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Matzo Ball DISASTER! Please help!

  • janie May 12, 2010 10:10 AM

First time attempting matzo balls last night, and after searching and reading lots of recipes and tips, wanted the easiest fool proof approach for fluffy matzo balls...well, what I ended up with were hard sinkers with absolutely no flavor whatsoever--no wait, they had the flavor of disgust.

This is what I did:
1/2 cup seltzer cold
1 cup Manishevitz matzo meal (could not find Streits, except for one box that was leaking all over the place--so got the Manishev in a canister..it certainly didn't have a matzo like smell..and there were hard little black things in it--but it was sealed ok.
4 eggs
2 tbsp of chopped parsley (probably should have used a lot less than that as they were very speckled)
some white pepper
some sea salt
1/4 cup of olive oil (used extra virgin)

In large glass bowl--I whisked the eggs together with the oil, and then added everything else, stirred it with a wooden spoon, just enough to blend it..as the tips I read so not to overmix or overwork. The mixture looked a bit thin, but the directions I was using said not to worry that it would get thicker in the fridge and don't add more matzo meal. I then put it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap for 1 hour. In the meantime, I boiled the water in a large pasta pot so it would be ready at the hour mark, I saw a video on chow that said not to overform the matzo balls, and try to just sort of form them loosely..so I did this instead of rolling them into balls...I added some salt to the boiling water and then put them one by one into the water, they seemed very fluffly at first, although oddly shaped (they looked more like little dumplings--although they were sort of strangely sized--I did them at about 2 in diameter and they expanded quite a bit. I kept them boiling fairly strongly for about 20 min and then lowered to simmering strongly for another 15 minutes...they were all floated to the top, and I periodically moved them around a bit to submerge them a little better--the lid was partially off just a bit to allow some steam to escape. Then I heated up my broth, and wanted them to cook for the last 15 minutes or so in the hot broth--i made noodles separately.

When I took them out of the boiling water and put them in a bowl to rest until my broth came up to a boil, they looked kind of slimy and flattened a bit--and then after they went into my broth, were heated through and we attempted to eat them..they were just horrendous. Absolutely the wrong texture--tough and dense in the center and tasted like sand and seltzer--you could actually taste the flavor the seltzer..none of that fluffy buttery like goodness I was aiming for...now I know I didn't have the smaltz, but there's got to be some other bad mistake I made to create these monsters...i would like to redeem myself today, dump these and put some new ones in the pot, and see if my family will comply. By the way the broth was good, although these losers have been sitting in it all night in the fridge, hope they didn't ruin that too...

Thank you for some guidance out there!!!! Also, stayed away from the mixes because all of the ones I saw had msg in them---and also, I had another recipe which was identical to the one I used except it called for 1/4 cup of seltzer not 1/2 cup.

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  1. I applaud your effort and your determination to make your matzoh balls from scratch, but I've gotta tell you, making them from a mix is truly not a bad option. I buy Manischewitz mix in a large container, rather than in the boxes with pre-measured packets. That way I can make as many or as few as I need at the time. I follow the directions on the package and add a bit of finely chopped dill to the mixture. The results are always tasty and light and better than most of the "from scratch" matzoh balls I've tasted..

    1. Janie, so sorry for your trouble! If I follow you correctly, here are my thoughts:

      * olive oil - I have only ever used canola or vegetable oil or schmaltz (not a consideration any more for obvious reasons)
      * I cook my matzo balls for 25-30 min. I cook them in simmering, salted water (not BOILING, simmering) with the lid on in my widest soup pot, so they are in 1 layer.
      * when the time is up, I use a slotted spoon to drain them and lay them in one layer into a rectangular large colander to drain well, so no extra water is absorbed.
      * your basic recipe looks OK, except for the olive oil. In the Midwest, we use club soda, not seltzer, but the concept is the same. I use dill weed instead of parsley, but that should not be a concern. I do use plain old fresh cracked pepper, but white pepper should not make an issue.
      * when I make matzo balls, I make double the recipe, freeze the balls on a plastic lined cookie sheet and stuff into freezer bags.

