[This is a guest post by Jennifer North, Vice President of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.]
Referred to as the “Feast of Unleavened Bread,” the Jewish holiday of Passover is centered around food and conscious eating. Matzo, specifically, is a main staple of the Passover diet and a central symbolic food within the Passover Seder, generally observed the first and second nights of this 8-day holiday. For a commentary relating the spiritual and symbolic basis of Passover to the gluten-free diet, I invite you to read my staff blog on the topic.
This blog post, however, will focus on my review of Yehuda Matzo, a product of Kedem. There are two types of gluten-free matzo available on the market. Introduced several years ago by two companies, oat matzo is extremely expensive. While technically not prohibited during Passover unless it comes into contact with water for more than 18 minutes, grains (including oats) are avoided during Passover unless they are part of a Matzo product that has been manufactured under strict Rabbinic supervision.
Alternatively, Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares are made from potato and tapioca starch. They look, and almost feel, like the wheat-based matzo we grew up with. And at $5-7 per box, they’re affordable.
The downside? The high starch concentration can change the taste and texture. Since regular matzo is made solely with wheat flour and water, there is a very specific flavor and texture, which makes it difficult to mimic. Right out of the box, I found the Yehuda matzo to be smooth to the touch and somewhat brittle. When I took a bite, I could not pinpoint a specific taste and the texture itself was at first crunchy, then generally starchy.
While a perfectly acceptable substitute for matzo at our Seder (and I say this from a personal, not religious perspective), I would not eat this matzo right out of the box. Butter does add a welcome saltiness to the cracker, but cream cheese provides more of a compliment to its blandness.
The real test, however, was whether or not this matzo would hold up when fried. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Passover just isn’t Passover without fried matzo (or matzo brei) for breakfast. Some prefer savory, others salty, fried matzo is a simple breakfast that only my Jewish friends love. And it’s pretty amazing how much variety can be found in a dish that requires you only to soak the matzo in water, add an egg and fry.
I was a little nervous that my matzo would dissolve when soaked in water. But to my surprise, it held up extremely well. As a matter of fact, when I added the egg, I couldn’t tell the difference between this batch of gluten-free matzo and its wheat counterpart. The matzo behaved nicely in the pan, browning perfectly in 3-5 minutes.
I prefer my fried matzo savory, so I added salt and dug in. As I suspected during preparation, the matzo held the egg very nicely. The butter, egg and salt provided enough flavor to counteract the lack of flavor in the matzo cracker itself.
Depending on your cooking time and method, fried matzo can be mushy. This matzo was no exception. In the areas where I was able to get thin layer of matzo and a hard fry, the matzo was slightly crunchy and held up well. Where I allowed areas of the dish to fry in larger clumps, the matzo cracker did become mushy and the egg and starch mix was a little overpowering.
In seeing the package and the similar size, shape and texture to regular matzo, I did get nervous about the company’s manufacturing practices. In contacting Kedem, I learned that while the matzo is not made in a dedicated facility, the company did test the product to ensure customer safety.
All in all, I give Yehuda Gluten-Free Matzo-Style Squares a thumbs up.