Not a Half-Baked Idea: Baking for Passover Offers Tasty Rewards

April 4, 2005


Passover is a time when the Kosher consumer faces additional dietary restrictions. Leavened bread, termed chometz, is forbidden. The well-known traditional baked staple permitted and associated with Passover is matzah, which is baked from dough that does not rise. The dough used for matzah contains no yeast, just flour and water, and must be baked within a very short time span, usually 18 minutes. Understandably, it is very difficult to create a baked product that is Kosher for Passover. All baked goods contain flour and the process time of any cake or cookie far exceeds what is acceptable for Passover. However, in today’s market where businesses turn a nice profit by making dreams come to life, the challenge is a tempting one.

The primary obstacle to certifying a baked product as kosher for Passover is the standard primary ingredient, flour. Indeed, as Tony Benziger, Technical Vice- President of Joyce Foods, LLC states,“The greatest challenge of baking kosher for Passover is not using flour.” The first step is to procure acceptable replacement ingredients, which understandably is no small feat.

The standard substitute raw materials used throughout the industry currently are potato starch or matzah meal. Matzah meal is ground matzah and is typically viewed as the preferred substitute, since it is flour already baked in an acceptable form. All other ingredients require Kosher for Passover certification as well, ensuring that they do not contain an unacceptable component, or were not processed in a way in which there was cross-contamination with an unacceptable item.

Due to the sensitivity of Passover certification, OU policy requires that Passover runs are under the careful constant watch of an on-site RFR. This is especially true of the baking industry. The supervising RFR must ensure that many of the routine ingredients used year-round do not somehow find their way into a Passover certified product. Since regular baked products are forbidden during Passover, most equipment used during production throughout the year may not be used. This restriction applies to equipment used hot, not those used at ambient temperatures. Mixers, therefore, may simply be cleaned very thoroughly prior to use. However other pieces of sensitive equipment — for example sheet pans — ordinarily cannot withstand the intense temperatures of a kosherization for Passover production.

In practice, OU bakeries that produce for Passover will use dedicated pieces of equipment when kosherization is not a viable option. Baked goods are a basic staple of the average consumer’s diet. It requires great ingenuity and creativity to manufacture a product similar in quality that meets strict Passover standards. The restrictions have discouraged many.Those who have been successful currently enjoy a highly profitable market. When asked about pursuing the OUP baking market,Tony Benziger from Joyce Foods declared, “It is our specialty and is our market niche.”