Matzo - Ingredients, Five Species of Chametz, and Preparation

Ingredients, Five Species of Chametz, and Preparation

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 1,653 kJ (395 kcal)
Carbohydrates 83.70 g
Fat 1.40 g
Protein 10.00 g
Water 4.30 g
Vitamin A 0 IU
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.387 mg (34%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.291 mg (24%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 3.892 mg (26%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.443 mg (9%)
Vitamin B6 0.115 mg (9%)
Folate (vit. B9) 17.1 μg (4%)
Vitamin B12 0.00 μg (0%)
Calcium 13 mg (1%)
Iron 3.16 mg (24%)
Magnesium 25 mg (7%)
Manganese 0.650 mg (31%)
Phosphorus 89 mg (13%)
Potassium 112 mg (2%)
Sodium 0 mg (0%)
Zinc 0.68 mg (7%)
Percentages are relative to
US recommendations for adults.

The precise detailed religious requirements for matzah are not universally agreed upon; for example there is disagreement over what grains may be used, whether matzah which is wetted after being baked then becomes chametz or not, and so on. Some observant Jews insist that grain for matzah must be supervised since harvesting—shmurah matzah.

At the Passover seder, it is customary to eat matzah made of flour and water only; matzah containing eggs, wine, or fruit juice in addition to water is not acceptable for use at the seder, although acceptable during the remaining days of the holiday. However, most Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews will not eat this kind of matzah during Passover.

Biblically, five specific species of grain become chametz after wetting. The actual species are not known with certainty, although they would necessarily have been crops that grew in the middle east in Biblical times. When the Bible was translated into European languages, the names of food grains common in Europe were used, some of which were not grown in ancient Israel:

  1. Wheat, חיטה
  2. Barley, שעורה
  3. Spelt, כוסמין
  4. Rye, שיפון, and
  5. Oats (according to Rashi) (or two row barley according to Rambam's interpretation of Mishnah Kil'ayim 1:1; Yerushalmi Challah 1:1), שיבולת שועל

As more accurate historic and botanical evidence comes to light, some scholars today propose that only the 'five grain species' native to the Land of Israel can become chametz. They are:

  1. חיטה - Chittah – durum wheat (T. durum),
  2. שעורה - Se’orah – Two-row barley (Hordeum vulgare), and
  3. כוסמין - Kusmin - emmer wheat (T. dicoccon),
  4. שיפון - Shiphon - einkorn wheat (T. monococcum),
  5. שיבולת שועל - Shibbolet – Six-row barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Bread wheat, spelt, rye and oats did not grow in the Land of Israel in the biblical period, but evolved later in the northern Fertile Crescent and Europe. All grains in the genus of Triticum, such as bread wheat (T. aestivum) or spelt (T. spelta), are forbidden. Oats contains less gluten and belong to a different tribe than wheat, spelt, rye and barley and they may be suitable for some with coeliac disease. Millet and teff are borderline; it takes a few days for them to rise. However, despite this historical information, many authorities clearly say things such as "Chometz: fermented grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye and spelt) are all proscribed on Passover".

Concerning Identification of שיבולת שועל "oats" see חמשת מיני דגן (Clarification: In modern Hebrew כסמת is used for buckwheat, which is not a grain at all.)

Matzah dough is quickly mixed and rolled out without an autolyse step as used for leavened breads. Most forms are pricked with a fork or a similar tool to keep the finished product from puffing up, and the resulting flat piece of dough is cooked at high heat until it develops dark spots, then set aside to cool and, if sufficiently thin, to harden to crispness. Dough made from the five grains is considered to begin the leavening process 18 minutes from the time it gets wet; sooner if eggs, fruit juice, or milk is added to the dough. The entire process of making matzah takes only a few minutes in efficient modern matzah bakeries. Noodles are now made from Passover flour and eggs, as used for egg matzah, then baked under Rabbinical supervision.

After baking, matzah may be ground into fine or coarser crumbs, known as matzah meal, used to make matza balls and added to other foods, such as gefilte fish, instead of flour. Kosher for Passover cakes and cookies are made with matzah meal or a finer variety called "cake meal", which gives them a denser texture than ordinary baked foods made with flour. Very coarse matzo meal is known as matzo farfel.

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