This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's book, Entree to Judaism for Families filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.
This Passover recipe is quite easy to make with children. It is just difficult to describe! Everyone has their own family favorite. Even after looking at cookbooks from more than 100 years ago and many written in the 1930s, when European Jewish immigrants’ recipes were published, I find it hard to define matzah brei. Brei is German and means “wide.” My theory is that since the broken pieces of matzah bound together with egg create a wide or broad pancake, the dish got its name from that definition.
Some matzah brei is made without water, with dry sheets of matzah dipped in egg and then fried. Most recipes call for soaking, washing, or sprinkling the sheets of matzah with water before proceeding. Egg batter seasoned with salt and pepper and no sugar probably had its origins in Germany, Lithuania, or Russia. Those who sweetened their batter with sugar and spice probably have roots in Poland, Hungary, and other areas known in the past as Galicia. Almost everyone uses jam, cinnamon, and sugar, or syrup as a topping.
Here’s my basic recipe. (Can you tell that half of my ancestors came from Poland?)
- Fill a 2-quart bowl with very warm tap water. Break each matzah into roughly 4 pieces and place in the bowl. Press down so that the water covers the matzah.
- Mix the egg, milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla in a 1-quart mixing bowl.
- Drain the matzah in a colander, and gently press down on the matzah to remove the water. Add the matzah to the egg mixture, and stir carefully with a fork so that egg coats all of the matzah.
- Heat an 8-inch nonstick frying pan for 10 seconds. Add the butter and swirl about in the pan until melted. Add the egg/matzah, and gently press to form one large pancake.
- Cook until the bottom is golden, and then turn it over with a wide metal spatula or turner. (See Tina’s Tidbits below for the best technique for this.) When the bottom is crisp, remove from the pan, cut into wedges, and serve with topping of your choice.
- It is easiest to flip the half-cooked brei by using two spatulas or flipping the pancake over onto a plate and then sliding it back into the pan uncooked side down. This second method should NOT be attempted by anyone under the age of 10 and is best demonstrated by an adult.
- What are your family matzah brei traditions? Does everyone agree on the recipe? Which version is your favorite?
- Experiment with different ingredients. Could you make this with vegetables? What about other spices, or a sweet and savory combination by adding pepper with the sugar? Create your own unique recipe. Type it up and save it to start a new family tradition.