Monday, April 25, 2016

Making the Matza

Last weel I participated in a women's matza baking at the yeshiva near our house.  What an interesting experience--sort of like a Model Matza Factory but WAY more intense.  To start, only boys and girls one year post bar-/bat mitzvah were allowed to participate because, said the supervising rabbi, "this is not a joke.  You've got to be mature to do this right".  Younger kids were allowed to help, though, in things like washing equipment.

To begin, all rings, watches and bracelets were removed and gloves donned.  As we said out loud "l'shem matzo mitzvos" (for the sake of the mitzvah of matza) and three electronic timers were synchronized to 18 minutes (beat the clock.  If you don't, your matza is chametz and not fit for use during Pesach), water from a local river was added to flour that had been watched since the time of the harvest  We watched as a "matza pro" (seriously, his finished matzos were things of beauty.  Unlike, say, mine) mixed them together.  As the rabbi noted, this was very different than mixing something like challah dough, as there is an extremely small amount of water added to the flour, so getting a dough is much more of a challenge.

Love the gloves!  Reminded me of those stories James Herriot wrote about being a country vet....
All photos in the blog today are from

Then on the finner, which was like an extraordinarily heavy metal rolling pin attached at one end to a small metal table.  The dough was pounded with the finner, while constantly being folded and re-folded by a helper who was veeery careful of his fingers.  I took a try at finning (or whatever the word is) and found it very similar to performing CPR (which, thank Gd, I have never had to do "for real"): you have to put your whole body into it, it's hardest on your arms and, in about two minutes, you are quite ready for the next person to step in and take your place....
I recognize my elbow!  That's me finning!

Next on to the rolling.  I think this is where we women thought we'd shine.  It was a LOT harder than we/I anticipated, though.  The dough tears easily and get little folds in it that mess it up when it gets in the oven and make it chametz.  All the while (from the beginning of the process) the dough must be kept in constant motion, as when it stops moving it can start rising.

we are poised to grab the dough and start rolling!  
The last process before baking is "redling", where the dough gets perforated with rollers that make little holes in it (I once tried to buy one to use in making my "matza soaps" but couldn't convince any Model Matza Factory rabbis to sell me one :)).  Baking is done in a super hot oven, this one built from scratch with bricks and a propane tank.

The matzas get laid over a long stick that's covered with paper and rolled over into the oven so that the matzas roll off onto the oven floor.  The stick is then thrown on the ground, to be picked up by the kids who remove the paper and recover it.

Faster, faster!  Once, my dough just made it into the oven when the timer went off.  So I learned that just making it into the oven is enough before the 18 minutes is up 
Every single thing used gets cleaned before being used again.  Gloves used only once.  All paper covering the work areas is changed between rounds.  We did four rounds, which took 2.5 hours.  I understand better the high price of shmura matza: it was very labor intensive (I didn't sit down for the entire time) as well as a spiritually-intense procedure.

Delightedly, we had three complete pieces in the box I took home and those were the matzas at our Seder (boy, is it weird to write that in singular, not plural; Only one Seder now that we live in Israel!).  The matzas were light and tasty and I am glad that I had the experience.

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