AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Floaters or Sinkers? DATE: 4/10/2009 04:39:00 AM ----- BODY:
My friend Amy and I were both hosting our families for Passover this year and decided to collaborate on some of our holiday cooking. As we pulled together our menus and recipes, the inevitable question had to be asked, “Do you like floaters or sinkers?” Of course, we were referring the matzo balls in the soup that precedes every Passover meal around the globe.

Lead bombs may be a more accurate description of the matzo balls I’ve made in the past. As Amy astutely noted, they all really float. Nonetheless, every year I strive for feather light floaters. Every bubbe has her secret, but sadly, I was never taught. My mother, bless her heart, swore upon whipping up the eggs until they tripled in volume. Others advise using seltzer water. And every year, I follow exacting instructions… some years I’ve achieved success, but mostly lead bombs.

Both the seltzer and whipped eggs strive for the same effect – creating air pockets within the batter that expand when cooked. The expanded air pockets get trapped within the dough as it cooks. More air pockets beget lighter balls. The inherent problem with these recommendations is that after you’ve incorporated all these little air pockets, the recipe tells you to let the batter sit for 30 minutes before forming and cooking the matzo balls. During those 30 minutes all the air bubbles deflate and escape. No air-pockets in the matzo balls = lead bombs.

Finally, finally this year, I synthesized all my mistakes and wisdom to create feather light matzo balls. The secret is to make the batter as wet as possible and still hold together when cooked. The water in the batter turns into steam when cooked, pushing against the dough, expanding it to create air pockets. When the matzo balls “set” (i.e. the proteins coagulate and the starches gel), the air bubbles are trapped inside.

And just to be extra safe, I also whipped my eggs until they tripled in volume.

I combined two recipes from Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America” If you don’t have this book, and enjoy Jewish cooking, I highly recommend you purchase it. I’ve made the gefilte fish, kugel and many others to rave reviews.

Stuffed Matzo Balls
4 eggs
2 tablespoons chicken fat, melted
½ cup water or seltzer
1 cup matzo meal
Salt and pepper to taste

Stuffing
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chicken fat
1 egg
2 tablespoons matzo meal
½ teaspoon cinnamon


1. Whip eggs with an electric mixture at high speed until tripled in volume.
2. To the eggs, add the chicken fat, water and matzo meal. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the stuffing: cook the onions with the chicken fat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are dark brown. Remove from heat and mix in the matzo meal, egg and cinnamon.
4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt.
5. Form the matzo balls: with wet hands scoop out about 2 tablespoons of matzo ball mix. Flatten into a round disc around 2 inches around. Put a teaspoon of stuffing in the middle and form the matzo ball around it. Gently place into the boiling water. Repeat this process until all the matzo balls are made – should yield about 12.
6. Cook matzo balls for 30 minutes. Serve with chicken soup.

This recipe doubles and triples well.

Lori Lynn from TaSte WiTh ThE EyEs is hosting a passover round-up, to which I am submitting this recipe. She's posting the round-up on April 15th, but you should go to her blog sooner and often for great recipes and stories.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger samaBlog DATE:4/10/2009 10:51:00 AM God, what a gross metaphor... not at all appetizing... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Rose's Lime DATE:4/10/2009 12:30:00 PM Can we find a Thermodynamics PhD to confirm or refute the "leavening by escaping steam" theory, because it sounds specious to me that a Matsoh ball that's busy absorbing water in a broth that's kept at a simmer would generate steam.

I've been working on Matsoh Balls all Winter. What you do to the dough has less to do with the result than how you cook them.

1) I agree, moist is key. You don't want a dry dough. Add more fat/oil if necessary... there's no Hanukah miracle that's happening in your kitchen.

2) Overhandle the dough when making the balls. You don't need to kneed them, but roll them around in your hands to make sure you really get a good smooth surface and they'll be less likely to break apart. A little water on the hands helps.

3) Cover the pot to keep the steam in. After dropping to the bottom when first dropped into the pot, the Matsoh Balls will bob and float. If the pot's not covered, they'll cook unevenly. Cover them. Get a good simmer going. Trust they'll come out OK and walk away. They'll boil on bottom and steam on top. Don't be tempted to peer into the pot to see if they're coming out fluffy or you'll let the steam out and have leaden lumps.

I've never tried stuffing the Matsoh balls. That sounds yummy. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:4/10/2009 02:02:00 PM samaBlog - I guess you have to be Jewish to fully appreciate the metaphor.

