For years, like so many others, I drizzled chocolate over matzo for my children at Passover, so I was no stranger to matzo treats. But somehow I missed the creation of caramel mazzo crunch, also called “mazzo butter crunch” or “mazzo brittle,” many incarnations of which can be found in cookbooks, blogs, and websites. Sometimes the provenance is recognized, but mostly not.
As the food detective that I am, I thought I’d set the record straight. The earliest recipe I could find is by Marcy Goldman, author of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, first published in 1998. In the book, she includes a recipe she calls “My Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Caramel Matzoh Crunch.” ”
In 1986, Goldman was looking for a Passover dessert for newspapers in the United States and Canada and spotted a recipe for Easy Toffee Bars in a 1978 issue of Elise W. Manning’s Farm Journal’s Choice Chocolate Recipes. In it, they used salt crackers as the base for the treats.
“One lightbulb went out,” Goldman, 67, said via Zoom from her Montreal home. “If you could use saltines, why not swap them out for matzo?”
She did just that, and the recipe took off from there.
Occasional guests have brought Goldman’s Crunch to my Passover Seder, never straying too far from the original.
This year, however, I updated her recipe: I added a peanut topping and swapped out the chocolate for high-protein peanut butter. The crunchy peanuts and a dash of fleur de sel counteract the sweetness of the caramel, which acts as a binding agent.
While many Sephardic Jews have long considered peanuts kosher for Passover, most Ashkenazi Jews have avoided them during the holiday. But the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinical arm of the conservative movement, has deemed it acceptable to consume them during Passover. (This change was not observed by the Orthodox.)
And if you can’t find kosher Passover peanut butter like Shneider’s, you can try this treat with other nut butters like almond or cashew, or even tahini with a sprinkling of halvah. The recipe is versatile and wrapped in a tin makes a tasty gift for the Seder host. But beware: This candy takes a lot of getting used to.
I asked Goldman what she thought of all the variations on her recipe.
“It’s gotten around so much that I’m OK with it now,” she said. “I think for the person who can’t cook or bake, being the one who brings the matzo butter crunch saves them.”
Recipe: Matzo brittle with salted peanuts and caramel
Recipe by Marcy Goldman
Adapted by Joan Nathan
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Total time: 30 minutes, plus cooling
4 square matzo
1 cup/227 grams unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 cup/220 grams tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup/200 grams smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup/105 grams roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a rimmed 11 x 17 or 12 x 18 inch baking sheet with parchment paper covering the pan and extending down the sides.
2. Place 2 matzo squares in the pan, positioning the concave side up to best hold the caramel. Then, like a jigsaw puzzle, place the remaining matzo on the baking sheet, carefully breaking pieces to fill the entire baking pan in one layer. (Don’t worry if they aren’t perfect; the brittle will be cut up later.)
3. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils, about 6 minutes. Cook until very bubbly, 2 to 3 more minutes, then remove from heat and pour over the matzo, completely covering it. Working quickly, spread the caramel out with a heatproof spatula, then spoon it on as it spills between the cracks in the matzo.
4. Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure not to burn the edges and top.
5. Once the matzo is almost done baking, heat the peanut butter in a microwave until slightly warmed and easily pourable, on high, about 20-30 seconds.
6. Remove the matzo from the oven and drizzle over the heated peanut butter, then sprinkle with the peanuts and then the salt. Allow to cool, break into pieces, then place in a container with a lid. Brittle is at its best – and snappiest – when chilled. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes until the peanut butter sets. Brittle keeps frozen for up to 1 month; Let it thaw for about 10 minutes before serving.