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matzoh balls: sinkers vs. floaters

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Matzoh balls are cracker meal and egg dumplings, whose size varies from golf ball to tennis ball. Matzoh balls can be so fluffy that they crumble at the slightest touch of your spoon, or so dense that they would seem to belong more on the putting green than the soup plate.

When it comes to personal tastes in matzoh balls, there are two schools of preference-sinkers vs. floaters.

Those who love floaters relish the randomness of life. They laud the lightness of floaters, the way floaters dissolve in a crumbly miasma at the slightest touch of a spoon. It bothers them not at all that they never can tell in advance exactly how much or little matzoh ball substance can actually be mounted within a given spoonful.

Those who love sinkers live for reliable weather forecasts. Sinker lovers prefer to cut a piece from a matzoh ball and know its there, right on the spoon where god intended. The fact that cutting into a sinker can often be more challenging than cutting into a cheap steak is regarded by sinker lovers much the way life-long spouses stoically accede to each others' faults.

Yet there is a third way, one that combines the best attributes of both sinkers and floaters: Transcendental matzoh balls.

When you cut into a transcendental matzoh ball, its like cutting into soft butter, the piece separates easily, yet miracle of miracle, despite its feather light texture, each piece stays totally intact on the spoon until its arrival in your mouth, whereupon it gently dissolves over your tongue.

Here's the secret to Transcendental matzoh balls (with all credit to Dr. Irving Weiss, culinary transcendentalist):
--follow the matzoh meal box recipe
--almost double the liquid (use stock, not water)
--separate the eggs
--use olive oil for the fat
--combine all ingredients, except the egg whites
--whip the egg whites to a medium-soft peak
--gently fold in the egg whites
--refrigerate the matzoh ball mixture for 30 minutes
--cook according to package recipe instructions

Voila. Transcendental matzoh balls.

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    Leslie Brenner

    Lovely analysis of the three types. And I imagine Dr. Weiss's recipe works well.

    I'd like to offer my own recent discovery, happened upon after a lifetime of erratic matzoh-ball production. I found it on a box of Streit's matzoh meal, and I'm convinced it's the secret to transcendentalism: seltzer. I followed the directions, substituting olive oil for shortening or fat. I didn't separate eggs. When you add the selzter, the batter spritzes up beautifully. THe results are amazing.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Leslie Brenner

      Seltzer is a key (and I'm of the chicken fat school)-- but the real keys to transcendental matzoh balls are a light touch and making them with love.

      1. re: marionr

        I have made matzo balls with love, with beaten egg whites, etc. None of these transcendent methods works as well in my estimation, as Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix. The secret of their success? Baking powder. While I am a dedicated cook-from-scratch chef, under most circumstances, I have yielded to the inevitable in this case. My family prefers the mix. I concentrate my culinary efforts on making really delicious homemade chicken soup in which to float the ever so light, yet firm matzo balls that result simply from following the package directions: Floaters that don't fall apart. P.S. my very Jewish mother wised me up re. this.

        1. re: zora

          Wait a minute...isn't baking powder a levening agent? I always assumed that it wasn't allowed on passover.

        2. re: marionr

          Seltzer is key. I too am of the chicken fat school, but the other secret I have found is to chill the mixture overnight rather than the 1/2 hour called for in most recipes

          1. re: ruth arcone

            Seltzer doesn't touch my matzoh balls. Good fresh schmaltz, 3-4 hours of chilling before forming and cooking. These are the best I've had, and I can't take credit. Recipe handed down through 3 generations, with plenty of love.

            1. re: Baboo

              Totally agree. Schmaltz is essential, as is a long chilling period (3-4 hours works, as does overnight). No seltzer, no baking powder, no nonsense.

      2. A truly excellent matzoh ball should have an atomic density not dissimilar to that of lead.

        3 Replies
        1. re: beevod

          beevod I am in your camp. Medium size kneidlechs as hard as bullets but somehow still soft.

          1. re: smartie

            Some things I've heard-whether they have any scientific basis- simmer, don't boil and don't lift the lid while cooking (until just before anticipated done time to check).

            1. re: smartie

              Dense and moist. Light and fluffy aren't matzoh balls, they're matzoh dumplings. Nothing wrong with dumplings, but call 'em what they are.

              That said, I might give these Transcendentals a try...

          2. Floaters all the way! My mom makes the best ones every time. She lets the matzo balls cook in the broth instead of adding them in later. I think that's her secret...oops I told everyone!

            1 Reply
            1. I'm all for the transcendal matzoh balls, but if I had to choose one or the other, I'd go for sinker.

              Another matzoh-ball-related question though... one big matzoh ball in the soup or lots of small to medium sized ones? Every tiem I order matzoh ball soup at a restaurant, I get the latter (not to mention it's never as good as at home) and I've never been able to wrap my head around the idea.

              1 Reply
              1. re: sailrox

                I agree about size....I like 'floaters' but not when served in most restaurants here in Toronto where they seem to think size matters! A matzo ball should look like a matzo ball not a 'softball'. All that being said, my husband makes golf ball size and follows the directions exactly as given on the Streit's package...they are great! He's the matzo ball maker and I'm the brisket maker..we know our roles in this family!!!

              2. I am the valadictorian at Schmultz University. I keep a frozen baggie of chicken fat in my freezer @ all times, homemade of course. I am a traditionalist. I follow the recipe on the box of MANISCHEWITZ matzoh meal. I like the balls to float to the top and hard simmer for 45 minutes. Then I put them in the soup until its ready to eat. My old auntie Minnie told me salt in a matzoh ball is everything, if u forget it u loose. I just made matzoh balls for my grandaughters first ball experience. She loved them!