If necessary, flip them over and bake for another minute or two.