Friday, April 19, 2019

Bread of Affliction and Technology

I had a burst of insight the first time I made Matzo for Passover. It must have been around twenty years ago, a time when there was no Matzo to be had in my town during Passover (not to mention no internet for guidance). So I decided to make some myself. I knew the ingredients: flour, water, and salt. I knew that the Matzo had to be thin, and I knew the oven had to be hot, but I didn't know much else.

What surprised me that first time was how quickly the dough would try to rise even though it didn't have yeast added to it. I understood at that point that before the Exodus making Matzo probably wasn't a matter of not having enough time for bread to rise, as we have been led to understand. It was a matter of preparing the best road food. The people who wrote the first set of Passover instructions were probably not bakers. They probably didn't know the ways of dough.

In order to make Matzo work you have to be fast. You have to have the very hot oven ready. You have to handle the dough minimally: just enough to be able to roll it out so it is very thin. You have to have something (I used two forks) ready to make the perforations in the top that keep the Matzo flat. You have to pop it in the oven, watch it (listening to the hiss of the steam as it escapes through the holes), and take it out before it burns.

I read that the natural yeasts start doing their work at about eighteen minutes. In our house the natural yeasts in my Prairie Gold white whole wheat flour start doing their thing instantly. I would say that making one sheet of Matzo, including cooking, took about eight minutes.

If I were to go on a family trip through the desert I would certainly want to strap a lot of Matzo to the family camel's back. It is light and rigid because all the water has been cooked out of it. It also doesn't spoil or get moldy. You can have it with hummus (another good road food made of bulk dry ingredients that can be carried by camel) thus avoiding the need to carry plates and eating utensils. [I am fond of the Sephardic tradition of not excluding beans from Passover.]

I documented this morning's Matzo making:

1 comment:

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm feeling inspired!