Yesterday, the first full day of Passover, I made my annual batch of the candy known to me as Chocolate Caramel Crackers. (Okay, if I’m being honest here, at the rate at which I’ve been eating it, it will be the first of my annual batches.) That’s what it’s called on Smitten Kitchen, which is where I discovered it. Quite simply, it’s matzo dressed up in a layer of butterscotch caramel and another layer of chocolate. It’s delicious and addictive and truly the best thing that has ever happened to matzo. In her Smitten Kitchen post, Deb Perelman explained that the recipe and its variations (saltines, for all the goyim out there) were widely available online and credited her rendition to David Lebovitz, who got his from Marcy Goldman.
In a 2015 story for Tablet that’s been making its annual rounds, Leah Koenig (who happens to be one of The Takeout’s favorite cookbook authors) went directly back to the source and talks to Goldman about the origins of this marvelous candy, which Goldman called Matzo Caramel Buttercrunch. Goldman, a Montreal pastry chef, was herself inspired back in the 1980s by a recipe for saltine toffee that she’d found in The Ladies’ Home Journal. Her son Jonathan was a toddler at the time and stubbornly refused to eat any Passover desserts. Goldman admitted that she couldn’t really blame him. As Koenig notes, the options for kosher-for-Passover desserts back then were a depressing array of sponge cakes, canned macaroons, and disgusting candied fruit slices. “We had gotten used to making do with bad dessert and sort of groaning and shrugging our shoulders,” Goldman told her. “As a pastry chef and a mother, I thought I could do better.” Saltines, she thought, were not that different from matzo. Her seder guests that year devoured the initial batch of Matzo Caramel Buttercrunch, and Goldman subsequently published the recipe in The Montreal Gazette and in her 1998 cookbook A Treasury of Holiday Baking. And the rest is Passover dessert history—Manischewitz even printed the recipe on the back of its matzo boxes—except that most people have forgotten that Goldman was ever a part of it.
In her article, Koenig gets into the knotty question of recipe attribution. “I think people don’t really understand that developing recipes can be an occupation,” Dianne Jacob, the author of the blog Will Write For Food, told Koenig. “When someone comes up with something really novel, they have pride in it. So, it’s difficult to see the recipe show up everywhere unattributed to them.”
Part of Passover is giving thanks for every miracle and saying, Dayenu, it would have been enough—but then there’s another verse with another miracle! (It’s also a really catchy song.) Henceforth every time I mix up a batch of Matzo Caramel Buttercrunch, I will give thanks that my people got to leave Egypt 3,000 years ago and also for Marcy Goldman for finding a way to make matzo delicious.