Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jewish Bread for our Christian Tradition: A Post on Matzah

When I was growing up, we would sometimes have a sort of "Jesus meal" on the Thursday before Easter. This was the night that Jesus and his disciples were celebrating Passover and the night Jesus broke and blessed the bread (and wine) instituting the Christian sacrament for the first time. Our simple homemade affairs involved flat bread or crackers, grape juice, maybe greens (um, bitter herbs), and some other stuff I can't remember. I think there were olives.

Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that it helped me think about what Jesus and his disciples were doing on that pivotal night before the crucifixion. It wasn't a sad day for us, though. It was kind of fun to eat different foods and learn about something in the sneaky sort of way my mom had fashioned. And the emphasis wasn't on the gloom of the crucifixion, but on the sacrament and the events that led up to the joyful resurrection. It was something that stuck with me.

So I've done it with my kids. We've had crackers, olives, nuts, fish (lamb being woefully too expensive). But this year, this year, I decided to do it right. I would make matzah or Jewish unleavened bread.

Except that then I found out what you had to do it right--sterilized everything (er, maybe some houses, but not this one), special flour that has never been exposed to moisture, spring water, and an 18 minute start to finish time to prevent any kind of possible fermentation. If they make more batches than one, they re-sterilize everything and even clean the rolling pin with sandpaper to ensure that none of the previous (and possibly fermenting dough) is stuck to it. Whoa. Next time someone tells me Mormons have a lot of rules, I'm going to tell them how to make matzah.

As a result, I may have (cough) cut a few corners. After all I wasn't really serving food for Passover. I was really serving food to remind us of a distinctly Christian tradition--the Passover where Jesus broke bread for his disciples. So I fudged a few things. Like those sterile utensils. Still, I did try to keep my bread within the 18 minute limit. I actually thought I'd be way ahead since the actual making of matzah is fairly easy (flour, water, a bit of salt), but I just barely made the time limit and the center of mine is still not crispy (is it required to be crispy?). This is because I used a pan instead of tiles, my oven only goes to 500 degrees, and I took one food blogger's suggestion and brushed on some olive oil and salt. The olive oil seemed to keep the cracker from crisping up as quickly.

Oh, and the fire alarm only went off twice. (A tip for the uninitiated: Make sure none of your parchment paper is hanging over the edge of your pan  or it will blacken and make your fire alarm go off.)

Nevertheless, I was pretty pleased with the final product. It looked interesting if nothing else (it also looked a bit like Illinois).

And while I'm pretty sure my kids will insist on putting peanut butter on their matzah (because it turns out that flour and water don't exactly make a baked good bursting with flavor), I'm guessing they'll probably eat it.

You can find plenty of recipes and videos for real matzah online, but if you're looking for a nice cheater version that's quick and easy and can provide a sort of Christian object lesson, I'll give you the skinny.

1. Sterilize everything. I wiped off my counters and that was pretty much the extent of it.

2. Make the dough by using 3 parts flour to one part water. Add a dash of salt if you want. I did 1 C white whole wheat and 1/3 C water. Stir this together, kneading it into a ball. (If you have to add a bit more water, that's okay, but don't go overboard--you don't want it sticking to your counter, and technically you're not supposed to flour your surface. This is a rule I would have broken if necessary, but I didn't need to).

3. Heat your oven as hot as it will got.

4. Roll out the dough super thin. Some tutorials rolled it into one-serving balls and then rolled those out, but I went with a method that used a long strip instead.

5. Put it on a pan lined with parchment paper. (This was a sort of cheater method. Normally, it would be cooked on hot tiles or even the bottom of the oven.)

6. Prick it with the tines of a fork (did you know you can buy a special rolling pin with pricky things on it?)

(See how that parchment paper is hanging over the side? Don't do that.)

7. I cut mine with a sharp knife so that it would be easier to break into "crackers."

8. Brush on some olive oil and give it a shake of salt. I don't know if this is usual or accepted or not, but it sounded more appetizing to me. However, as I said above, I do think it slowed the cooking.

9. Put this in your hot hot oven. Cook for 3-6 minutes or until it's cripsy and cracker-like.

10. Take it out, cool, and eat.


  1. A great idea. We should try this sometime.
    The other day I ran out of yeast right as I was about to make pizza dough. I texted my Seventh-day Adventist neighbor. She gave me a whole jar because she was going to throw it away on Thursday anyway. I guess they have to get it all out of the house and scrub like crazy. Yeah. Other cultures are cool and all, but I'm kind of glad I don't have to do that one. :)

    1. So do Seventh Day Adventists celebrate Passover as well? I knew that they worshipped on Saturday because they stick with the Jewish sabbath, but didn't realize there were other ties as well.

    2. as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor im really not sure why she was throwing it out as we do not observe the passover. :)



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