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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ÁCIMO, CENCEÑO, PAN ÁCIMO - MAKING MATZAH THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY

Shmurah Matzoh
(From the time the grain is harvest it is supervised to prevent fermentation. 
Handmade Shmurah Matzoh is eaten on the first night of Passover)
Photo By: failedmessiah.typepad.com
Sp Heb mása, Heb. matza(h), mazoth, Eng. matzah, matzo, matzoh, matza, unleavened, flat bread eaten during Pesakh (Passover). It was made with white flour and cold water. Egg and olive oil could be added. Avenzoar thought it had a noxious, heavy, phlegmatic humor difficult to digest and he maintained that it produced vulgar humors. He recommended it for those who performed heavy labor. The working class in Al-Andalus ate it. It was baked in tannur ovens. In northern Europe, slices of one-day old bread were used as trenchers instead of plates. Each eater or two eaters, depending if trenchers were shared or not, received a new slice with every course of the meal. They were piled up between eaters. At the end of the meal, trenchers were not thrown out but given to the poor. See cenceño, rebanada and tajadero. [Aguilera. 2002:95; Ares. “Comidas.” 1994:124; Benavides-Barajas. Nueva Clássica. 1995:36; ES: Castro. “de Nuevo.” 1999-2000; ES: “Gastronomía.” May 2, 03; Gitlitz. 1999:286-287; Ibn Razín/Marín. 2007:77-79; and Ibn Zuhr/García Sánchez. 1992:46]

MAKING MATZAH THE OLD-FASIONED WAY
from ES: Jewish Federations of North America. Israel and Overseas - Sep 20, 11

“Many Jews have the custom to eat shmura matzah at the Passover seder. Shmura comes from the Hebrew root which means "to guard" and denotes the fact that the entire process of making thematzah is carefully supervised from the moment the grain is harvested until the finished matzahs are packaged. Hand-made shmura matzah is big and round, resembling the matzah the children of Israel made when they were freed from bondage in Egypt.

“The process of making shmura matzah is fast-paced and labor-intensive. 
   
1. Wheat is harvested from a carefully selected field. From the moment the wheat is harvested until it is ground and brought to a special shmura matza bakery, it is carefully guarded to ensure it does not come into contact with any moisture.
2. Fresh spring water, specially drawn from a well, is added to flour in a large mixing bowl. The dough is thoroughly kneaded, until every last bit of flour is absorbed into the mixture.
The instant the water is added to the flour a clock goes on. According to the Talmud the leavening process begins after water and flour have been in contact for 18 minutes, thus the entire process of making matzah, from the moment the water is added to the flour until the matzah is taken out of the oven, must be completed in 18 minutes.
3. As soon as the dough is the perfect texture, it is divided into equal portions and distributed to workers who roll it into thin circles. Both the rolling pins and the workers' hands must be thoroughly cleaned and inspected in between each 18-minute round of baking.
4. The flat dough circles are perforated with a special roller that makes holes all over the dough. The tiny holes prevent air bubbles from getting trapped inside the matzahs, which could cause them to puff up.
Matzah dough on stick going into...
Photo by: ShimonSandler
5. With only a few minutes left to go, the dough is hung over long, smooth poles and brought to a special brick oven that is used only for baking matzah.
6. The person who works at the oven -- called the "zetser" -- quickly lays the matzahs on the oven floor by turning the pole with a twist of the wrist. This job requires extreme skill, as it takes only about 30 seconds for the matzahs to bake in the 900 Fahrenheit heat of the oven floor.
Putting Matzah in the oven
Photo by: yossi05


7. The freshly baked matzahs are gently removed from the oven using a long-handled paddle, similar to those used in pizza shops, and laid on a table to cool.  Care is taken so as to ensure that they do not break, as only whole matzahs can be used at the seder.”

2 comments:

  1. This way of eating using a slice of flat bread is still in use in the Mancha, to eat the "gazpacho manchego" (nothing to do with gazpacho andaluz, as manchego is a sort of hot potage with rabbit and other meats in). In Italy, this kind of bread is called "carta da musica" due to its thinness.

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  2. Traditionally the first or second Saturday in September, Valencian/Alicantine gazpacho was prepared for the entire family on my husband’s family estate in southern Valencia. Village women came especially to make the bread and bake it in the bread ovens at the overseer’s house, next door to the main house. It is an art that unfortunately is being lost as my in-laws explain that medieval bread ovens are necessary. (The entire family is now well over 100 persons.) The estate was sold this year.

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