Just as Marcel Proust had his madeleines, I have Passover rolls. The sense memories that come flooding back as the aroma of freshly cooked rolls wafts through the house take me into Passover as no other food, preparation, or ritual can do. My recipe comes from my Grandma Stella. I think she probably got it from the back of a matzo meal box back in the day. My mom made them too. Now I carry on the tradition. I no longer have my grandmother's copy of the recipe, but the well-loved one that I use went off with me to college in 1970. In a pre-computer, pre-cell phone, pre-email recipe notebook, it has stayed with me ever since. I don't have videos of my grandmother, but if I close my eyes when the rolls are in the oven, I can see her moving from countertop to oven to table, smiling.
When Passover comes, I make dozens of them for the Seder, we give some to Seder guests to take home, and we eat them throughout the week of Passover. I think my record was 12 dozen one year. This year I have only made six dozen so far.
It seems counter-intuitive, that during a holiday when you are not supposed to eat any leavened bread, you can eat a roll. But these rolls are special. No yeast, baking soda, or baking powder helps them to rise. They are really Passover Popovers – just eggs and air puff them up. But for some reason, we called them rolls. I think of them as little miracles - transforming matzo meal into something edible and even wonderful. These rolls save us from the tedium and negative characteristics of matzo.
I'm not one to badmouth food of any type under normal circumstances, but it's hard for me not to see matzo as a plague. Think about it - we are required to substitute it for great sourdough bread, it tastes like cardboard or building material, and it tends to break when you try to put something like peanut butter or jam on it to make it edible. Now, what is there to like about such a food?
Passover rolls come to the rescue. They are simple to make, taste delicious, freeze well, and unlike “regular” rolls and bread, which get mushy if you microwave them, Passover rolls can be re-heated in the microwave. You don't have to be Jewish, or celebrate Passover, to enjoy them.
I prefer my Passover rolls warm and a bit soft in the middle. I don’t understand the food chemistry reasons, but they maintain their shape, texture and taste if you microwave them for 30 seconds at medium-high. You can re-heat them in a toaster oven too (on the oven setting), but I’m usually too impatient to do that. I’ve been known to eat them just as they are, but they are also great with butter or jam, with a bit of cheddar or other “hard” cheese, and they are wonderful with anything that has gravy they can soak up.
Speaking of butter, I tried an experiment this year – substituting butter for margarine in the recipe. Neither my favorite taste tester nor I could tell the difference between the batch made with margarine and the one made with butter. Maybe I should re-think my “butter always, no margarine” baking policy?
Passover rolls – 12 rolls
Estimated Cost - $3.18 a dozen/$.27 each
- 2 cups matzo meal
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) margarine
- 4 eggs at room temperature (After taking them from refrigerator, you can leave them in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes to bring them to room temperature.)
- 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (any kind – canola, corn, olive or any combination) – just enough to oil your hands when forming the rolls
Wire rack for cooling rolls after they bake."
- Measuring cups – liquid and dry measure cups
- Measuring spoons (teaspoon and tablespoon)
- Large fork for mixing
- Small pot
- Cookie sheet
- Wire rack for cooling
- Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine the matzo meal, sugar and salt into a medium size bowl. You do not have to sift or do anything special to these three ingredients. Just stir the sugar, salt and matzo meal so they are well combined.
- Put the water and the margarine in a small pot. Bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat. The margarine will melt as water heats. You may have to stir the last bit of margarine to dissolve it completely. Be careful not to let the water/melted margarine boil over the pot, as it is a mess to clean up if you are inattentive. Believe me, I know that from experience.
- Pour the water/margarine liquid into the bowl with the matzo meal/sugar/salt. Mix those ingredients with a fork. The liquid will start out on top and as you mix the ingredients together, the mixture will become a rather dry-looking batter.
- Crack the eggs one at a time into the bowl, mixing after each one. The mixture gets stickier as you add eggs. When you have added all four eggs and mixed, let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes. The “rest time” is essential – do not rush it or skip this step.
- Line the bottom of a cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you do not have a large cookie sheet, use two small ones and put 6 rolls on each. The rolls need about 2 inches between them in order to bake properly.
- After the batter has rested, make sure your hands are clean and then dip them into a small bowl containing a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Your hands need to be greasy, so that the batter will not stick to them as you form the rolls.
- Take a handful of dough and form it into a ball. The amount should be somewhere between a golf ball and a baseball. Put the ball onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Repeat for 12 rolls.
- Bake the sheet of rolls for 45-50 minutes in the middle rack of the oven, until they are golden brown and slightly puffed.
- Cool the rolls for a few minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove them to a cooling rack.
|2 cups matzo meal (approx. 9 ounces by weight)||$1.71||$2.99 for 16 oz./ $.19 oz|
|1 tablespoon sugar||$0.03||$1.99 for 2 lb./$.06 oz|
|1 teaspoon salt||$0.00||$.69 for 26 oz/$.03 oz|
|1 cup water||$0.00||priceless|
|1 stick (8 tablespoons) margarine||$0.40||$1.59 for 1 lb./$.40 stick|
|4 eggs||$0.76||$2.19 dozen/$.19 each|
|few tablespoons oil||$0.28||$3.39 for 24 oz./$.14 oz|