THE BLOG

Passover Rolls: Unleavened Treats

04/09/2014 03:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2014

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.

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My recipe comes from my Grandma Stella, who passed it down to my mom. 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.

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 a pre-computer, pre-cell phone, pre-email recipe notebook, and it has stayed with me ever since. Many of the recipes in the notebook would make you laugh or gag, but this one is a keeper.

Before the holiday, I make dozens of these rolls. We eat them during the Seder, give some to Seder guests to take home, and enjoy them throughout the week of Passover. I think my record is 12 dozen. That may sound crazy, but once you get into a groove with music blaring and your hands full of matzo meal dough, it's easy to keep going.

To me, it seems counter-intuitive that you can eat a roll during a holiday when you are not supposed to eat any leavened bread. 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. I think of them as little miracles - transforming matzo meal into something edible and even wonderful.

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. 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. P.S.: You don't have to be Jewish, or celebrate Passover, to enjoy them. No matter what your background or reason for making them, it's hard to eat just one.

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. 

Breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner -- they hit the spot just about any time. Speaking of butter, I tried an experiment, 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

Ingredients (Except for matzo meal, you probably already have the other ingredients.)

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  • 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.)

Also, you'll need 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable oil (any kind -- canola, corn, olive or any combination) -- just enough to oil your hands when forming the rolls.

Equipment (Nothing fancy or obscure about this equipment.)

  • Bowl
  • Measuring cups -- liquid and dry measure cups
  • Measuring spoons (teaspoon and tablespoon)
  • Large fork for mixing
  • Small pot
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment
  • Wire rack for cooling

Preparation

For step-by-step directions, including photographs, click here.