Like so many others, I, for years, drizzled chocolate over matzo for my children at Passover, so I was no stranger to matzo treats. But somehow, I missed the creation of caramel matzo crunch, also called “matzo buttercrunch” or “matzo brittle,” its many incarnations found in cookbooks, on blogs and websites. Sometimes the provenance is recognized, but mostly not.
Being the food detective that I am, though, I thought I’d set the record straight. The earliest recipe I could find comes from Marcy Goldman, the author of “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking,” first published in 1998. In the book, she includes a recipe she calls “My Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Caramel Matzoh Crunch .”
In 1986, Ms. Goldman was searching for a Passover dessert to pitch to newspapers in the United States and Canada, and spotted a recipe for “Easy Toffee Bars” in a 1978 copy of “Farm Journal’s Choice Chocolate Recipes” by Elise W. Manning. In it, they used saltine crackers as a base for the treats.
“A light bulb went off,” Ms. Goldman, 67, said over Zoom from her home in Montreal. “If you could use saltines, why not swap them for matzo?”
She did just that, and the recipe took off from there.
Occasionally, guests have brought Ms. Goldman’s crunch to my Passover Seder, never straying too far from the original.
This year, though, I updated her recipe: I included a topping of peanuts, and swapped the chocolate for protein-rich peanut butter. The crunchy peanuts and a sprinkle of fleur de sel counteract the sweetness of the caramel, which acts as a binder.
While Sephardic Jews have long considered peanuts kosher for Passover, most Ashkenazi Jews have avoided them during the holiday. But a 2015 ruling by the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the Conservative movement, deems Kitniyot, or legumes in Hebrew, acceptable. (This change has not been observed by the Orthodox.)
Despite the ruling, most people still make Ms. Goldman’s dessert with chocolate and maybe almonds, which have always been kosher for Passover. You could try it with other nut butters, like almond or cashew, or even tahini with a sprinkle of halvah. The recipe has many possibilities, and, wrapped and tucked into a tin, it makes a tasty gift for the Seder host. But just beware: This sweet is totally habit-forming.
I asked Ms. Goldman what she thinks about all the variations of her recipe.
“It’s been around so much that I am fine with it now,” she said. “I think for the person who can’t cook or bake, being the ‘one who brings the matzo buttercrunch’ rescues them.”
Recipe: Salted Peanut and Caramel Matzo Brittle