      To summarize, the 3 things I can think of were that you overcooked the matzo balls, used olive oil instead of veg or canola oil and that you put them into a bowl (with accumulated liquid), rather than a colander (which would drain them). Other than that, I would try again. Practice makes perfect! Good Luck!

      1. Okay, you made two very simple mistakes, no biggie.

        1. don't use extra virgin olive oil, use either schmaltz or peanut oil.

        2. once they go into the water, you need to simmer them, covered (not boiling!!!), and do not, under any circumstances, touch them, until they are done. These are dumplings remember. Don't mess with them, just let them cook.

        It sounds like you also didn't let them cook long enough. Doughy in the center means undercooked matza balls.

        I'd skip the seltzer completely, and if you really really want fluffy, separate your eggs and beat the whites until fluffy, then fold them in.

        Mixes aren't worth the cost, and they have too many additives. Relax, your matza balls will turn out perfect.

        5 Replies
        1. re: tzurriz

          thank you all for your advice--and again, differing approaches..it's amazing how many different methods are applied to this classic dish...I read about the separating of the eggs approach, but then heard some horror stories about bad technique which resulted in meal not being mixed in properly..so I tried to avoid it...I also see that others have substituted melted butter for the smaltz (how do you spell that great word!) and that worked out well...I also see other suggestions for using baking powder about 1/2 to 1 tsp along with the seltzer water, or with 1/4 water--and it appears that there is baking soda in the mixes which perhaps accounts for the fluffiness..maybe either baking soda and no seltzer, or both as I've seen--good advice about putting them in a flat pyrex dish instead of jumbled up into a bowl, will correct that...and will bring my water to a boil and then lower to simmer---or should I just bring it to simmer and keep it at simmer...I definitely did life the lid several times to just move them around a bit--but, yes, I can cover and sit in the corner and pray instead :)

          So, I've got some vegetable oil, got some unsalted butter, and got some baking powder, and more seltzer--should I try the melted butter, and baking powder, and omit the seltzer, and cook them for 40 min on simmer and then add them to my broth--do you think this might work?

          Thank you ---I feel like making 10 batches until I get it right!!!!

          1. re: janie

            Janie,

            I agree with the above posters about using canola or peanut oil (I spell schmaltz).

            I agree that you probably did not cook them long enough. Tzurriz is absolutely right: take one out after 45-60 minutes and cut it open. If it is doughy or tough, it is not done. I am not sure if it is possible to overcook matzo balls. Complete the cooking in the water, drain them and add to the soup after you have heated it up a bit.

            Not sure about your matzo meal: we use Manischevitz or Streits. Are the "hard black things" burnt matzo or dead bugs? If the matzo meal tastes bad, don't use it.

            We use the recipe on the Manischevitz box: which I don't have with me, so i will have to check it. We don't use club soda, but I have friends who do to great success.

            Don't use butter. Clearly not traditional in chicken soup. Would give you a different flavor. Good luck, p.j.

            1. re: p.j.

              I also follow the recipe on the box, my family has used that same recipe since before it was printed on the box! I prefer Manishevitz to Streits, but I suspect that is a locality issue. Friends from NY swear by Streits. There really isn't much of a difference IMHO.

              Please don't use butter. That's completely unkosher, and just plain wrong. ;)

              Bring the water to a boil, then add the matza balls. Cover, and then turn the heat to low.

              I've never seen matza meal without dark specks in it, unless you find bugs (which are unlikely if you bought the canister), don't worry about 'em.

              One last suggestion, please double check that you bought Matza Meal, and not Cake Meal or something else. Just trying to cover all the bases. :)

              Good luck, and again, don't stress so much. Matza balls are easy.

          2. re: tzurriz

            This technique -- beating the whites separately, results in the lightest and fluffiest matzoh balls ever.

            You can also use a light vegetable oil, you don't have to use peanut. EVOO is a bad choice -- too heavy and too pronounced a flavor.

            1. re: tzurriz

              I make lousy matzo balls, myself, but our hostess at tonight's Sedar reiterated that you can't overcook matzo balls. She said they just get softer and lighter.

            2. The Manischewitz mix doesn't have MSG in it. I've used it with great success, with a few add-ins. I throw in some chopped parsley, a generous shake of powdered ginger, freshly ground pepper and some onion powder. My non-Jewish husband, who never even heard of matzo balls while growing up, loves them in chicken soup.

