Matzah bars (8)
Photo: Moriah Van Vleet

The seders might be over, but maybe you still have a box of matzah around? Its blank-canvas quality and its distinctive browned edges make it a perfect candidate for a flavorful sweet — and this one is easy to make, with most of the process taking place quickly on your stovetop. Together with a heap of toasted sesame seeds, matzah melds deliciously with sweet almond paste, bits of citrus zest and a splash of vanilla. The result is a delicious and decadent treat, reminiscent of baklava with its lightweight crunch, sweet honey, and citrus: a tasty new spring tradition.

Sesame matzah bars (makes a 9 x 13″ pan; 32 bars)

  • 1.5 cups sesame seeds
  • 10 ounces plain matzah crackers (about 8 cups once broken, loosely packed)
  • 14 ounces almond paste OR  7 ounces almond paste plus 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter**
  • 2 medium oranges
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place sesame seeds in a 9 x 13” pan and bake for 20 minutes, stopping halfway through to stir and turn seeds. Remove from oven and let seeds cool in pan. Meanwhile, break matzah into roughly 1.5 inch pieces in a large bowl; set bowl aside. Grate almond paste with a standard sized grater; set aside. Zest oranges with a fine grater; set zest aside. Juice oranges over a sieve until you have 1/3 cup strained juice (one orange may be enough to yield this amount of juice).

When sesame seed pan is cool enough to handle, pour the toasted seeds into the matzah. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with foil. Grease the foil, set pan aside nearby, then grease a wooden spoon for easy mixing. Measure out the peanut butter (if using), honey, and vanilla so they are ready to quickly add to the pot.

Matzah bars (4)
Photo: Moriah Van Vleet

In a large pot over low-medium heat, melt the butter. Add the honey and salt, stirring gently. Add the grated almond paste and peanut butter if using, and constantly stir for a few full minutes, until mixture is smooth and bubbling. Turn off heat and carefully add strained juice and the vanilla (mixture is very hot and will spatter). Mix until just even in consistency.

Quickly add matzah, sesame seeds and zest to the pot. Mix vigorously from the bottom of the pan so that all crackers and seeds get coated. Transfer to lined pan and push down on it very firmly, letting matzah further break as you create an even, well-packed bar.  Smooth the top of bars with a heatproof spatula, applying plenty of pressure.

Chill the pan until bars are cool and firm, then use the tin foil to remove the bars from pan. Transfer to cutting board and carefully remove foil. Using a sharp knife and plenty of pressure, cut the cold slab into quarters; cut each quarter into 8 slices to make 32 bars. For best results, transfer cut bars to paper cupcake liners; this makes for easy serving and eating. Store in a sealed container in the fridge, eating within 3 days. These taste best chilled but are also delicious at room temperature.

Matzah bars (7)
Photo: Moriah Van Vleet

Fragrant with nutty sesame flavor, sweet, crisp sesame matzah bars offer the moist richness of almond paste and the tart tang of fresh orange peel. Alongside the light crunch of seeds and matzah, the gooey honey makes the texture sing. A legendary, symbolic bread in the form of a complex, delightful dessert: this signals celebration!

**If you have marzipan on hand, it will work in place of the almond paste. (I prefer the latter for its higher nut-to-sugar ratio, always choosing the block or tube variety, never the canned type.)  Swapping half the almond paste for peanut butter as noted will make for a more frugal, less sweet recipe with a familiar but subtle peanutty essence.

Matzah bars (1)
Photo: Moriah Van Vleet

Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this post first appeared. See other delicious sweet recipes by Van Vleet published on Berkeleyside Nosh.

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Freelancer Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers, a blog she started in 2011 to showcase her original (and often unusual) dessert recipes....