A Love Letter To Matzo: Why The Holey Cracker Is A Crunch Above | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

A Love Letter To Matzo: Why The Holey Cracker Is A Crunch Above

Play associated audio

Passover is nearly upon us. And for many observers of the Jewish faith, that means saying goodbye to leavened bread.

In the place of leavened bread comes what many Jews call the "bread of affliction," or matzo. Passover commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. And as the Biblical narrative goes, they had to leave in such a hurry that they couldn't wait for their bread to rise.

So the matzo at Passover is symbolic. But the plain, dry crackers tend to get a bad rap for their taste (or lack thereof).

But to Dan Pashman, host of a food podcast and blog called The Sporkful, the simple matzo cracker is a culinary marvel.

"In a typical cracker you kind of have one or two options," he says. "Either a cracker that will be crunchy but it will also be very oily and salty."

Or, he says, "The other option is your table water cracker, which is plain in flavor, but very flimsy. it lacks structural integrity, it doesn't have very much crunch."

Matzo is the best of both worlds — they're plain in flavor, and they're wonderfully crunchy. "It's like a blank canvas," Pashman says. And you can load them up with any number of toppings.

Curious about what gives matzo its characteristic crunch, Pashman also visited the largest producer of kosher goods in the U.S., the Manischewitz factory in Newark, N.J.

One of the things that makes matzo special is the way it is charred. "And the degree of charring sets different matzos apart from each other."

And there's another thing that puts matzo crackers a crunch above the rest: lots and lots of holes. "There's a lot of science behind those holes," Pashman says.

When you bake crackers, the water in the dough turns into steam, expands and creates bubbles that pull the layers of the dough apart. "Those holes act like staples to hold the dough together," Pashman says. So the more holes a cracker has, the denser it will turn out.

The holes are also where science intersects with religion. "The rabbinical inspectors, who make sure the matzo is Kosher when it comes off the assembly line, they break it along those holes... and then against the grain, to make sure cooked through so they can make sure it's not longer leavening."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

The Technology Of Books Has Changed, But Bookstores Are Hanging In

The debate over whether digital books are better continues. But in the age of Amazon, the number of independent booksellers is up. The revival is fueled, at least in part, by digital natives.
NPR

Bugs: Not What's For Dinner — Until They're Tastier, Maybe

A U.K. researcher says the environmental argument for eating bugs isn't working on its own. She says chefs and policymakers must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."
NPR

Nebraska Lawmakers Override Veto; Abolish Death Penalty

Nebraska's governor had tried to veto a bill repealing the death penalty but the one-house legislature overrode the veto. Nebraska has executed only three prisoners since the 1950s, the last in 1997.
NPR

The Technology Of Books Has Changed, But Bookstores Are Hanging In

The debate over whether digital books are better continues. But in the age of Amazon, the number of independent booksellers is up. The revival is fueled, at least in part, by digital natives.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.