I want matzoh balls, not matzoh bricks
October 7, 2010 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I love the large, fluffy matzoh balls you find at good delicatessens. When I make them at home they come out like leaden bricks. Help me get that authentic deli-style taste and texture!

I like to keep a box of Manschevitz matzoh on hand at home and make matzoh balls to go in my chicken and vegetable soup. Usually I follow the recipe on the box, which includes (off the top of my head): matzoh, egg, oil or schmaltz, some liquid or stock and a pinch of salt. After resting the batter in the refrigerator for at least an hour, they go into the pot and cook, covered, at a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. They almost always come out like bricks.

Last night I followed Mark Bittman's recipe in How to Cook Everything, which is basically the same, but with the addition of a small amount of shredded onion. Bittman also recommends separating the eggs and whipping the whites to stiff peaks, then folding them back into the batter -- a technique that works great in pancakes and waffles. I gave this a try, thinking it would alleviate my leaden matzoh dilemma. Alas, I was stuck with bricks once again.

So what's the secret to getting the fluffy matzoh balls that I'm seeking?
posted by slogger to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My first stab at the dark is that you're mixing it too much. Forming too much gluten. Don't mix it until smooth, mix it until it's just all together. The rest in the fridge will get rid of any dry lumps.
posted by royalsong at 8:10 AM on October 7, 2010

Have you tried using seltzer water?
posted by Gilbert at 8:10 AM on October 7, 2010

Smitten Kitchen says the secret is seltzer.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:13 AM on October 7, 2010

My mom has always used seltzer, and her matzah balls are better than anyone else's.
posted by JMOZ at 8:18 AM on October 7, 2010

Some recipes use a small amount of baking powder.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:24 AM on October 7, 2010

I always follow the recipe on the box exactly and I have good results. Possible problems: do you use the amount of matzo meal they say? The temptation is to add more at the mixing phase because it looks so soupy, but don't, because the matzo meal will hydrate in the rest in the refrigerator (which you also can't skip).

When I read the outside question I was coming in to say just follow the recipe on the box, but you say you are, so I'm really confused---it's never failed for me, even when I had to look up the box recipe online because I had to make my own matzo meal from matzo in the food processor because my grocery store didn't carry matzo meal.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:30 AM on October 7, 2010

Also: use a large, wide pot (to give them lots of room to expand, if floating in a single layer at the surface.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:39 AM on October 7, 2010

Nthing the seltzer. Been working for me for years.

Also note: Don't use both the seltzer and the baking powder at the same time. You'll be doubling up the carbonates. Either should work alone, though.
posted by Citrus at 8:40 AM on October 7, 2010

Best answer: 1) Use ice-cold water or seltzer as the liquid in your mixture
2) Mix in a pinch of baking powder before adding the wet ingredients
3) Mix only until it's just come together, as gently as possible. DO NOT OVERMIX.
4) Let chill for a good long time in the fridge
5) When assembling the balls, DO NOT OVERMIX. Just pat them gently into ball-like shapes.
6) Cook them in boiling water. You're not cooking them in the stock/soup, right?

That's how my beloved, late Jewish grandmother taught me to make them. Matzo ball soup and rugelach were the only things she was any good at cooking, but damn, was she good.
posted by booknerd at 8:41 AM on October 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: royalsong: great suggestion. Yeah, I may have overmixed last night, especially when I tried folding in the egg whites.

Seltzer water also sounds like a great suggestion. I'll definitely try that next time I make matzoh balls.

leahwrenn: I'm a pretty good recipe follower, though I didn't treat the matzoh meal like I would flour when baking (using a leveled cup, not tapping to settle the volume, etc). I may have cut the rest a little short last night due to time. Maybe I'll try an overnight rest to see what happens.
posted by slogger at 8:48 AM on October 7, 2010

Response by poster: (Should've previewed...)

booknerd: yes, I was cooking them in the soup. It sounds like this is a not advised?
posted by slogger at 8:49 AM on October 7, 2010

Making them from the Manischevitz Mix always works better for me than from scratch. It's the only way I've gotten GIANT fluffy balls.
posted by chelseagirl at 8:50 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

My trick has always been to separate the eggs, stiffen the whites and then fold the maztoh (mixed with everything else) into it.
posted by cestmoi15 at 9:09 AM on October 7, 2010

No, definitely don't cook them in the soup! That's a surefire way to end up with dense balls, and probably the only thing you're doing wrong. You want to cook them in boiling, salted water, then plop them into the soup after they've already cooked and puffed up.
posted by booknerd at 9:12 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't rest them more than half an hour or so, personally.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:27 AM on October 7, 2010

Think of matzo balls like muffins and mix them as such -- first all the wet ingredients (and try using seltzer instead of stock or water). Then the matzo meal. Only stir as much as is needed to wet all the matzo meal. Put it in the fridge, covered tightly in cling, for at least an hour.

I cook mine in the soup and I've never had a problem; my diners consistently comment on the light, fluffy texture of my matzo balls, even when I split the matzo meal half regular and half high fiber/whole wheat.
posted by shamash at 9:49 AM on October 7, 2010

Also, the water you put the matzo balls in should be boiling fast, and they should be in there (covered) for 40 minutes or so; you might be undercooking them. I keep the heat at medium-high or so, and let them boil.
posted by shamash at 9:51 AM on October 7, 2010

My great-great aunt, whose canasta game I have just interrupted, says OY, SELTZER! And do not cook them in the soup, boil them separately! Or she will be very disappointed in you.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on October 7, 2010

Cook them in water not soup and use lots and lots of it. Keep the pot covered. They don't need a vigorous boil but a very low simmer is too low. I think they taste better with butter (I know...) and yes they will come out light and fluffy.
posted by caddis at 10:29 AM on October 7, 2010

Best answer: This video is great and seconds a lot of the advise already mentioned.
posted by annaramma at 10:29 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hm. We make ours with schmaltz and stock, mix only enough to mingle the ingredients to a wet slush, let rest for at least 30min but no more than an hour, and cook in the giant stockpot of soup and they turn out delectably fluffy.

Maybe we'll try some of these other things next time (egg white whipping, seltzer, cooking in separate boiling water) and see if they reach some sort of transcendent form!
posted by batmonkey at 10:36 AM on October 7, 2010

Your matzah balls are perfect the way they are. You should need a knife and fork to eat a matzah ball that SHOULD sink to the bottom.
posted by atomicstone at 12:32 PM on October 7, 2010

poor atomicstone- clearly her mom (or perhaps her bubbe) lied to her!
posted by JMOZ at 6:31 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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