Last night, for the first time in my life, I baked kosher Matzah that I can actually put on my Passover Seder Plate and use for the Pessach Seder for real. Not only was it fun, it tastes better and is a lot cheaper than buying handmade stuff from the supermarket. I did it with a Rabbi friend of mine who showed me how it’s done. What I learned, besides the actual process of doing the actual matzah baking, is that despite how daunting it is because there’s so much that can go wrong, there really is nothing to fear as long as you’re quick and mentally focused. Things like this are among the last genuine oral Torah or Torah Shebe’al Peh, that we have left.
You start with special kosher for Passover flour. This you can’t get at any supermarket. This is not simply matzah meal, which is basically matzah that has been crushed and reconstituted into flour. This is flour that has been watched from the moment the grain was cut from the stalk. In Hebrew, this is called “Shmurah Mish’at Ha’Kzirah” or in English, guarded from the time of reaping. At the point the grain is cut, no water can come into contact with it. Once water hits it, the process of leavening automatically starts, at which point you have 18 minutes to get it in the oven.
This flour is simple to get in Israel, but if you’re in America, you’ll have some trouble, and will probably have to go to a very Jewish neighborhood, say, Williamsburg or something, to find any. Or you can always start your own wheat field and reap it and thresh it and grind it yourself all the while making sure no water hits it, but there are some logistical and zoning challenges to doing this.
But assuming you can get your hands on some shmurah matzah flour, what you’ll need is
1) Water drawn from a well at dusk time (the reasons are complicated)
2) Metal rolling pins
3) A hole maker
4) Two or more electric saucer-sized ovens
You can’t do this yourself. You’ll need one kneader, 2 or 3 rollers, and 2 oven watchers. From the moment you begin, you have to keep in mind that the Matzah you are making is specifically for the purpose of the Mitzvah, or commandment, of eating it on Passover Seder night. To this effect, you say the following 3 words before the water hits the flour, “Leshem Matzat Mitzvah,” for the sake of the mitzvah of matzah. Once the water hits, you set your stop watch to 18 minutes, and the dough has to be continuously worked without stopping. It cannot sit around, or leavening will happen.
The kneader hands over balls of dough to the rollers, who roll it as thin as possible, poke holes in it, and hand it to the oven people. Baking time is about 1 minute. Any pieces of dough left over from one matzah to the next must be brushed aside since they have been sitting around and may be leaven.
Once 18 minutes hit, any matzah dough that is not yet in the oven cannot be used for Matzah.
At the end of the round, everything must be scrubbed and washed off and any signs of dough eliminated, and you can begin another round of 18 minute matzah baking.