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Day 356: Matzah baking on an open fire…

For our bread class today we made Ethiopian-style matzah. Ethiopian Jews, like some Sephardic Jews, make a soft matzah that is probably much closer to what the Israelites would have made on their way out of Egypt.

The recipe we used told us to do it on the stove, but after I saw a video of Ethiopian Jews making matzah in Ethiopia I decided that an open fire was much more authentic. I started a fire about an hour before we were to begin baking. I also set our oven thermometer inside the fireplace.

According to our stopwatch, it only took us nine minutes to mix, roll, and bake our matzah. And then we tried some. It tasted just like matzah, only chewy and soft. I think I actually like crunchy matzah better.

We decided to see if there would be a difference in flavour if we let the dough rest for a while after we mixed it (if the Israelites hadn’t been in quite such a rush, would the bread have been different?) In baking terms this is called an autolyze, and it’s supposed to let the gluten develop without too much kneading. The only difference we detected in the second batch was that the dough was pretty wet and difficult to spread out in the pan. When I tasted it I thought that maybe it had a slightly different flavour from the first batch, but nobody else agreed with me. Either I’m a supertaster and they’re not, or I was imagining it.

The kids each took notes in their “Book of Bread” notebooks. Surprise, surprise: K, who abhors writing and will do almost anything to get out of it, diligently wrote down all the particulars, including the fireplace temperature, her observations of the matzah we made, and what we should change for next time. There was no argument; she just did it.

Will there be a next time? Will we be making our own matzah for the seders? Probably not. But it was a cool experiment and a fun way to integrate our Pesach studies with our bread unit. I hadn’t planned for them to coincide, but it’s a serendipitous combination. Next week we’ll learn some of the chemistry behind fermentation, and then after Passover we’ll start a sourdough experiment.

2 thoughts on “Day 356: Matzah baking on an open fire…

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