The finished truffles. Photo courtesy of Amy Kritzer
active: 15 min
total: 1 hr 15 min
This is the second installment of our new series "The Remix" in which we seek to gently tweak the more challenging dishes in the Jewish culinary cannon. With a little bit of love, we’re convinced we can make even these dishes delicious, even the ones that seem bizarre to the modern palate.
Matzah, of course, is a cracker, but a strange one. When I ask my non-Jewish friends if they like matzah, the answer is a resounding yes. But my Jewish friends are more divided. Responses from an informal Facebook poll ranged from “I love it! I eat it all year long!” to “Yes, with butter, egg salad, charoset, lox or honey,” to, ahem, “My digestive system hates it. I prefer to be regular.” Alrighty then! More than one respondent called matzah out for being crumbly, hard to digest, bland, and messy.
But maybe the bread of affliction is supposed to afflict you. After all, we eat matzah because when Moses and the Israelites fled slavery in Egypt, they left so fast they didn’t have time for their bread to rise. The matzah is a symbol of struggle; its unappealing qualities remind us of our hardship.
For years, matzah was carefully crafted by hand, with Rabbis closely monitoring it to make sure it went from dough to cracker in no more than 18 minutes, when the leavening process is thought to start.
Then, in 1888, Lithuanian immigrant Dov Behr, founder of Manischewitz, opened the first matzah factory in Cincinnati. The company’s ads even bragged, “No human hand touches these matzos!” Matzah went from round and bumpy to square and uniform. The factories brought matzah to the mass market and made it more affordable.
Julie Sperling, co-founder of the handmade matzah brand Vermatzah, is trying to bring an artisanal touch back into matzah making. She believes that all that automation has hurt the flavor.
“Most matzah is made using industrially produced wheat, which leaves it tasting bland,” she said. She prefers local ingredients, which give the matzah a more interesting flavor.
But even your big-box matzah is better as part of a recipe, most agree. Lots of us love matzah brei, chocolate-covered matzah and, of course, matzah balls, which open up the whole sinkers versus swimmers argument. (Team sinker!) We also chew over whether one should add seltzer water for lightness (I say nay), and if we should put in tons of vegetables or leave the broth plain. As a people, we may never reach one conclusion.
But we do know that chocolate improves everything, even matzah balls. Of course, the only thing these truffles have in common with traditional savory matzah balls is their shape, and the matzah. They’ve also got rich, dark chocolate with crunchy matzah, a touch of sea salt and a sweet glaze made with Manischewitz wine. Your seders may never be the same.