Passover has passed, and gluten-loving Jews everywhere are back in business. The past eight days of chametz-free existence, a week also marked by my daily attendance in Main Stacks, no less, has been nothing short of what the ancient Hebrews might have called “balegan.” This loosely translates to “absolute craziness,” or, depending on the context, an utter shitshow. I believe it was the wise Jewish scholar, Drake, who once said, “If you’re reading this, I hope your head is in a bucket of bread.” In case you were wondering, I’m eating an entire baguette as we speak.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about or why I took a hiatus from bread, I’ll give you a brief rundown. Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday that commemorates the Jewish liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt and celebrates the coming of spring, ended this past Saturday. Passover, or Pesach, is observed with Seder meals that include four cups of wine, eating matzah, bitter herbs and a delicious walnut-apple spread, and retelling the story of the Exodus. As the ancient story goes, the Jews were fleeing in such haste that they didn’t have time to let the bread dough rise, resulting in a thin, unleavened cracker — matzah. During the eight-day festival, Jews are forbidden from consuming leavened bread, or chametz, in remembrance of the miracle of freedom. The only bread product allowed during the celebration is matzah, an extremely dry, relatively flavorless, cardboard-like square cracker straight outta bland land.
If you couldn’t tell, I don’t particularly love matzah. That said, I also don’t particularly love wasting food. What’s a girl to do?! As much as I want those last few matzah sheets gone with the wind, I’ve challenged myself to come up with a few final creative ways to power through the last bits of my final box of matzah. This year, I finished off my last of this semi-stale sadness with matzah nachos and chilaquiles (replacing tortilla chips with broken-up pieces of matzah), as a bread placeholder on a Friday night charcuterie board and as garlic “croutons” in a kale caesar salad. Just drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with minced garlic, salt, pepper and pop in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until golden and crisp.
At the end of the day, though, my favorite matzah recipe is my friend Rachel’s matzah brittle/chocolate bark/crack. While everyone and their mother has some sort of version of this dessert, Rach’s is honestly just better. And probably easier. This year, instead of throwing out the remnants of your unleavened past (eight days), I challenge you to recycle that stale matzah and create something utterly delicious. Call me mashugana, Yiddish for crazy, but with the right treatment, enough seasoning or, in the case of the following “recipe,” a shit-ton of butter, sugar and chocolate, matzah can become incredibly bearable… even AFTER Passover!
Recipe: Salted caramel matzah brittle
Total time: 20 minutes | Yield: 4-6 pieces
4-6 pieces of matzah (or however much you have left)
1½ sticks unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ cup dark chocolate chips or about 1 dark chocolate bar coarsely chopped
Sea salt to finish
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a sheet pan completely with parchment paper, as this recipe has a tendency to get messy. Line matzah pieces, breaking some pieces to fill extra spaces so that the entire sheet pan is covered with crackers.
In a saucepan, combine the butter and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about two to four minutes). Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly until the sugar completely dissolves. Watch carefully, as the mixture burns very easily. Remove from the heat and spread on the matzah, covering completely. Note: Hot sugar is very hot!
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning. If it seems to be browning too quickly or you start to smell burnt sugar, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325 degrees, and replace the pan.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let it stand for a few minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzah. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, then break into squares or odd shapes.
Finally, put the matzah in the pan in the freezer to chill until set. Enjoy!
Contact Natalie Abber at [email protected].