Even seasoned cooks who grew up observing Passover often find it tricky to work with kosher-for-Pesach ingredients. Take matzo meal -- a major component of many Passover recipes -- for example. First, it behaves quite differently in recipes then the flour it's typically meant to replace. Then, there are practical and psychological barriers to experimentation.
After all, Passover ingredients are often expensive, tend to come in smaller containers than their year-round counterparts, and may sell out during the holiday.
Plus, time is at a premium given all of the from-scratch cooking Passover necessitates. During the year, a failed recipe experiment may not be a big deal, but during Pesach, it can feel like a catastrophe. Fortunately, the more you know about the holiday's unique ingredients, the more confidently you can play around with them -- even if you run out of an essential like matzo meal.
Ingredient Overview: What's Matzo Meal, What's Cake Meal, and What's the Difference Between Them?
Matzo meal is simply ground matzo. It is used as a substitute for flour or breadcrumbs during Passover, but it has a coarser texture than former, and -- in part because it is made from a product that has already been baked -- it behaves more like the latter in recipes. Matzo meal works well as a breading or binder, and its texture is perfectly suited to making matzo balls, but it's less ideal for making cakes and cookies.
Enter matzo cake meal. This product is also - you guessed it -- ground matzo, but the texture is much finer, -- more akin to flour than breadcrumbs. That's not to say it behaves just like all purpose flour -- far from it. Since cake meal is also made from already-baked matzo, it doesn't absorb liquid or develop structure in the same way flour does.
But its fine texture works better for recipes --especially desserts -- that are meant to have a more delicate crumb.
Question: Can I Substitute Passover Cake Meal for Matzo Meal?
Given that matzo meal and matzo cake meal are such similar products, do you really need to buy both? Or if you run out of one, is it really such a big deal to substitute the other? A reader by the name of Analee wrote in to ask. "Just wondering, if I wanted to substitute Passover cake meal for matzo meal, how much would I use? Would I just use approximately double the amount of cake meal instead of matzo meal in a recipe? I should know the answer because I've been cooking for the last 55 years, but I just wanted to make sure I'm doing the right thing!"
Analee's question is a great one! Usually people wonder about substituting matzo meal for cake meal, but I hadn't heard the question in reverse until she wrote in. The answer may depend a bit on what you're making, but I wouldn't advise doubling the cake meal. Why? Because volume and weight both matter in recipes, particularly when it comes to baking. Cake meal's finer, powder-like consistency takes up less space in a measuring cup than matzo meal, so substituting 1:1 can throw off the recipe.
If you want to make your own cake meal, you could grind matzoh meal in a blender or food processor, but you'd need about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of matzoh meal to yield 1 cup of cake meal. So if, for example, your recipe calls for 3/4 cup of matzo meal, you could try 3/4 cup plus 4.5 teaspoons of cake meal.
While matzo cake meal generally works well in cake and cookie recipes, keep in mind that if you're making something like matzo balls, kugel, or Pesach rolls, they may turn out denser or clumpier if you substitute cake meal for matzoh meal. In cases like that, it's a good idea to stick to the original recipe.
More Tips for Passover Cooking Success:
Wondering what to use in place of graham cracker crumbs or corn syrup on Passover? Did you run out of matzo farfel, but wish you could make another batch of Matzo Farfel Cookies?
Check out Passover Cooking Substitutions for ingredient swaps and tips to help you tweak favorite recipes for Pesach use.