The Search for the Perfect Matzoh Ball

April 5, 2006 at 10:29 am (B_minus (2 stars, okay), Cruciferous rich, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Quick weeknight recipe, soup, Website / blog)


Matzoh balls are a simple combination of matzoh meal, eggs, and fat, and yet small differences in proportions and technique make the difference between golf ball “sinkers”, or huge, fluffy, and airy “floaters.” There are lots of theories out there about how to achieve each type, but I suspect many of them are urban myths. One suggestions I’ve read recently: to get denser matzoh balls make sure to let the dough sit in the fridge for a while, as it gives a chance for the liquid to hydrate the matzoh meal, which somehow leads to denser, firmer balls. I’d love it if Cook’s illustrated would weigh in on this topic, but I doubt they ever will as matzoh balls are not all-American enough for them. Perhaps someone else has done a scientific study of the matzoh ball? Anyone know? I have some notes below from a recipe taste test Epicurious did, but I think their results are bogus.

About.com recipe

Here is a very standard recipe, posted on about.com. In my hands, it makes firm but not rock hard matzoh balls.

Ingredients:

* 4 eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 cup matzo meal
* 1 – 1.5 tsp. salt (I like 1.25 tsp. but it depends on your salt tolerance)
* 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, or 2 teaspoons chopped dried parsley
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
* 2 quarts vegetable broth for serving

Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, matzo meal, oil, parsley and nutmeg, and stir until well-combined. Cover the bowl and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for lighter matzo balls (“floaters”), or for two to twenty-four hours for the denser “sinker” variety. If you like sinker-floater hybrids, with a firm, toothsome interior but a fluffy exterior, chill the mixture for about an hour.

Bring a large stockpot of vegetable broth to a boil. In the meantime, form the matzo balls: Using clean hands, lightly roll small lumps of the chilled mixture between your palms to make balls about the size of walnuts. The more you compress the mixture, the denser your matzo balls will be. Handle gently for floaters. Pack firmly for sinkers.

As you work, drop the matzo balls into the boiling water, taking care not to crowd the pot. The matzo balls will initially sink to the bottom, but will rise and float as they cook.

Once you’ve added the matzo balls to the pot, return to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer the matzo balls for 25 to 30 minutes, until the matzo balls have cooked through, lightened in color, and expanded to about twice their original size. You can gently simmer the soup for up to a few hours, until ready to serve.

Makes 24 – 28 matzo balls. Allow 2 – 4 matzo balls per person to serve 6 – 14. Feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed.

Epicurious matzoh ball “cook-off”

Original post:

In honor of Passover next week, Epicurious.com has done a matzoh ball “cook-off”, comparing four different recipes. The entire results are online, but the tips I found most notable are:

  1. don’t add water or seltzer as it makes them greasy by preventing the fat from combining properly with the matzoh meal
  2. for more flavor without chicken fat add grated onion and cook the balls in vegetable broth
  3. two ways of getting a good fluffy texture are to beat the egg whites but then roll the balls to make them compact -or- use fewer eggs but add baking powder and handle very gently
  4. adding enough salt is key. Almost 1 tsp. is needed for a typical recipe.

I tried Sara Kagan’s recipe and I wasn’t that impressed. I did add slightly more onion and slightly more matzoh meal (but just barely), and they didn’t hold together very well, and weren’t “toothsome” at all. Obviously more work is needed. I’d rate it a B-.

BTW, I was trying to use up some cabbage today so shredded it and put it in my soup while it was warming up. I also threw in one scallion, sliced. So good! I’ll have to remember that in addition to carrots, parsnips, and peas in matzoh ball soup, cabbage and scallions go great. And they make it more “substantial” too.

Recipezaar recipe for firm or fluffy matzoh balls

I found a recipe on Recipezaar for Kosher, perfect matzo balls that gives instructions for either firm or fluffy matzoh balls.