              1. I've used olive oil without a problem. Peanut's going to give you more loft, however.

                I resort to using a boxed mix often, because I like the taste. When I make them from scratch I include a tiny bit of onion juice and garlic powder (the only time I use powdered garlic) as well as plenty of salt and pepper. I've been known to add dill, and also a little bit of MSG (MSG more often to the soup broth than to the matzoh ball mix).

                After you've mixed the egg and oil, fold in the matzoh meal ever-so-gently. And don't fuss with it. As the matzoh meal/soda mixture interacts, gas bubbles form which are your friends. After you've let the mixture sit for an hour in the fridge, form the balls by scooping out with a spoon, or two spoons (like making quenelles). Don't be tempted to roll 'em around; you wanna keep all that air in the mixture. Just drop 'em in a pot of simmering soup, cover and forget about them for at least 30 minutes; 45 if they're large balls. It's the dedication to keeping all the air you can in the mixture that makes them 'floaters.' It takes practice -- after a while you'll get the hang of it.

                Then, you'll be able to graduate to more difficult matzoh-ball based dumplings; the traditional prune knaidlach, and a matzoh ball to which I add sauteed ground carrot and celery, which is absolutely delicious albeit a bit heavy.

                Good luck!

                1. I would suggest refrigerating your mixture overnight--results in a light matzoh ball--not sure whether anyone else has mentioned this...Also, make them small (they expand) and don't use broth for the simmer--use the broth (yoach, in Yiddish) for the actual soup mit der kneidelaich.

                  1. Sounds very similar to my first attempt when making matzo ball soup from scratch.
                    I think I see a couple of steps that are different than what I do.

                    Mix the matzo with your fat, liquid, and egg, but mix it well. Don't beat it, just make sure it is all mixed. It must be thick, thick enough to shape. Let the matzo ball dough hang out in the fridge and good and chilled. I keep a spoon in the mix, that helps me judge if its thick enough. Might take more than hour. I use vegetable oil, never oilve oil.

                    Rolls the balls in between wet hands. The dough won't stick to you and you can shape the balls into a nice round shape. About the size of a walnut. I set them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and I put them back into the fridge to set-up. This is necessary, the matzo has been handled, sitting out, you have to chill it again, or they could break.

                    Put the lid on the pot once the balls are in, then leave it for 10 minutes, and I uncover the last 10 minutes. Never let it roll, just a gentle simmer. If you let it roll, the action of the water will tear the balls up. Shape them about the size of a walnut. I also use room temperature eggs. I don't know if that matters to the final product but it's what I do.

                    I hear ya, the mixes are way too salty for me number one, and any time I can keep from using prepackaged mixes, I do. There are too many other things in these mixes that are unecessary. I don't know about black spots. I would worry about insects, Never seen that, unless you grabbed one that had seasonings such as black pepper in it.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chef chicklet

                      The Manizhewitz mix is great, have been using it for years. NOT the sup mix, though. The two boxes look very similar, but one has both soup and matza balls, and the other only the matza balls.

                      Matza meal is moatza meal. Some are baked in the US (Manishewitz, Striets etc) some are from Israel (Yehuda. Osem) all of them work the same because they are all made from the same ingredients, matza which is just water and flour. Some brands are darker because some matzos are a bit burnt.

                      EVOO is a no- no (as someone stated above) in matza balls. I use one cup of matza meal, 4 eggs, 4 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil, and some seasonings. Sometimes I add a bit of baking powder, sometimes a little seltzer, though I've never really seen a difference. Beating the egg whites is the only way to lighten up matza balls. They are, typically. dense.

                      I like to season the cooking water, also, with paprika (for color) and s&p for a bit of flavor.

                      And when i shape them, i sort of toss them from (wet) hand to (wet) hand and then gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them simmer, but don't move them around as they cook.

                      Good luck!

                      1. re: Miri1

                        That is the mix I prefer also I tried Streits too, I didn't see much of a difference.

