Matzo

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Crisp kosher crackers taste like Passover

Matzo, a thin, often square, perforated cracker, is the symbolic food of the Passover table. When the Jews left ancient Egypt, they fled without letting the bread rise. During the eight days of Passover, which begins on Monday night, no foods with leavening are allowed on the table.

Today’s choices for matzo are wide ranging, not just the plain unsalted variety once available. Matzo flavored with egg, onion, and salt are on many supermarket shelves. When six tasters gathered to sample the plain kind, they were surprised by the number of brands available, baked both in the United States and in Israel.

Most matzo is machine made and costs just a few dollars for a 1-pound box. The handmade variety, shmura (or shmuroh) matzo, which used to be sold only in kosher markets and is now also on some supermarket shelves, costs $20 for a 1-pound box. Some people like to use these circular rustic matzo during the Seder.

One brand made in Boro Park in Brooklyn, N.Y., was beautiful to look at. “This looks religious,” said one taster. Another brand, from Israel, was burnt and broken. Our tasters didn’t go for the very dry texture of either. This group was surprised to discover that they couldn’t identify the brands they grew up with. Machine made Aviv (which means spring in Hebrew), imported from Israel, was the winner. “It tastes like Passover,” someone said.

Manischewitz Passover Matzos Sodium Free
$1.99 for 1-pound box

Many folks grew up with this brand on their table. But nostalgia didn’t seem to matter. “More baked flavor. Stuck to teeth more.” “Color not so attractive, no taste at all.” Another: “Tasteless, sawdust.” “Tastes like cardboard; even drier than others, if that’s possible.” “Blah. Not for me. It’s probably the brand I use!”

Hand Shmura Matzoh Boro Park Shmura Matzoh Bakery
Brooklyn, N.Y.
$19.99 for 1-pound box

The large white box with blue lettering is striking. The appearance of these round crackers got a lot of attention, as did the texture. “Interesting shape, good color, more crackery, no flavor.” “Looks like whole wheat, possibly Shmura matzoh, thin and dark. Doesn’t taste as different as it looks. More dense.” “Much denser and crispier. I like the shape. Don’t think I could eat it for a whole week!” Another: “Artisan appearance, attractive, and distinctive. Very crispy and dense. Charred taste, no particular flavor.” “Tastes like a cracker, not matzo. Dense, not too bad flavor.” Finally, “thinnest and crispiest. No distinct flavor. Burnt on the ends.”

Matzoh Shmuroh Handmade Shmuroh Matzoh for the Seder Night
Made in Israel
$19.99 for 1-pound box

Upon opening this very large, pretty box we found broken and burnt matzo. The least favorite for many. “Round like the other one, however, this is over-baked. Tastes bad. Actually has bad flavor.” “Looks and tastes a little burnt.” “Another artisanal matzoh. Bubbly and polka dotted. Charred taste.” “Very burnt appearance, burnt taste, not flat.” “Good crunch and color. Burnt tasting, not much flavor.”

Aviv Passover Matzos Winner
Made in Israel
$1.50 for 1-pound box

“I like this the best – plain, dry, and crisp. It tastes like the matzo I grew up with,” said one. (It wasn’t.) “Traditional, basic flavor, not too crisp.” Yet another: “Crisp – not bad! Reasonable flavor.” “Nice crunch, mild flavor, good color.” “Very familiar tasting, not too dry.”

Streit’s Passover Matzos
$2.29 for a 1-pound box

Another very familiar brand. Two people chose this as their favorite. “Crunchier, quite dry, nuttier?” “Thicker. Somewhat tastier than the others.” “Standard plain matzo. Not much flavor.” “Good crunch, good color.” Another taster: “Looks dark, tastes dryer, more brittle and has a hint of flavor.” “Crisp, slightly bitter.”

ehuda Matzos
Made in Israel
$1.50 for 1-pound box

The tasters commented on the appearance first. “Best color, very light, not quite as good flavor as others, but almost.” “More baked appearance and darker. Somehow less flavorful.” “Looks a little overdone, tastes overdone, not good.” “Different than the others, but not the one I’d choose.” “Charred appearance, burnt taste dominates flavor.”

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