By Sara Trappler-Spielman
Most matzah today is made from genetically modified wheat, so to get a taste of our ancestors original matzah, lets try some authentic natural organic whole wheat matzah that is ground by the ancient millstone method.
Wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye are the five grains that become forbidden as chametz when they ferment, which may occur rapidly in extreme heat.
Flour contains starch, gluten, natural sugars, bacteria and yeast cells. When water mixes with flour, the yeast cells obtain energy from the natural sugars, turning it into carbon dioxide, which then dissolves in the water phase of the dough until saturation is reached and is then trapped in the gluten, causing the dough to rise.
Grain generally ferments in 18 minutes, but this may vary depending on room temperature and the strength of water used. In order for matzah to be kosher for Passover, grains must be harvested and the flour kneaded under scrupulous supervision and the matzah processed without interruption.
The water and flour, kept in separate booths, are mixed into a bowl. Most bakeries bake matzah in 18-minute cycles to prevent chometz from occurring. Chicagos Shmura Matzah Factory follows a stricter 17-minute cycle.
A cycle begins the moment flour meets water until the last batch of matzah is pulled out of the oven 17 minutes later. The average roller makes 10-12 matzahs per cycle and there are 18-23 rollers producing 25-30 pounds of matzah every cycle.
After 17 minutes, each rolling pin from the past cycle is cleaned and the paper on the tables is changed before beginning the next cycle. Two specially designed raidels perforate and create the holes in the matzah. One raidel is cleaned while the other is being used, so each cycle uses a different perforator. The bakers dispose of all their plastic gloves and aprons after each cycle to prevent any trace of chametz.
Why Is This Matzah Different?
Chicagos Shmura Matzah Factory is the only matzah bakery in the US outside the New York area, and is the only certified organic matzah bakery in the country.
The Chicago Matzah Factory specializes in Organic Whole Wheat and Organic Spelt handmade Shmura Matzah. This year they are also producing soft and thicker Sephardic Matzah, similar to a pita, supervised by a Sephardic rabbi. Sephardic Matzahs use a shorter 15 minute cycle, because these matzahs take up to 2 minutes to bake, compared to Ashkenazi Matzah that bakes only 15-20 seconds in the oven.
The owner of the Chicago Matzah Factory, Jean Sadoff, saw the need for a natural gourmet seder matzah. People who have an intolerance to wheat were requesting spelt matzah, and since spelt-eaters are more health-conscious, she decided to try organic spelt and whole wheat.
Chicagos matzah is distributed throughout the country, from Miami to Los Angeles, Seattle and Canada, even in New York where there is a proliferation of matzah bakeries.
Chicagos matzah is especially popular on the West Coast where there is generally a greater demand for organic foods. Centrally located Chicago is closer to the West Coast, and thus reduces shipping costs because it doesnt have to be sent all the way from New York.
The main challenge that affects the kosher state of matzah is the time constraint.
This special matzah is not only superior in quality and taste; it is also superior in Kashruth, carrying the prestigious OK certification by the worlds leading and most trusted supervising agency, Organized Kashruth, which scrutinizes every step of the matzah production. The OK symbol proudly displayed on each package assures the customer that this is indeed the worlds finest matzah.
Weve also incorporated traditions of each of Chicagos Chassidic rabbis to accommodate everybody, Sadoff added.
The OK supervisor at the Chicago Bakery, Rabbi Moshe Miller, is involved in the whole process from reaping the wheat in July through the final baking before Pesach. He travels to organic farms in Wisconsin and Michigan and helps harvest the wheat through cleaning, bagging and grinding the wheat in a stone mill.
The ground wheat is carefully stored and brought into the factory as needed. The water comes from an Artesian well; its source is not rainwater but underground streams that form wells.
Organic Matzahs Growth
Actually, some researchers are raising concerns about non-organic wheat for matzah. The first issue is pesticides, fertilizer residues, which could negatively affect the fermentation process. Organic wheat avoids this problem because of the absence of any chemicals or fertilizers. The other problem is that all wheat grown in the U.S., except for organic wheat, is genetically modified. Many consumers prefer organic because of the above issues.
Only a small percent of the Chicago Factorys matzahs are non-organic. Were going completely organic next year, Rabbi Miller says. Organic matzah is more expensive, but it tastes much better.
For more information visit www.gourmetsedermatzah.com or call 847-674-6200.