Certain flavors are inextricably tied to their own seasons: a ripe peach in the height of summer, the springtime crunch of a sugar snap pea, a warm fig from a sunny tree branch in early fall. And also, for our family, matzo.
It’s been a year since matzo was last in season, which had given my kids time to get excited about it again. I opened a box this afternoon and handed around crisp cracker shards. There was a moment of crunching, a wrinkled nose, and then a polite verdict: “It’s ok.” You probably won’t be surprised to learn that you can make a much better version of matzo yourself. We got to work right away.
This crisp cracker is welcome year round at our house. It’s good all by itself, but you can make it even more special by topping it with fancy salts and seasonings. One of my favorite adornments for this cracker (for many things, really) is SugarPill’s fennel and nigella salt. I like a generous dusting, which is probably overly salty to most palates if you’re eating the matzo alone—but it’s sublime sandwiching a generous dollop of charoset and horseradish.
Last year, I made a gadget-heavy variation of the recipe below using a food processor, a pasta roller and a pizza stone. You may legitimately query the authenticity of such an approach, given that matzo’s role during Passover is to recall the hard, flat, hand-shaped discs of flour and water that once sustained travelers moving so quickly that they could not wait for bread to rise. But I was already stretching tradition by adding olive oil and salt to my dough, so figured I might as well go all out in the luxury-matzo department by putting a few small appliances to work for me as well.
I’m happy to report that the simple fork-bowl-rolling-pin method below works just as well, however, and will leave you with many fewer dishes to wash.
Olive Oil Matzo
adapted from The New York Times
2 c. flour (you can use half whole wheat flour if you like that sort of thing)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. olive oil
1/2 c. water
Optional toppings: Anything you want, really, but I especially like flaky salt, chopped rosemary, this dukka, and the fennel and nigella salt from SugarPill.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
Combine 2 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/3 c. olive oil in a bowl and mix well with a fork. Gradually add 1/2 c. water while continuing to stir. When the water is mostly mixed in, put the fork aside and knead the dough in the bowl for a minute to bring it together into a ball. (If the mixture is very dry, add another sprinkle of water to form a pliable dough.)
Cut the dough into 12 pieces and roll each piece paper-thin or as close as you can get, flipping the dough over a few times as you go so it doesn’t stick to your work surface. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet. If you like, sprinkle the dough with fennel and nigella salt or other seasonings and pat the topping firmly into the dough. Prick the dough with a fork in a few places before baking.
When your baking sheet is full, put the tray in the hot oven and set a timer for 3 minutes while you continue rolling out more dough. After the first three minutes, flip each piece of dough and bake on the second side for another minute or two. Watch closely; you want the matzo to be just puffed and golden brown (it can burn quickly).
Previous Capitol Hill Cooks Posts
- Sweet Potato Pie inspired by 12th and Madison
- Kale Caesar salad inspired by 14th and Union
- Bake-offs produce whoopie pie winners, cherry pie champions
Capitol Hill Cooks is a home cooking recipe series featuring ingredients, ideas, and recipes from the neighborhood. Have a recipe you think we should share? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Em also writes about home cooking at emmycooks.com, where you’ll find more of her favorite cracker recipes.