Part 9. Carrot or beet macaroons (no coconut) – a failed experiment

(I did not take any photos, sorry)

I began with a basic macaroon recipe with carrot-coconut substitution.
3 large egg whites beaten to stiff peaks with ½ c white sugar and 4 tbs brown sugar

2 1/2 c shredded carrots or beets folded into egg whites.

Baked for 30 min at 350 F.

I did not introduce any dairy (e.g. Condensed milk), but I can’t imagine it would have solved the problems I’ll describe below.

1. Fresh veggies:

Using freshly grated veggies in the recipe was a disaster. The batter was too wet and collapsed into flat cookies that burned on the bottom. Reducing the amount of sugar or slower cooking at lower temperature to prevent burning didn’t help; the result was a flat wet cookie without any structure or (if I baked long enough) a black burnt wafer (no Jews accepting communion jokes please – that’ll be a story for another day).

In one batch, I added raisins and under-baked. The molten lumps (eaten with a spoon) tasted like a good tsimis; the beet version had a well-balanced (perhaps toward savory) sweetness, so at least the test helped me decide how much sugar was needed in the recipe.

2.  Resourcing dried veggies:

I thought the problem was excess moisture, so I decided to switch to dried veggies. After several failed attempts to oven dry my root vegetables, I found an online source for carrots. The company’s origin story is inspiring (see below*), but the product is only kosher, not kosher for Passover.

There is no commercial source of dried beets, only dried beet pulp (DBP). DBP is the residual beet fiber after sugar extraction and is used for horse feed. I was also tempted by sites offering other “freeze dried” vegetables in shredded or powdered form (eg. Mushroom, tomato), but decided that they wouldn’t do for two reasons. The powdered form would not have the consistency of coconut or almond paste and result in a flavored meringue rather than a macaroon. The freeze dried veggies are not pre-cooked which could lead to diminished flavor and suboptimal rehydration from the moisture of the egg and brown sugar as the macaroon cooks.

If you want to do the experiment, find a friend with a dehydrator (or use an oven-based dehydration recipe) and dehydrate carrots that are freshly grated and carrots that have been “par-boiled” for 2 minutes and then “shocked” in ice water. The cooking dentures the enzymes that degrade the carrot so that the pre-cooked version will be more orange. They also rehydrate faster because the cooking breaks down their cell walls. Adding a small amount of baking soda to the cooking water (high pH) will enhance this effect and give you softer carrots after rehydration.

3. Dried carrot recipe:

Substituting dried carrots into the basic recipe stiffened up the macaroons and they kept their shape, but perhaps because of the size and shape of the shreds, the veggies clumped. This happened even when I partly rehydrated the carrots in the microwave (2 tbps water to 2 ½ cups carrots for 90 sec, covered).

The result was an egg-white shell around clumped partly dried carrots and uneven cooking. So the center remained raw while the bottom burned and the top dried out to a leathery consistency. They were neither a meringue nor a macaroon. I tried lower temperature with longer baking and browning under the broiler and a convection oven.

In all attempts, the taste and texture were odd. It was like sprinkling sugar on an old woody carrot. The fresh baked (sweet potato pie) feeling of the first attempt was gone.

With the taste of burnt sugar lingering in my mouth and died carrot shreds stuck in my teeth, I’m ready to accept defeat. I think the concept was off.

 

The best compromise ma be less sweet traditional macaroon, perhaps even with an additional of a paste of cooked carrots and raisins (akin to the almond paste in almond flavored macaroons)

 

*Honeyville Story

Lowell Sherratt Sr. had a good head for business. Along his journey of life Sherratt forged many great friendships with kindness and fairness. Sherratt worked as a seed salesman in Southern California in the late 30’s and early 40’s. During which World War II was in full swing, but no one could prepare the United States for what would happen on December 7, 1941. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in a vicious sneak attack that effectively neutralized the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The United States promptly entered the war on December 8, 1941. The attack on Pearl Harbor led many to believe that Japan was planning a full-scale attack on the West Coast of the United States. Authorities questioned the loyalty of ethnic Japanese living on the U.S. West Coast and called for action. Franklin D Roosevelt responded with Executive Order 9066, which allowed military commanders to designate restricted military areas at their discretion. These areas started out with critical areas on the west coast but soon spread to cover much of the east and west coasts of the country, a full 1/3 of U.S. soil.