  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (only for fluffy matzoh balls)
  • 4 tablespoons water or broth (only for firm matzoh balls)
  • Optional Ingredients — all some or none
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon dill weed (optional)
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (optional)
  1. Measure and mix dry ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Individually break the eggs into a clear glass, discarding any with blood spots, and then pour into a second bowl. Add oil (and water or broth for firm matzo balls) to the eggs and stir gently with a fork until the yolks are broken and the oil just mixed.
  3. Pour egg mixture into the dry mixture and gently mix with the fork. DO NOT OVER MIX. Treat it like a muffin mixture; if you over mix they will be tough.
  4. Place in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil on the stove.
  6. After matzo ball mix has set, gently remove teaspoon fulls of the batter and roll into 1-2″ balls and drop into the water.
  7. When all the balls are in the water leave it to boil until all the balls float to the top, then lower the temperature to a rolling simmer for 40 minutes and your matzo balls will be ready. DO NOT STIR AT ANY TIME.
  8. The matzo balls may be removed from the water with a slotted spoon and served in soup, with a stew, as a side dish with gravy or placed on a cookie sheet and frozen covered for a later use.

I followed the recipe except I used 1.25 cups matzo meal and so upped the salt a tad and added 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Of the optional ingredients I used onion powder, parsley, and pepper. The recipe says it makes 18-24 balls but I only ended up with about 14, at about 100 calories each. My balls were about 1.25 inches in dimeter. I thought the texture was very good–firm, toothsome, but not rock hard. Notice that despite the “tips” above adding the water did not make the balls at all greasy. Derek said the flavor was bland–he didn’t taste the matzoh, he claimed. Not sure how to fix that? He thought maybe they were too salty, which was obscuring the matzoh flavor. Neither of us could taste the nutmeg. I cooked the balls in the soup which was perfectly fine. In the last ten minutes I threw in the root vegetables, and the cabbage and peas in the last five minutes.

In my soup this time I put carrots, parsnips, peas, cabbage, scallions, and fresh parsley. I thought the vegetable combination was quite nice.

Rating: B

Vegan matzoh balls from Vegan with a Vengeance

Update August 2007: I attempted to make the vegan matzoh balls from Vegan with a Vengeance. It was an unqualified disaster. I followed the recipe to the T as far as I know, except for leaving out the grated carrot. I made the dough and let it sit in the refrigerator over night. The dough felt pretty firm and solid as I was forming the balls. I brought the broth to a boil and turned it to a rolling simmer and added the matzoh balls, then covered the pot and (as instructed) did not open the pot for 40 minutes. When the 40 minutes were finally up I lifted the lid only to find–toxic matzoh ball sludge! That’s right, the matzoh balls had completely disintegrated and left me with a thick matzoh ball sludge. I tasted it and the flavor was excellent–if only the balls had stayed balls I think they would have been delicious. I’m afraid to try again, however, and waste all that food for a second time. The reviews on the ppk website seem universally positive. How could I be the only one who screwed it up? I looked around online and many of the other vegan matzoh ball recipes I found suggested baking the balls since otherwise they tend to fall apart. An idea for next time. I also came across this gluten-free matzoh ball recipe with potato starch and ground almonds that looks intriguing.

Lemongrass soup and matzoh balls from Epicurious

Update March 2009:  I made the lemongrass consomme with matzoh balls, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms from Epicurious.  I followed all the instructions carefully, except I used water instead of chicken broth for the consomme, and I cooked the matzoh balls, leeks, and shiitake mushrooms in the consomme (adding the vegetables in the last 10 minutes of cooking).  The first taste I took of the broth was disgustingly salty–I had to add a few cups of water to thin it out and reduce the saltiness, which also ending up weakining the lemongrass/lime flavors as well.  The broth still had a bit of an Asian flair, but it was subtle.  I didn’t care for either the leeks or the shiitake mushrooms in the soup.  The leeks had the texture of worms, and didn’t look much better.  The shiitake mushrooms had a nice silky texture, and look pretty, but had almost no flavor.  The matzoh balls came out well.  I followed the recipe except that I used only 1.5 tsp. salt and I added a bit more matzoh meal because the batter looked a tad thin to me, and I wanted slightly firm matzoh balls:

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • more than 1 cup matzoh meal (maybe 1.25 cups?)
  • 1.5 tsp. coarse sea salt

The matzoh balls were somewhat fluffy, but not light-as-air.  Derek said he would like them firmer, but they were a reasonable compromise.  He thought it was a good good all-purpose matzoh ball recipe that wouldn’t offend anyone too much, and he could taste the matzoh meal quite well he claimed.  I thought that the salt level was fine, despite my reduction, but the matzoh balls needed some herb or spice to liven them up a bit.

Indian matzoh balls from Floyd Cardoz

Update April 2012:  For Passover this year I made Floyd Cardoz’s Indian matzoh ball recipe.  I’ll write about how it turned out shortly.

Matzoh ball recipes from Derek’s Aunt Lois

AUNT LOIS’ MATZOH BALLS (with extra seasonings)

Ingredients:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp salt  (or a little more)
  • 1 cup matzoh meal
  • 1 or 2 tsp. dried parsley or 1 Tbs. freshly chopped parlsey (optional)
  • large pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • 6 quarts salted boiling water

Instructions:

  1. In mixing bowl, mix together eggs, oil and salt.  Add matzoh meal, mixing well.  
  2. Refrigerate for two hours.  (This year I prepared the mixture at night, covered the bowl well and refrigerated it until morning. Then I continued with step 3.)
  3. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in an 8-quart pot and add salt (around the same amount as you would use for 3 quarts of pasta water).
  4. With wet hands, roll dough into walnut sized balls.  Drop into the salted, boiling water.  
  5. When all matzoh balls are made and in water, cover tightly and cook for 40 minutes. (At a boil? Or turn down to a simmer?). Do not uncover during this process.
  6. Shut off heat and let cool for one hour, keeping the cover tightly closed.  This makes for very fluffy matzoh balls.  The matzoh balls are now ready to add to vegetable broth.  Allow them to heat thoroughly in the hot broth (or soup).  This recipe makes about 12 matzoh balls.

I tried this recipe a few months ago except that I think I accidentally halved the oil (which is a lot).  They still came out well.

6 Comments

  1. MARY LEVIN said,

    EGGLESS MATZO BALLS….WHO KNOWS HOW TO KEEP THEM TOGETHER..

  2. austingardener said,

    potato starch

    recipe on my blog

    secret-don’t boil hard or long

  3. Vegetarian Passover 2009 « From the kitchen of a captious vegetarian said,

    […] matzoh ball soup in vegetable broth, with diced carrots, diced parsnips, and […]

  4. Passover 2013 | The captious vegetarian said,

    […]  Indian matzoh ball soup in homemade vegetable broth, with carrots, parsnips, turnips and herb […]

  5. kcopic said,

    Hi Rose! ❤ matzoh balls. I found this on the Cooks' Illustrated website: "CHICKEN SOUP WITH MATZO BALLS
    Editors’ Choice Cookbook Collection.
    From The Best Soups and Stews.

    WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:
    After extensive testing for our chicken soup and matzo balls recipe, we found that the best matzo balls were made with four eggs for every 1 cup of meal. When prepared this way, the matzo balls were pleasingly light and not overly eggy. Aligning with tradition, we found that chicken fat, easily obtained by skimming fat from the cooled homemade stock, does in fact make tastier matzo balls. We found it necessary to adjust the amount of water in our matzo balls recipe depending on the brand of matzo meal being used and the desired texture. To test it, the texture should resemble that of soft mashed potatoes a few minutes after the wet and dry ingredients are combined."

    I'll send you the whole one by email.

  6. 2hours20people said,

    I follow the standard recipe on the container and add baking soda. They are light and fluffy, the way I like them. However, when I made them for the family dad/bro thought they were too fluffy.

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