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Matzo Ball DISASTER! Please help!

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!