Some Japanese-Americans were given the opportunity to move inland, away from the designated restricted areas. Many decided to stay, often times to show their loyalty to the United States, and were grouped into internment camps across the country. Family lore has it that Earl Warren, California Attorney General and later U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, asked Sherratt to sponsor some Japanese Americans in an effort to get them out of California. Lowell Sherratt, Sr. had built his success by developing a relationship of trust with each of his customers. His desire to serve, and his personal relationship with each of them was put to the test. The response was immediate, and the answer was “Yes!”

Sherratt sold his home, took his family, and helped his Japanese-American friends in their desperate move to Southern Utah. His friends raced to beat a March 1942 deadline to leave the restricted area or face arrest and detainment. He led the convoy of more than 10 families from Los Angeles to Page’s Ranch, an isolated ranch, 30 miles west of Cedar City. Vehicles that broke down were left behind. Taunts were common when they stopped for gas. Feelings were so bitter, as a result of the war, that merchants would only trade with the farmers under the cover of night.

The families stayed on at Page’s Ranch for a year or two before moving on to Idaho and Colorado to farm. Lowell Sherratt, Sr. stayed in Utah. In the 1950’s he bought a mill in Parowan to crack grain for a feed company in Southern California. He eventually moved his company to the small town of Honeyville, Utah, taking the name for his company, Honeyville Grain. In 1973 he continued to expand, bringing his company back to Southern California. The California facility has added technology and moved around the greater Los Angeles area before settling in Rancho Cucamonga, CA in 1988. In the fall of 1981 a warehouse and distribution facility was added in North Salt Lake City, Utah. That facility has grown and now resides near the Salt Lake City airport.

Part 8. Left over matzo balls – the new tofu?

Kohlrabi or cabbage, carrot, squash slaw with stir-fried matzo balls (Serves 2-4)

Salad:

1 large kohlrabi or 2-3 smaller ones, about 3-4 cups (Peel the tough outer skin of the kohlrabi)
1 large carrot
1 medium summer squash or zucchini
1 small onion

4 matzo balls (3 if your balls are large)

 

Dressing:

1/3 cup bottled mayonnaise

2 mashed small garlic cloves (optional)

Horseradish to taste (at least 1 tablespoons or the white bottled variety)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

 

Cut the matzo balls to 1/2-1/4 inch cubes. Microwave them on a coffee filter for 3 minutes on a coffee filter or paper towel to partially dehydrate them; use a towel brand that has no dyes and will not fall apart when wet (Bounty white). Pan brown the cubes on all sides in chicken fat or olive oil.

 

Grate kohlrabi, carrots and squash. Cut onion in strips, salt generously and set aside in a bowl for 10 minutes; then discard the water at the bottom of the bowl before tossing with the other veggies. Add the matzo ball cubes. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and add pepper to taste (the onions have been salted). Toss dressing with the salad.

 

 

Matzo ball stir fry – Christmas shouldn’t be the only holiday Jews eat Chinese food (serves 6)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red pepper, cut into 2 inch long strips

4 scallions, cut into small rings

1 cup thinly sliced celery (against the diagonal)

1 cup sliced carrot

Pinch of hot pepper flakes

2 cloves minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried ginger

1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms (Shitake)

1 pinch salt

2-3 cups diced matzo balls (1/2 inch dice)

 

In a large skillet heat the oil and add the red pepper, scallions, celery, carrots, cayenne pepper and garlic. Saute until tender. Add the ginger, salt and mushrooms and diced matzo balls. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Lower the heat for another 5 minutes while you taste for salt and pepper.

 

 

 

Matzo balls gratin:

 

1 Matzo ball per person

1 Tbsp. butter and 1 teaspoon of grated parmesan cheese per ball.

 

Cube the balls and microwave them on a coffee filter or paper towel. Use a brand of towel that has no dyes and will not fall apart when wet (Bounty white) to partially dehydrate.

