Matzo ball soup is another of those recipes I seldom make. It’s not that it’s difficult; quite the contrary. Simple put, I seldom made it because my matzo balls were like hockey pucks. They were dense and heavy, not exactly something I want in a broth-based soup with few other ingredients. Oddly, I like my homemade noodles to have tooth, but not so with my matzo balls. Despite my constant disappointment in my soup, I was determined not to give up. No way, no how. I liked the soup (in theory, at least) too much for that.
Thus began my search for airy matzo balls. I tried matzo ball mix, and while it wasn’t awful, it still didn’t meet my goal. I turned my attention to the Internet, and it seems there are a lot of people with “heavy matzo ball syndrome.” That made me feel better; it wasn’t just me! (Yes, I can be that egocentric. But then y’all know it’s my world, and I’m just letting you live in it. You’re welcome. And then there’s that whole living two minutes ahead of everyone else thing, but I digress.) Eventually I found several recipes that include baking soda. Thinking about it, using baking powder did make sense. It’s a leavening agent, after all. That should make them lighter, which was what I aimed for.
So yesterday, I gathered my ingredients and set out to make matzo ball soup. Because they have to rest in the refrigerator for about half an hour before cooking, the matzo balls are made first. You’ll notice the recipe calls for melted schmaltz. This is simply chicken fat. You can find it in the ethnic food section of many grocery stores. If you make your own chicken stock (and please tell me you do; if you need a recipe, here’s mine), there may be some at the top of your jar. If you don’t have any or prefer not to use it, vegetable oil is an acceptable substitute. Some people like their matzo balls with only basic seasonings, such as salt and pepper. I use those, of course, but I also include onion powder and finely chopped fresh chives. I think they add a certain freshness to the finished matzo ball.
In my soup recipe, I say to make 1-inch matzo balls. I strongly advise not making bigger ones. First, they grow as they cook; the baking powder at work. Plus, they’re more difficult to cook through when they are too large. And be sure to use a big pot with lots of stock. They need the room to grow, and in the cooking process, they will absorb some of the stock. I limit my other ingredients to carrots and celery. I do add finely chopped fresh spinach during the last few minutes of cooking and chopped scallions just before serving.
The most difficult part of the soup is the cooking part. Well, the waiting part. Once you add the matzo balls, you must put on the lid and not peek for 30 minutes. Natural inclination is to watch them grow, but you must resist. Or you could be like me and use a pan with a glass window in the lid.
It was worth the wait. My matzo balls are light and airy. And they float! I confess I had more than 1 bowl and am looking forward to the leftovers.
Is this version of matzo ball soup suitable for Pesach (Passover)? Depends on who you ask. Some Judaic scholars say yes, because baking powder is a chemical leavening agent, not a natural one, like yeast. Others aren’t so sure. If this is an issue, try leaving out the baking powder and adding 2 tablespoons of seltzer.
Sometimes a lighter, broth-based soup is what’s called for. If you’re tired of the same old, same old, try this.
© Copyright 2013 Ida Walker, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Enabling Cook