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Baking Matzo

8 Nissan 5766

Matzos have been hand-baked for Pesach for thousands of years. In this shmura matzo factory, matzos are baked in "runs." Each "run" consists of 7-9 batches of dough. Each batch contains a little less than three pounds of flour. By restricting the batch size, the obligation to take challah from each batch is eliminated. Instead, challah is taken at the end for the entire run. There are two long kneading tables, refered to below as "The Production Line." While one keading table is in use, the other is scrubbed clean; each table is used for alternate runs. Because two runs can overlap slightly, the factory can do about 3.5 runs or about 80 pounds of matzo per hour.

Cleaning the Tables
Cleaning the Tables
Between each 18-minute run of matzo, all the equipment is scrubbed clean.
Waiting for Dough
Waiting for Dough
The matzo bakers line up at the immaculate table and await the arrival of the first batch of dough.
L'Shem Matzos Mitzva
L'Shem Matzos Mitzva
The matzos must be made for the purpose of fulfilling the mitzvah of matzo.
Waiting for Flour
Waiting for Flour
The primary kneading station, where the flour and water will be hand mixed, awaits the next run.
The Flour
The Flour
The flour is stored in an isolated room to ensure that it never comes into contact with water.
The Flour Room
The Flour Room
Flour is carefully weighed for each batch of matzo. Each batch is just under three pounds; there are 7-9 batches in a run.
The Water Room
The Water Room
The water is stored in an isolated room to ensure that it never comes into contact with flour.
L'Shem Matzos Mitzvah
L'Shem Matzos Mitzvah
This declaration is said at various points in the process: before adding flour, before adding water, while kneading, and while baking.
Preparing to Knead
Preparing to Knead
The primary kneading — the mixing of bread and water — is done by hand.
Water
Water
A measure of water is carefully poured from the water room.
Kneading
Kneading
The primary knead is done very quickly.
Kneading
Kneading
See video...
The Kneading Machine
The Kneading Machine
The dough is loaded into a hand-operated kneading machine.
The Kneading Machine
The Kneading Machine
The dough is hand-kneaded by a giant rolling pin.
The Kneading Machine
The Kneading Machine
The dough is quickly and thoroughly kneaded to an even consistency.
The Kneading Machine
The Kneading Machine
See video...
The Production Line
The Production Line
The dough progresses down the table, each group flattening and shaping it as it goes.
The Production Line
The Production Line
The first few people roll it and cut it into matzo-sized chunks.
Rolling Out
Rolling Out
Each chunk of dough is flattened and shaped.
Flat and Round
Flat and Round
Ultimately it is rolled flat and round like a matzo.
The Production Line
The Production Line
Here's the other end of the production line.
The End of the Line
The End of the Line
Before going into the oven, the dough is punctured with holes to speed cooking.
The End of the Line
The End of the Line
The punctures are made with a large roller.
Preparing for Baking
Preparing for Baking
The matzos are hung on wooden poles that will be used to place them into the oven.
The Poles
The Poles
The poles are covered with paper.
Preparing the Poles
Preparing the Poles
By covering each poll with paper for its single use, the polls need not be cleaned and kashered between runs. This saves much time.
Waiting to Bake
Waiting to Bake
Five matzos are hung on each pole.
Baking
Baking
The baker puts the matzos into the oven.
Into the Oven
Into the Oven
The baker moves quickly — if you don't stay out of his way, you will likely be skewered by one of the poles!
The Flaming Oven
The Flaming Oven
The oven needs an active flame and must be very hot to cook the matzos quickly.
The Oven
The Oven
To keep the oven hot, it has only a small opening in front.
The Timers
The Timers
Each 18-minute run of matzo is timed. After 18 minutes, a buzzer sounds and any dough not yet in the oven is discarded.
The Timers
The Timers
As one run nears completion, the next has already begun. Several batches have been hand-kneaded already and are in the hand-rollers on their way to the kneading table.
The Master Baker
The Master Baker
After about a minute, the matzos are fully cooked.
The Baker
The Baker
The baker uses a long spatula to remove the matzos from the oven.
Removing Matzos
Removing Matzos
Matzos are removed five at a time.
Fresh from the Oven
Fresh from the Oven
When the matzos come out of the oven, they first go into a wooden box.
The Matzos
The Matzos
The fresh matzos cool in a large wire basket.
Fresh Matzos
Fresh Matzos
Fresh matzos, hot from the oven!
Taking Challah
Taking Challah
After taking challah, each matzo is hand-checked to make sure it is fully baked.
Packing it Up
Packing it Up
Finally, the matzos are packed by hand into the common boxes that you see when you purchase your shmura matzo.

See also: Pesach Lectures and Classes.

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