Brown all sides in butter, add grated parmesan cheese and melt in the pan or under the broiler.

Part 7. Apple raisin kugel matzo balls

This recipe is adapted from Jacque Pepin’s recipe for pâte à choux (French gnocchi/quenelles). The approach made some sense since it involved precooking a flour and water mix (like matzo), and a subsequent boiling step.

The one exotic ingredient is matzo cake meal, which is finely ground matzo that is generally used for Passover baking and it is available online.  The Manischewitz recommended substitution ratio is 5/8 cups cake meal = 1 cup flour. My recipe below uses a bit more than this because I’ve introduced a few extra wet ingredients. Reducing the flour in my recipe will give a lighter ball, but the lighter the ball, the egg’ier (omelet-like) the texture.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1/4 Tsp cinnamon

½ granny smith apple, grated

½ small lemon (juice)

¼ cup golden raisins

 

¼ cup ordinary matzo meal

¼ cup half and half (or light cream)

 

1 cup water

½      Tsp salt

1 heaping Tbsp white sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter sliced, and 1 tablespoon butter to grease a baking dish

3/4 cup matzo cake meal (you can not substitute ordinary matzo meal) – you may use a little less for lighter balls.

3 large eggs

 

The recipe is made in several stages and you must prepare the components in advance.

Mix-ins:

1. Mix the grated apple, raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon in a covered microwave dish. Microwave at high for 2 minutes and set aside.

2. Measure out the ordinary matzo meal in a bowel and the half and half into a cup; keep a clean spoon nearby for mixing.

Prepare the stove:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

The base batter:

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt, white sugar and 2 tablespoons of butter and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, add the cake meal all at once and beat the dough with a wooden spoon until it is thick and comes away from the side of the pan. Cook, stirring to dry out the dough, about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a food processor and pulse a few times to help it cool, about 5 minutes.                                                                                                                   image001 image003 image005
  2. Add the half and half to the ¼ cup matzo meal and stir to combine. Open the container with the apple mixture.
  3. Beat 1 egg into the dough until incorporated (a few pulses). Pulse in the milk/meal mixture and one egg, add the last egg and pulse until smooth, remove the processor blade and stir in the apple mixture with a spoon.                                image009 image007                                                             image011 image013
  4. Refrigerate the processor bowl for 10 minutes while you bring the water pot to a moderately strong boil.

Cooking (2-stage):

  1. With wet hands, form the batter into 2-inch balls and drop them in the water. Since total cooking time will only be 3-4 minutes, do this rapidly or pre-form the balls onto a plate.
  2. Simmer the balls for 3 minutes after you add the last ball and cover the pot. With a slotted spoon, transfer the balls onto a paper towel to dry.                                                                                                   image015
  3. Then transfer them to a buttered baking dish – leave a few inches between the balls so they might brown. Browning can be improved by brushing with melted butter.  Bake about 35 minutes until browned.

They can be served with jam like a scone, or with ice-cream or with additional cooked apple-raisin mixture and a little cream.

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Part 6. Color

Given the proximity with Easter, an homage to the Easter Egg seemed appropriate. The prominence of a hard boiled egg (Beitzah) on the seder plate. The roasted egg symbolizes the ancient festival sacrifice in the time of Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem; the egg is also a symbol of mourning (as eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral), evoking the idea of mourning over the destruction of the Temple (quoting Wikipedia).

Traditional vegetable/organic dyes can be used, and I’ve included 2 here (blue=cabbage and yellow=tumeric), but admixture of vegetables works better since the mottled texture and heterogeneity of a matzo ball do not make for vibrant color. The veggies are merely added to the basic ball recipe and boiled a bit more gently in the first few minutes of cooking.

Green (spinach)                                                       Blue (cabbage)

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Red (beet)                                                                 Orange (carrot)

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It’s not easy being green, The Spinach matzo ball:

10oz package of frozen leaf spinach (Birds Eye Leaf Spinach 10 Oz)

1/2 c. matzah meal
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. fat
4 Tbsp. spinach water

Spice it up with chopped garlic or a grind of nutmeg or black pepper, but I leave off the salt since I find matzo tastes quite salty on it’s own and these are going to be served in soup.

