Historeats: Matzoh Brei
The history - Tove
It’s hard to make bread. Especially if you’re going for something like sourdough, which can take up to a week to prepare from scratch. In the last decade, a lot of books have appeared that teach aspiring pioneers how to make bread, can garden-fresh produce, and other thrifty projects that take much longer than a trip to the grocery store. But in the face of all that homemade goodness, there’s another (easier and faster) type of bread that shouldn’t be forgotten. Matzah. And it hasn’t been just for Passover in decades.
For those of us who need a refresher, the story of matzah and Passover also involves people being in a hurry. When the Pharoah freed the Israelites they were in such a rush to get out that they couldn’t wait for their bread to rise. Who wants to wander through the desert without bread? So they made matzah—an unleavened bread (without yeast or other agents that cause dough to “rise”) made with only water and flour. If the two are mixed and left sitting for even 18 minutes, invading yeast bacteria in the air can’t settle down to begin the leavening process. And no one wants airborne bacteria in their matzah.
So every Passover, leavened bread has been forbidden and matzah made in its stead. Until the early 1800s, the flattened bread was made and rolled by hand. With leavened bread, the dough can be made in large quantities and simply sit out until the oven is ready for it but matzah has to get from dough to oven within a short period of time. So the Industrial Revolution came up with a few inventions to help.
And it didn’t take long for others to follow suit. By the mid 1900s, the unleavened bread could be found in most grocery stores and soon became popular with Americans in general. From the original ingredients of water and flour, companies now produce matzahs covered in chocolate, organic and gluten-free varieties, matzahs in various flavors, and more.
The recipe - Natasha
While the perks of Passover (red wine, macaroons, and matzoh-ball soup) outweigh the perils (no bread, no bread, and no bread), one of its low points may be waking up the next morning, tummy full of Manischewitz, and not being able to soak it all up with a delicious plate of challah French toast. But then, on the [insert number]th day, God made Matzoh Brei. The name, fancy as it sounds, literally translates to "fried matzo." (An aside: It makes you wonder why the inventors of french toast couldn't have been more upfront when they named the dish, as it really ought to be "French fried toast.") Eggs, matzoh, hot water, and oil. That's all it is. Top it off with sweet or savory accoutrements, like sugar and cinnamon, honey, jelly, maple syrup, salsa, bruschetta, or pretty much anything else.
-4 pieces of matzoh, broken up into two-inch bits
-1 quart of boiled water
-3 tablespoons of oil, for frying
-4 eggs -salt, pepper, sugar, cinnamon to taste
1. Place matzoh pieces in a plastic strainer in the sink. Pour boiling water over the matzoh, letting the pieces soften.
2. In a large bowl, thoroughly beat four eggs. Add salt and pepper.
3. Add matzoh pieces to egg mixture. Stir and coat all of the pieces.
4. In a large, non-stick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add in matzoh mixture.
5. Cook for three minutes on each side, until golden brown. (Note: Don't worry if you can't successfully flip it without breaking the perfect pancake shape. Odds are high that you'll end up breaking it into imperfect pieces later on anyway. Might as well get a head start.)
6. Serve hot, along with toppings of your choice.