                        Funny you should say that about paprika. Matzo ball soup is one of my favorite soups, I play with it trying different ingredients. I do like little pieces of chicken, and sometimes even a small noodles. Once I used more carrots and dill than normal, and it was very good too. I love the matzo balls, so far I'm lucky and not having too dense of dumplings. I also like to cook them in broth and add to it. Of course the broth won't be as clear,but its still tasty~
                        Here's a peek at my last one with all the carrots.
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/7220939@...
                        Now I think I need to make a nice pot this weekend!

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          That's some yummy looking soup, chicklet!

                    2. Hi Janie, sorry about your matzoh ball trauma. I have always used a recipe with the proportions of 1/4 cup of water/chicken broth, 1/4 cup of oil/schmaltz, 4 eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt for 1 cup matzoh meal. I always boil them hard, with the lid on, for 45 minutes or so. This seems to work for me more often than not. Try, try again!

                      1. Bubby Elsie's Perfect Matza balls
                        קניידלאַך Kneydlach

                        For future use -- here are perfect matzo balls. This is my mother's recipe and they use no fat and no tricks. Use the wire whip/wisk on the best mixer you have - first choice is a Kitchen Aide. This is for either 12 or 15 balls.
                        For 12 medium matza balls For 15 large matza balls
                        3 eggs - separated 4 eggs - separated
                        1 cup Matzah meal 1 1/3 cup Matzah meal
                        1 scant teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon salt +
                        Directions
                        1. Have well salted water rapidly boiling in a very large pot.
                        2. Separate egg whites from yolks. Then, on highest speed of mixer, beat egg whites with 3/4 tsp - 1 tsp salt until almost stiff.
                        3. At lowish speed, add one yolk at a time to the whites.
                        4. Add matza meal slowly -- so mixture is not too tough but sticky.
                        5. With wet hands form balls and drop them into boiling water. Touch the balls as little as possible.
                        6. Cook 20 minutes at least.
                        7. Add to chicken soup and enjoy.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Andita

                          we had disaster matzo balls tonite too and cant figure it out since we seem to do them the same each time and get totally different results. We use the recipe on the Manny's matzo meal container, and used peanut oil. Used to use canola oil.. They are usually very good, slight density in middle and fluffy around.
                          3 years ago they came out like rocks. We had made them huge so decided they needed more cooking and cut them in half, cooked them forever, and they turned lighter color and lighter texture. We also thought that maybe they had been overworked. We have made them fine since then, but now this year the matzo ball disaster resurfaced. This time we made them small, like an inch and rolled them no more than 3 secondsm, turned the boil down first and kept the cover on. Oh yeah, we also cooked them in the broth, which we never do. But we used a big pot and took the bulk of the carrots onion, and celery out. There was no chicken in our soup. They were still hard round and small and dark inside after 45 min or more, so i figured we could just cook them forever again. So we cooked them longer, at a bit stronger than a simmer this time, and then they looked all fluffy and irregular shaped, and good and felt much lighter on the spoon. We werent ready to eat at that point, so just left the soup to simmer down and richen the flavor for quite a while, maybe at least an hour. When we went to eat, the balls had reverted back to their one inch size and were even harder! And they seemed slimy on the outside and way too dense on the inside. So what's they story? Why did cooking forever help once, but then hurt worse this time? By the way, the broth got quite opaque so i wonder if the balls just disintigrated into the soup? thanks! Oh, the only other thing was that hubby used a kitchen tablespoon instead of a measuring spoon but he said when it seemed to thick he put in extra water anyways, but not exta oil. Oil was measured in a kitchen tablespoon, but i cant imagine that too little oil would have caused the prob...

                          1. re: chompie

                            one other thing.. the soup cooked down quite a lot and got way too sweet and salty. Dont know if that can affect a matzo ball. We kept adding salt to the soup early on cuz the balls were bland. And we had more carrots than usual and used sweet onions instead of regular, so those are the only other factors.. I was also wondering if the lesser amount of oil DID make a difference. Does the oil maybe served to bind the egg to the meal, and with less oil, would the egg float off like egg drop soup??