Defrost the spinach in the microwave (4 min on 50% power), then place into a clean dish towel or between 2 sturdy (Bounty) paper towels and wring the spinach dry and reserve 4 Tbsp of the spinach water. Put the spinach in the bowl of your food processor and pulse at least 8 times to chop.   Whisk together the eggs, fat, spinach water. The whisk works much better than a fork to break up the egg and homogenize the fat. In any case, you don’t want to add the liquids to the spinach until they are combined and the spinach is finely chopped or you will produce a heterogeneous and clumpy ball.

Add the liquids to the processor and combine with the spinach for a few seconds. Transfer to a mixing bowl or at least remove the blade, sprinkle the matzo meal over the top and fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 min. Make balls the size of walnuts and drop into boiling soup. I typically take a spoon full into my palm and roll. It helps to wet your hands after every 2-3 balls.

Prepare the balls on a plate and add them one at a time to a deep pot of lightly salted boiling water (they can not touch the bottom). Boil covered for 40 minutes. Transfer the balls to soup and let sit for 30 minutes prior to serving. Reheat the soup before serving. Do not let the balls cool outside of a liquid, they will get dense and crust. Adding the balls to soup allows them to absorb the flavors.

As they boil, bits of spinach will inevitably leak out, but you do want to avoid total disintegration so here are 2 tips. Keep the pot at a gentle (rather than rolling) boil for the first few minutes of cooking. Boil a test ball for a 2-3 minutes. If it falls apart, leave the remaining balls in the fridge (the balls, not the primary mixture) for another 20 minutes before boiling.

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Red and green balls in cooking water: the beet coloring leeches in to the water, but does not seem to affect the green balls.

The balls can be served in soup, but are actually tasty on their own with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of Parmigian cheese– perfect for vegetarians, perhaps along with mushrooms and onion sautéed with garlic.

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Red Velvet, The beet matzo ball:

1 medium-sized raw beet

1/2 c. matzah meal
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. fat
4 Tbsp. water

Several grinds of black pepper.

Peel and finely grate 1 medium-sized raw beet. I use the grating wheel of my food processor. Whisk together the eggs, fat, water. The whisk works much better than a fork to break up the egg and homogenize the fat. Combine the liquids with the grated beet then sprinkle the matzo meal over the top and fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 min. Make balls the size of walnuts and drop into boiling soup. I typically take a spoon full into my palm and roll. It helps to wet your hands after every 2-3 balls.

Prepare the balls on a plate and add them one at a time to a deep pot of lightly salted boiling water (they can not touch the bottom). Boil covered for 40 minutes. Transfer the balls to soup and let sit for 30 minutes prior to serving. Reheat the soup before serving. Do not let the balls cool outside of a liquid, they will get dense and crust. Adding the balls to soup allows them to absorb the flavors.

Although we have all endured (and strategically set the seder table to cover) beet stains on a white table cloth after serving gefilte fish with red (beet juice laden) horse radish, beets are surprisingly weak at coloring foods. Even Easter eggs are only tinged pink by beet juice (like a rented Harvard GSAS graduation robes on a rainy day:   http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2004/6/9/seniors-complain-about-attire-er-moore/

While the inside of the balls will maintain a pink hue, the outside is inevitably ashen. You have the choice of adding an innocuous sprinkle of paprika (left ball in photo), or bathing the balls in freshly shredded raw beet. You can also serve the balls with a bit of the slaw as well.

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I encourage you add the chopped beet greens to your chicken soup (cook for 2-4 minutes). This will add color contrast and nutrition. 

Orange , vindaloo (1), The carrot-ginger matzo ball:

3 large carrots (3/5th pounds), (a little over half a pound of sweet potato or squash would be fine as a substitute)

1/2 c. matzah meal
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. fat
4 Tbsp. water

4 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger

Several grinds of black pepper.

A mass quantity (2) of turmeric

Peel and chop the carrots into half inch pieces and boil in salted water until soft enough to mash into a paste (approximately 10 minutes). Mash the carrots with a fork. If you decide to use squash, beware of those with a stringy texture, the vegetable used must be mashed into a paste. Add the grated ginger and combine with a fork.