Rose's Lime -- I'm intrigued by your theories for cooking matzo balls. Perhaps we need to have more formal experimentations to isolate the key float-factors.

My theories are based on the food-chemistry I learned in cooking school as it relates to leavening cakes and souffles. But I'd be thrilled to have a thermodynamics PhD weigh in... do you know any? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger adele DATE:4/10/2009 02:48:00 PM Hmm. I know you're supposed to let the batter sit to hydrate the matzo meal... couldn't you theoretically combine all ingredients except the beaten eggs, and add them at the very end?

This probably does call for some experimentation. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:4/10/2009 06:20:00 PM Adele -- I've tried that too. Unfortunately that doesn't work....the dough gets too thick and it's near impossible to incorporate the eggs without either deflating them or having lumps. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:4/10/2009 07:55:00 PM Aw, make me some. :( This soup makes me so nostalgic. It was one of the only things my dad's mom cooked well and I miss it.

Glad you got much closer to having floaters. Heh. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Reeni♥ DATE:4/10/2009 09:59:00 PM Thanks for all the tips! I've only made these once before and mine were lead bombs. My stomach hurt all night. But I'm inspired to try again. I love the idea of stuffing them! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:4/10/2009 11:18:00 PM In my family, my matzoh balls are known as "the depth charges." Even when I learned to make floaters, my matzoh balls are subject to somewhat good-natured ridicule. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:4/11/2009 01:45:00 AM My baba showed me her recipe once and I think I have it written down (not that it would be easy to follow, since it's by feel anyway).

I'm usually lazy and just use the package (the one that you add 2 eggs and oil to). Add to that, I'm usually impatiently waiting for the matzo balls to finish and just end up eating them before they're fully ready.

Clearly, my matzo ball expectations are low.

I should try to dig up recipe...or give yours a try. Or both.

I hope your seder went well! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger cook eat FRET DATE:4/11/2009 05:20:00 PM i never knew you could stuff them. that's brilliant! i kinda don't mind when they sink. i like them dense. as long as the flavor is there.

i gotta say though - these sound amazing... ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:4/12/2009 08:21:00 AM melissa - do you ever make your grandma's matzo balls?

Reeni - matzo has a way of doing that :(

Lydia -- How were they this year?

Pyschgrad -- I actually have low standards, too, but my guests don't.

ceF -- I agree, as long as the flavors good! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous chefectomy DATE:4/12/2009 10:51:00 AM Floaters, or else! Happy Passover.. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Rebekka DATE:4/12/2009 11:15:00 AM That looks SUPER delicious. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:4/12/2009 05:48:00 PM Oh I have so enjoyed reading your post Julia, and the comments too!

OK, I'm going to weigh in, as I have made hundreds of matzoh balls in my life. We have had 32 people for our Seder for the last 8 years. That is 32 X 2 ea. X 8 = 512, and that is just for recent Passovers. Plus we make extras, nothing better than Matzoh Ball soup for breakfast.

Here is my fool-proof method for fluffy balls:
Use whatever your favorite method to make the batter. Be sure to use a big pot, give the balls some room to expand. Add the chilled balls to boiling water, cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium-low (not simmer). This creates lots of steam and a little agitation. Do not open the lid until the balls are fully cooked. Cut one open to see the interior to make sure they are cooked all the way through. OK, that's it!

Adore your stuffed version Julia. I can't believe I have never tried stuffing them, but I will. Definitely.
Oh and your soup bowl is beautiful!

Thanks for participating in the Round-up. I won't be posting it now until April 17th. Maybe Amy has a photo to share too? No need to have a blog.

Thanks again and Happy Passover,
Lori Lynn ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous limeduck DATE:4/12/2009 09:42:00 PM Honestly, I think most of this discussion is confused - not because the facts are wrong but because I'm in favor of sinkers. Kneidlach are related to dumplings as found in various middle European dishes, and I like them dense. I appear to be in the minority according to recent polling (I encourage you to weigh in here http://twtpoll.com/vv8jqj so to speak)

In my limited experience, the time you let the mixture sit has a lot to do with final density. I leave it around a long time.

I've even created sinkers with studiously whipped egg whites added at the end. Maybe it's a green thumb sort of thing - some people just have it. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger melissa DATE:4/13/2009 01:58:00 PM Julia - I never have. I don't have her recipe. I want to try the recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I've had printed out forever. Your tips will also be helpful. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lori Lynn DATE:4/18/2009 07:41:00 AM Hi Julia - I wanted to come by to thank you for participating in the Passover Round-up. I am loving that stuffed matzoh ball soup!
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