                            1. re: chompie

                              I can't really help you, but I will say this. I made matzoh balls yesterday from the Manischewitz matzoh ball mix (like I do every year) and they came out perfect. But then I decided that I didn't have enough balls, so I took out the can of matzoh meal and followed the recipe to make 8 additional balls. I made them exactly the same size as the ones from the mix, but when they were done (after 20 minutes), they were the size of walnuts and they were hard as rocks. There is no way I could serve them (I am hosting a seder tonight). I thought maybe I did something wrong, but all I can say is that in the future I will continue to use the mix...it never fails me.

                            2. re: chompie

                              They can't cook all that time, they will do what yours did, which is disintegrate.
                              cook your balls in water ahead, don't put them i the soup until the end and they will stay perfect. I made them last night form the recipe on the manishevitz box with canola oil and they were perfect. really good eggs and not overworking make a big difference, and I make 2" diameter.

                              1. re: magiesmom

                                since my matzoh ball disaster and many tries--i have been using the manishev box recipe and yes, they are PERFECT--i buy the non msg mix and I add fresh parsley and use the oil they reccomend which is i think vegetable--the wesson i think--and yes, in water

                              2. re: chompie

                                Chompie, I think I might have solved the mystery....see my post at the end of the matzo ball disaster thread...let me know what you think. Lynlyn

                              3. re: Andita

                                I was wondering if Janie used too little salt. There isn't much to a matza ball, and salt is integral to the flavor. I used the recipe on the back of the Manischewitz matzo meal container, and the proportions were 2 eggs, 1/2 c. meal and a full teaspoon of salt. Your recipe is closer to that proportion than the recipe above.

                                Janie, if your end product is flavorless, make sure you're adding enough salt!

                                1. re: CathleenH

                                  The Manischewitz matza meal box gave very good instuctions. Firstly, they wrote exacting what utensils were needed. They they wrote the exact amount needed to make 8 matza balls. They wrote after making the mixture of 2 eggs slightly beaten with oil and salt, then adding 1/2c of matza meal mixed well. Finally. adding 2 TBS water or soup. Refrigated for 20 minutes or more. After they mention to boil water, form the matza ball, walnut shaped which were added to the boiling water and simmered for 30-40 minutes. Matza balls were drained and added to the soup cooking in another pot. .

                                  1. re: classylady

                                    yup, and it works perfectly. We just had another wonderful set of them; people said they were the best ever, from the recipe on the box.

                                    1. re: classylady

                                      That's basically the formula I use and it has never failed.
                                      I would never use olive oil or any other liquid oil. My 1st choice is duck or goose fat (if I have it on hand), second choice is schmalz, and sometimes I use pork fat (I know, I know...but I'm not that particular). Once in a while, I'll even use ghee.
                                      All work equally well, and all taste great.
                                      Chilling the mix is important ...at least an hour or preferably overnight. The fats I've mentioned have 2 advantages over using any kind of liquid oil: first and foremost, flavor-- second, since they firm up when cold, the balls are much easier to form.
                                      Put the formed balls in boiling, salted water (or with some bullion), and simmer them with the pot _covered_ for at least 30 minutes (and don't lift the cover during that time).
                                      The results have been perfect every single time.

                                2. I made a batch of matzo balls on Friday from a fresh box of matzo meal and they came out perfectly light and fluffy. Then I poured rest of the matzo meal into a plastic container to store. Tonight I made another batch of matzo balls, using the exact same recipe. Although they tasted good, they were serious sinkers, and took almost twice as long to cook through. Baffled, I googled dense matzo balls to try to figure out what happened. I think I've found the answer. The matzo meal is not a consistent crumb size throughout the box! My first batch was from the top of the box, where the crumbs must have been fairly large, and resulted in fluffy matzo balls. Looking again at matzo meal in the plastic storage container, it looks like the crumbs on top (which would be from the bottom of the box) were very fine, almost like cornmeal. So my guess is that the coarser crumbs absorb liquid differently from the fine crumbs,, and ultimately cook up differently. I will experiment again later this week, and plan to shake my container a bit first so that the fine crumbs sink to the bottom, and will use just coarse crumbs in my matzo balls. If this works, the mystery of matzo ball sinkers will finally be solved!

                                  1. I made my share of sinkers until I found this recipe from Bon Appétit. I don't make them miniature, however, and I don't add the chives. For me, the trick is whipping the egg whites. Good luck!

                                    http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/200...