Fall, Holiday

Matzoh Diaries #1

 will not be satisfied until I master gluten free matzoh.

I’ve had a list of hurdles in the back of my recipe box for years, and with Prince on the radio and a clean apron around my waist I’ve been able to fly past a number of those gates. Biscotti, an easy win. Almond Genoise Cake? Significantly more challenging. As I shaved down the list, one contender remained brooding and defiant in the corner.

Gluten Free Matzoh.

This journey began four months ago. I knew I’d need some help in the biblical department so I called upon my favorite rabbi (don’t we all have one?), Rabbi Deborah Bronstein. While we discussed the challenge she dropped this rabbinical gem: “The gluten free matzoh on the market that is kosher for Passover is oat-I’ve tasted it and if anything is the “bread of affliction” described in the bible, this is it.”

Growing up with the commercially available gluten free oat matzoh, I knew exactly what Rabbi Bronstein meant when she referred to it as the “bread of affliction.” Chalky barely hints at the dessicated texture, but the real offense comes at the checkout line. Gluten free oat moatzoh regularly prices in at $20-25 per box. Passover is all about retelling the story of suffering in exodus, but this seems to take the idea a little too far.

Since I was bouncing between New York and Boulder, Rabbi Bronstein and I conversed through email to hammer out all the rules. Here’s what I knew: All bean and rice flours would be off limits. Sephardic Jews (mostly of Mediterranean ancestry) eat legumes and rice during Pesach, but Ashkenazi Jews (mostly of Easter European descent) do not. I wanted this recipe to work for as many people as possible, so I planed to make something Ashkenazi Kosher.

I ran my list of potential flours by Rabbi Bronstein and she gave most of the alternatives a thumbs-up. The few flours that made the no-no list, however, were devastating. Sorghum and Millet were off limits. I needed some explanation, so Rabbi Bronstein brought in a heavy hitter-Reb. Zalman (even rabbis have favorite rabbis). Here’s what Reb. Zalman had to say about Sorghum: “Sorghum remains in doubt to me since it is a grass, thus related to wheat. Yet what is rice if not a grass? So the question remains, is oneyotze with rice? I think not with Sorghum Matzoh.”

I wanted some clarification on the meaning of yotze from Rabbi Bronstein, so she helped me out with this: “Reb. Zalman asks: Can one be yotze, that is, has one fulfilled the mitzvah of eating matzoh at the seder by eating matzoh made of something unclear which may be related to rice? Reb. Zalman rules no.”

With Sorghum out of bounds I knew I’d be up against a wall when it came to texture. Still, Buckwheat, Tapioca, Arrowroot, Potato Starch, Potato Flour and Quinoa were all safe, so I had plenty of room to play. I thought I was ready to strap on an apron and get in the kitchen when I received one more cryptic rule from Reb. Zalman: “For matzoh to be yotze you will need a grain in the mix…”

I did some research and learned that fulfilling the biblical commandment of eating matzoh during Passover meant that the cracker had to be made from one of five grains: Wheat, Barley, Spelt, Rye or Oat. On that list only one flour is gluten free, and it happens to be my least favorite baking alternative. Oat.

The very thought of oat matzoh conjures a dry mouth and a heavy stomach. But the matzoh didn’t have to be all oat flour, it just needed some in the mix to fulfill the commandment.

I like challenges.
Game. On.