Think of matzo brei as Jewish French toast in which matzo – substituting for bread — gets soaked in an egg custard and cooked in butter. Passover, which officially lasts seven days, forbids observant Jews from eating leavened products such as bread. Even less observant Jews frequently abstain from eating bread during Passover. Matzo Brei (rhymes with bye) is the classic Passover breakfast. It’s too bad matzo brei does not appear beyond Passover as it is great any time of the year – whether or not you’re Jewish.
Here, the matzo pancake’s custard is sweetened and flavored with cinnamon and sugar that is also sprinkled on top. Serve with optional warmed maple syrup on the side. This recipe calls for making a large pancake and cutting into quarters – two quarters per person. You can certainly make smaller individual pancakes. Your goal is to have a crisp and brown exterior with a softer, custardy interior.
Do Ahead You can make Matzo Brei up to 30 minutes in advance and hold, lightly covered, in a 225 degree oven until ready to serve. Make sure you do not fully cover and seal as pancake will steam and you will lose its crisp pancake exterior.
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
½ cup milk, whole preferred
¼ teaspoon salt
3 matzo sheets, plain and unsalted
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ounces maple syrup, optional
1 In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon and mix well. Reserve.
2 To make custard mixture In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon and sugar mix. Whisk well to combine.
3 Tempering and soaking matzo Run tap water until hot. Run water over matzo sheet until damp but not really wet. Your goal is to soften matzo and begin breaking it down, but not get it dripping wet. You want the matzo to absorb the milk-egg mixture and the wetter it is with water, the less custard will be absorbed. But you need the initial wetting to get the process of absorption started. Repeat with balance of matzo sheets. Crumble matzo into egg-milk mix and push down to absorb custard. You want matzo pieces to be of variable and not homogeneous in size. Absorbing custard could take 10 to 15 minutes. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t be concerned if matzo is not evenly moist as that unevenness makes for a pleasing texture to pancake.
4 Cooking Matzo Brei Using approximately 10-inch sauté or omelet pan with gently slopping sides, heat 1 tablespoon butter over moderate heat until foam subsides. Pour soaked matzo with any residual custard into pan and with a broad spatula, push down to form a pancake. Cook until bottom is browned and bottom of pancake is set and firm. You may need to lower heat if bottom browns too quickly before pancake sets. Using spatula around and under pancake, loosen pancake from pan so that it can slide around. Using a dinner plate, flip pancake on to plate so the browned bottom side is now facing up. Don’t worry if pancake creases a little, just try to straighten it. Add additional 1 tablespoon butter to pan and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan and cook until bottom browned and pancake firm and fully set. If you are timid about flipping, you can pre-heat your broiler and finish cooking by holding pan under broiler until top is browned and set. If making more than one pancake, transfer to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until ready to serve.
5 To serve Cut pancake into quarters and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mix. If using optional maple syrup, place in pitcher and warm in microwave before serving.
Each pancake serves 2
Matzo soaks in custard until nearly all the custard is absorbed. Push matzo down into custard as needed. Don’t worry if there is still some residual custard remaining. Just pour it all into the pan.
Once butter’s foam has subsided, pour soaked matzo into pan and push down to form a pancake. The key is to brown the outside and get it crispy while just having the custardy interior set while staying moist. Matzo Brie should not be dry inside. If it seems to be cooking too quickly — by which I mean the bottom is browning before the pancake is setting — reduce heat. If you reduce the heat too much it will be difficult to brown and crisp the outside while maintaining a moist inside.
Here’s a simple way to “flip” the pancake. Once the bottom is browned and set, use spatula to loosen pancake so that it slides around. Flip pancake on to waiting plate. Don’t worry if it gets a little creased. Just try to straighten pancakes as best you can. As my mother used to say, “It all gets mixed up in your stomach!” Next…
Add butter to pan again and when foam subsides, slide pancake back into pan with cooked side facing up. Continue cooking until bottom is browned and the custard and matzo are set, but not fully dry.
Once again, use your spatula to loosen pancake and slide off on to waiting plate or cutting board. You can cut it into quarters with two quarters being a serving. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon and sugar mix and/or serve with warmed maple syrup.
If you are making several, slide on to cookie sheet and hold in 225 degree oven until you have made all of your Matzo Brei.