There are numerous spellings for these soup dumplings although The Food Lover’s Companion dictionary spells it matzo balls. There are numerous ways to spell its other name; knaidlach, knadlach, kneidlach, kneydlakh which means dumplings.
Matzo balls were initially used during Passover when one could not use leavened bread and the matzo was crushed into meal to make the dumplings. It was early in the 20th century that Manischewitz came out with a packaged matzo meal and it was then that matzo balls started to grow in popularity. Each family, each Bubbe, had their own formula for her matzo balls light and fluffy (floaters) or dense and heavy (sinkers). What made what, well the more fat and matzo meal the heavier the matzo ball, less fat and less matzo meal the lighter. Also the longer time spent chilling the fridge before forming the balls and cooking them improves the texture. Seeking matzo ball wisdom, I prepared numerous recipes each with a twist on original Manischewitz matzo meal boxed recipe and with the matzo ball mixes which have leavening agents and seasonings.
Faklempt, either my balls were coming out loose or too heavy. Trying all recipes and techniques to make replicas of my mother’s light and fluffy renditions had me using club soda which contains sodium bicarbonate which aids in leavening and separating the yolks from the whites, whipping the whites stiff and folding them in as the last step. These did nothing whatsoever to lighten the texture of my matzo balls.
Entrepreneur, caterer and owner of Baltimore’s Haute Dog Carte Daniel Raffel invited me over to his house for a matzo ball making party after seeing me moaning about consistency in my matzo balls on social media. Daniel uses matzo ball mixes to start but has tried and true techniques that make for a matzo ball which is a happy medium between sinkers and floaters. I will try to impart those pearls of wisdom on to you. My recommendation is to get the matzo ball mixes by Streits or Manischewitz since they already have leavening agents, seasonings and everything is already measured. If not use the plain matzo meal and add a teaspoon of baking powder to the recipe for every ½ cup of matzo meal.
Matzo Ball Mix - 1 package
1. Put your eggs in a small bowl and poke the yolks, don’t mix it up like scramble eggs
2. In a separate bowl add the 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil but Daniel Raffel uses 1 Tablespoon schmaltz and 1 Tablespoon shortening. If you make your own chicken stock, don’t throw away that fat that forms at the top when chilled. Freeze it, it is full of flavor and use that for the schmaltz. Add the matzo ball mix to the fat and blend it in pressing with a fork when blended add the eggs and fold in until just blended but don’t over mix. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes, the longer the better.
3. There are many recipes online, some say to cook the matzo balls right in the stock – don’t do it, it will cloud up and suck up your broth. Bring plenty of water to a boil, salt lightly – think like you are cooking pasta.
4. As the water is coming to a boil form the matzo balls in a 1 inch diameter and put on a sheet pan. When the water boils start to add the matzo balls, slowly they will rise to the surface. Once the water comes back to a boil, reduce heat to a very low simmer and cover. As Lois Levenson emphasized in her recipe in 1952’s Like Mama Used to Make, “Do Not remove cover until ready to serve, as air entering the pot makes the knadlach lose their fluffiness.” In reality, you want to remove a matzo ball to make sure it is cooked through.
5. You may be making the matzo balls in advance but when their cooking time is completed turn off the heat and leave the lid on for about 20 minutes per instructions in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.
6. The matzo balls will have doubled in size, meaning they are holding a good amount of water. Per Daniel Raffel, put them on and angled sheet pans at the top of the angle and let the excess moisture run off.(see photo in the slideshow) At this point they can be added to your soup. Matzo balls freeze well – freeze until just firm on a lined sheet pan (parchment paper or plastic wrap). Throw them in a freezer bag for use at a later date. Let them reheat in a simmering broth.
Optional: Add minced onion, parsley, dill or thyme to your matzo ball mixture. Some add a hint of cinnamon, garlic powder. For a look back, our grandmothers stuffed bone marrow in the center of the matzo balls while shaping them leaving the door open to your imagination for other surprise centers.
What I have learned each family has its own rituals when making matzo balls. Hopefully in this piece you have learned a bit more about making these dumplings. If you have any tips for making matzo balls please share.
Epicurious had the Battle of the Matzoh Balls – check these recipes out as well.