The options discussed below reflect my experience and my beliefs. You will ultimately have to follow your own customs and beliefs in deciding whether to, how to, and from what to make your gluten free matzo.
On Passover, those who arenâ€™t gluten free can eat matzo made from wheat flour mixed with water and then baked, with no more than 18 minutes passing from the time the flour has been mixed with the water until it is completely baked. There are those who follow even stricter procedures – in this case, the grain must be guarded by someone to make sure it doesnâ€™t come into contact with water from the time it is milled (or reaped in some cases) until it is prepared for making into matzo. The matzo you eat (or make) will depend on your level of observance. Some Jews will only eat â€œShemurahâ€ matzo which is very carefully watched to make sure it meets the strictest of standards in baking matzo. Why is it called â€œShemurahâ€? It comes from the Hebrew root which means guarded.
Why canâ€™t the flour come into contact with water? Because the moment it does, the process of fermentation or rising begins. And on Passover, we donâ€™t eat or keep anything fermented or risen in our houses. Remember the Israelites and their escape from Egypt? They barely had time to gather their belongings let alone allow their unleavened dough to rise and bake properly. They quickly baked their unleavened bread, grabbed whatever they could throw on their backs, and scrambled out of Egypt. I know of one rabbi who even questions whether the Israelites had time to bake their unleavened bread. His theory – the Israelites threw their possessions and their unleavened dough on their backs and while trekking to the Reed Sea, the hot sun baked the dough into matzo. What do you think?
During Passover, observant Jews do not eat anything made from chametz or have anything in their houses made from it. Chametz comes from a Hebrew root that means fermented or risen and refers to any fermented grain product, more specifically from one of the five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature: wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye. Within 18 minutes of coming into contact with moisture, these five grains begin to ferment or rise. Even if this happened by accident or without one being aware of it, the grains (or anything made with it) canâ€™t be eaten or remain in onesâ€™ house. This explains why observant Jews clean their kitchens and houses to prepare for Passover by sweeping and vacuuming and getting rid of all chametz, some even following the custom of cleaning their cupboards with a feather, to get rid of every trace of chametz.
In addition, for those Jews who are very strict and follow Ashkenazic (Eastern European) customs, eating anything that is considered “kitniyot” isnâ€™t allowed. This can include rice, soy beans, buckwheat, millet, beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, and can vary according to locale and customs. If you follow these customs, not only wouldn’t you eat any of these foods, but you also wouldn’t make or eat matzo made from any flours or starches derived from these foods. The reason for this further prohibition is that these foods undergo a similar process to fermentation when exposed to moisture. â€œKitniyotâ€, by the way, comes from the Hebrew word “katan” meaning small. My take on the root of this word: these grains are so small that one wouldnâ€™t be able to tell them apart from the standard five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature (wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye). Better to avoid them altogether.
Those who donâ€™t follow the rules of â€œkitniyotâ€, often Sephardic Jews or those who follow Sephardic customs, allow themselves to eat foods that would otherwise be considered off limits by Ashkenazic Jews. Though I grew up in an Ashkenazic household, since becoming gluten free, I have adopted the Sephardic custom of eating â€œkitniyotâ€. Thus, Iâ€™m willing and happy to eat matzo that I make from bread mixes that contain rice flour or millet or bean flour. Here are some of my homemade matzo recipes and an instructional video on making matzo:
1. My gluten free matzo recipe made from a Breads From Anna mix.
2. Another gluten free matzo recipe from Breads From Anna mix.
3. One of my earlier gluten free matzo recipes which, depending on your observance, this could be considered â€œkitniyotâ€.
4. Click here and then scroll down for Gluten Free Matzo Recipe Variation #2.
5. Click here – this gluten free matzo recipe is gluten free and dairy free and includes oats, one of the five grains mentioned in rabbinic literature.
6. A video of me making my gluten free matzo recipe.
And if you donâ€™t have time to make your own matzo, there are a number of companies that are offering packaged matzo. Go here and here. If youâ€™re really in a pinch and canâ€™t find the packaged gluten free matzo, you could always eat some sort of rice cracker instead of matzo, like those made by Blue Diamond for example. Their first ingredient is rice flour and while rice is not allowed by Ashkenazic Jews, if youâ€™re willing to look past the laws prohibiting the eating of â€œkitniyotâ€, maybe these would work for you.
But if you can find the time, try making your own matzo. You wonâ€™t be disappointed. And trust me, everyone at your seder will be begging for a taste! You might be the most popular person at your seder:).