Battle of the Dishes: Locavore Matzoh From Streit's and D&T Shmurah Bakery
For the past few weeks, Fork in the Road has been keeping track of matzoh price-gouging going in neighborhood grocery stores. But while costs may vary between brands and stores, matzoh flavor, the thinking typically goes, is pretty much a constant. Meaning that there isn't any.
In one corner, Streit's. In the other, shmurah.
But anyone who's ever been subjected to seven straight days in the purgatory of the unleavened knows that all matzohs are not created equal. Far from it: Even leaving aside all of the embellishments matzoh manufacturers have dreamed up -- salt, poppy seeds, whole wheat, spelt -- some matzohs really are less bad than others. We'd long been curious about shmurah matzoh, which comes in big, round pieces and is prepared under exacting rabbinical supervision. It's been called the Rolls-Royce of matzoh, and is priced accordingly: a one-pound box sells on average for $20. But how would it compare to its more humble counterpart? To find out, we bought a $2.50 1-pound box of plain Streit's matzoh direct from the Rivington Street factory, and then headed a few blocks west to Russ & Daughters, where we bought a $22.50 1-pound box of shmurah matzoh, made by the D&T Shmurah Bakery in Crown Heights.
Both matzohs answer to the names of "local," but only D&T's can claim to be handmade. As Jeremiah Moss observed during a tour of the bakery last year, the matzoh is produced on a painstakingly human scale: the flour and water are kneaded by one worker, after which the dough is rolled flat by a group of Russian women and then punched with holes by someone else before another worker feeds it into the oven. In other words, it's artisanal as all get out. And about as kosher, too: the bakery is owned by two rabbis, and the matzoh making process must take no more than 18 minutes -- after that, the matzoh is no longer considered unleavened. So strict is the bakery that everything the matzoh touches is cleaned or sanded down every 18 minutes.
Out of the boxes, into the ring.
All of which is fine, but how does it taste?