"WHY IS some matzo different from other matzo?" This might as well be the fifth question asked at the Passover seder.
In the talmudic mode, looking for an answer (Which is the best matzo?) only raised that new question. It all began with an ecumenical matzo tasting. We gathered all the matzos readily available--15 of them--and a group the size of a minyan to taste them blind, in several categories. Among the plain versions, there were differences in dryness, crispness, texture, color. And likewise, among the matzo spinoffs like egg, whole wheat, tea and onion, there were marked variations. Tasters voiced their prejudices (staunch anti-egg or pro-plain) and no one matzo was a winner. But everyone recognized the recurrent matzo problem: uneven browning and burnt edges.
So, without further questions, the results: PLAIN
Horowitz Margareten--"Now, Thinner . . . Lighter . . . Extra Crisp!" flashes the label. Lighter, maybe. Crisp, but not "extra crisp." And "thinner," no way. Still, this matzo rated solidly, "a good American matzo," as one taster put it. Others found it somewhat sawdusty and burned.
Manischewitz--This is the ultimate factory-made matzo, perfectly square and appropriately tasteless. There was general agreement that this was one toasty cracker, but too dry to eat solo. "Good vehicle for schmaltz," suggested one taster.
Rishon--Less familiar to western palates, this was one of the two tested that came from Israel. It's thinner and more brittle than the others; "bland" was the recurrent complaint.
Streit's--Uneven browning made for messy matzos in this box. And for those crunching on the more well-done sides, "burnt tasting" was a typical response. Other comments: "similar to Uneeda biscuits" (in taste, not composition), "bland with faint sweetness," and just a plain "very good."
Goodman's--Undisputably "burnt," as pronounced by most. This was dry and powdery, somewhat like a tea biscuit. "Do they make matzo in London?" one taster wondered.
Aviv--A distinctive and pretty matzo; "the guest matzo." Paler and more fragile than the others, this second of the two Israeli-made samples looked almost handmade. A tender, thinner, lighter touch was pinpointed in this matzo.EGG
Manischewitz--The melt-in-your-mouth matzo. The softest of the lot and maybe the sweetest. Nicely browned.
Goodman's--A little too eggy for one, a little too soggy for another. This and Manischewitz rated similarly; mid-level popularity.
Streit's--A generally more respectable egg matzo than the first two, this was cited for having more flavor and firmness. Still, two tasters gave it poor reviews.
Horowitz Margareten--Toasty to some, overcooked to others. Less sweet to some, bitter to others.WHOLE WHEAT
Horowitz Margareten--The lesser of the two whole wheat evils, this was commended for its earthier, wheatier flavor. Keep it in perspective, though: "Bad Wheat Thins," "Zwieback?" and "not matzo!" were more typical evaluations.
Manischewitz--In addition to a drier, coarser taste than Horowitz Margareten, this box had blotchy burn spots.
Goodman's--Tasters were divided equally in their preferences for the two tea matzos. This one was complimented for its lightness and thinness, criticized for its bitterness.
Manischewitz--Decidedly burnt around the edges and drier than Goodman's, but some tasters liked it better.OTHER
Streit's Onion-Flavored Moonstrips--Either liked for its noticeable flavor ("great! some flavor at last") or disliked for its heavy oniony residue ("like a garlic-onion bagel that has been through a washer and dryer"). The only matzo tasted that was made with salt.