A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. That means five ingredients or fewer — not including water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (like oil and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Inspired by the column, the Big Little Recipes cookbook is available now.
Decades after she started making it, my mom can't remember where this recipe came from. Maybe she got it from her mom, or a magazine, or her mom got it from a magazine. Who knows?
There are thousands and thousands of recipes for matzo toffee online. A lot of them look a lot like ours, from the ingredient list to the short-enough-to-fit-on-an-index-card instructions. Even the specifics I can't make sense of.
Take, for example, "4-6 matzo - unsalted." Why the range? When four? When five? When six? Who knows?
Many recipes call for just that, "4-6," no explanation. It's evidence that this crispy-crunchy Passover favorite comes from the same publication, only to be claimed by innumerable American Jews, like my mom, like me. So it goes with holiday recipes and traditions. They belong to us, but only sort of.
Based on the timing and similarities to my mom's index card, it's safe to say that Marcy Goldman's recipe, first published in the mid 1980s in The Montreal Gazette (and later printed in "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking"), was the source. As Leah Koenig writes in Tablet, "Goldman's matzo buttercrunch is among the most popular, and most copied, Passover desserts made by home cooks."
I could have typed up my mom's index card and called it a Big Little Recipe and done. All you need are matzo, of course, and brown sugar, butter, and chocolate (plus toasted pecans if you're my mom). But I couldn't help myself.
I switched the unsalted matzo to salted, the unsalted butter to salted, and, yeah, a pinch of flaky salt on top too. Toffee is too sweet for its own good. The salt provides balance, like one kid on a seesaw joined by another. Same reason why I also switched from semisweet chocolate to dark — the darker, the better.
They're little adjustments that make a big difference, yielding the salty-bitter-sweet combo I crave. What I didn't change, and wouldn't dare, was how stupid-easy it is to make. The sort of dessert that you don't have to stress about if you're hosting a whole hoopla for Passover.
And even if you're not celebrating Passover — who doesn't want another easy dessert?
Recipe: Salted Matzo Toffee
- 6 salted matzos
- 1 cup (226 grams) salted butter (or unsalted butter plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
- 1 cup (213 grams) dark brown sugar
- 1 1/3 cups (226 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped (the darker, the better)
- Flaky salt, optional
- Your pick of toppings (see Author Notes), optional
- Heat the oven to 375°F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment. Evenly divide the matzo between the sheet pans, breaking up the pieces as needed to fit.
- Combine the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, boil for about 2 minutes until the mixture is homogeneous and slightly thickened, like caramel sauce.
- Evenly pour the toffee on top of the matzo, spreading with an offset or silicone spatula to cover. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until bubbly all over. Remove from the oven.
- Immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top of the toffee. Let sit for a few minutes, until the chocolate effortlessly melts with the swoosh of an offset spatula. Spread the chocolate to evenly cover. If you're opting for toppings, sprinkle them on top now.
- Let cool until no longer hot, then transfer to the fridge to cool completely. Break or chop into pieces. In an airtight container or tightly wrapped, this keeps well in the freezer for up to 1 month.