This is the second installment in our series The Remix, in which we seek to gently rework the more challenging dishes in the Jewish culinary canon. With a little bit of love, we’re convinced we can make any dish delicious, even ones seem bizarre to the modern palate.
Matzah, of course, is a cracker, but a strange one. When I ask my friends who aren’t Jewish if they like matzah, the answer is a resounding yes. My Jewish friends are more mixed. 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.” All righty, then! More than one respondent summed it up this way: Matzah is crumbly, hard to digest, bland, bitter 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 even bragged in its ads that “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 (http://vermatzah.com/) is trying to bring the artisanal back into matzah making. She thinks 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 good when it’s part of a recipe, most agree. Lots of us love matzah brei (matzah fried with egg), chocolate-covered matzah and, of course, matzah balls, which open up a whole other chance to debate: Are swimmers really better than sinkers? Should one seltzer water for lightness? (I say nay.) Should one 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 the shape, and the matzah. They’ve also got rich, dark chocolate along with the crunch of matzah; a touch of sea salt and a sweet glaze made with Manischewitz wine.
Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Matzah Truffles with Manischewitz Glaze
Makes: 25-30 truffles
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
5 ounces (about ¾ cup) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
¼ cup butter, at room temperature
1 piece matzah, roughly chopped into small pieces
1 ½ cups kosher for Passover powdered sugar
3 tbs. Manischewitz wine (or to taste)
Put heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring to a simmer and add chocolate.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and mix with a whisk until chocolate is incorporated.
Then whisk in butter until melted. Mix in matzah pieces and chill for 1 hour or until mixture is hard. Can make up to one day in advance.
While chocolate is hardening, make glaze by mixing powdered sugar and Manischewitz. The glaze should be loose enough to drizzle but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Use a teaspoon or melon baller to create round truffles. Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with glaze! Let glaze harden and serve. Can be made one day in advance and stored in the refrigerator, or up to a week if you wait to drizzle the glaze no more than a day before serving.