Whisk together the eggs, fat, water. The whisk works much better than a fork to break up the egg and homogenize the fat. Thoroughly combine the liquids with the mashed carrot with a fork or whisk. Sprinkle the matzo meal over the top and fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 min. Make balls the size of walnuts and drop into boiling soup. I typically take a spoon full into my palm and roll. It helps to wet your hands after every 2-3 balls.

Prepare the balls on a plate and add them one at a time to a deep pot of lightly salted boiling water (they can not touch the bottom). Boil covered for 40 minutes. To ensure an orange/yellow color, add turmeric to the boiling water at about 8 Tbsp per quart of water or enough to make the liquid opaque.

Transfer the balls to soup and let sit for 30 minutes prior to serving. Reheat the soup before serving. Do not let the balls cool outside of a liquid, they will get dense and crust. Adding the balls to soup allows them to absorb the flavors.

The turmeric is primarily added to color the matzo ball, but does not alter the flavor substantially. The sharpness of the ginger will be lost, but still detectable. A nice idea would be to alter the soup to enhance the ball. Add a few slices to fresh ginger to the soup during cooking and a generous squeeze of lemon to brighten the taste just before serving.

Blue balls, matzo ball in cabbage broth:

These are standard balls boiled in colored water. Prepare the boiling liquid by barely covering a chopped head of purple cabbage with water in a stockpot.

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Boil for 30 minutes and strain out the cabbage. You can add an egg about 6 minutes prior to the end of the boil if you want to snack on a blue egg.   Cook your matzo balls in the liquid and they will have a bluish tinge, don’t expect bright and vibrant. The cabbage will stink while you’re making the cooking liquid, but that smell and taste will not be transferred to the balls.

 

End notes:

(1)  I’m making an obscure reference to an episode of the British science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf.

Hollister: Do you know what happens when a dinosaur eats cow vindaloo, two and a half tons of mint-choc ice cream, followed by four hundred crates of orange ice-pops, and swills it all down with two thousand gallons of a popular fizzy drink, after it’s burped?
Rimmer: It feels sick?
Hollister: Oh no! It doesn’t feel sick, Rimmer – it is sick! Five of our best men nearly drowned! Two others are in hospital, concussed by pieces of carrot the size of tree trunks.”

 (2) Of course, this is a reference to the coneheads of Saturday Night Live who consumed mass quantities of just about anything.

Part 5. The stuffed matzo ball

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A matzo ball with a surprise center is obviously inspired by the Kreplach (noodle dumpling filled with meat) which is usually eaten on Rosh Hashanah or Sukkot and I include it as more of an ‘haute couture’ concept item from the House of Hecht.

The idea of finding a secret rewards stuffed inside tradition is very appealing and very Jewish. We experience this sense of hidden meaning during the Passover seder in the section of the haggadah where three rabbis debate the number of plagues (the section that you probably skip on your way to Dayenu).

I have not included any wrapping recipes since they are essentially post-hoc modifications of, rather than substantive changes to the matzo ball. However, I want to briefly contrast the stuffed matzo ball to the wrapped matzo ball, and can only hope to inspire a Talmudic debate. Although I find the idea of wrapping balls in corned beef and baking so that they absorb all that delicious fat, wrapping suggests concealment, perhaps for the sake of a pleasant surprise or gift, but also perhaps as protection or shame.

Top Chef star Ilan Hall’s bacon wrapped matzo ball at The Gorbals in Los Angeles is obviously meant as humor, along with his “Bar Mitzvah” sports bar, and a reference to his Scottish heritage. But it’s hard to entirely escape the echoes of the Spanish inquisition and “marranos” who formally converted to Christianity, but secretly taught their children Jewish ritual. Thank you Ilan for making us think a bit about our history and relation to society.

 

Batter: Prepare the basic matzo ball recipe (Part 4 above- Chemistry of the matzo ball) –

this will make about 6 stuffed balls.

Stuffings:

Meat balls.

1          lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef

[A veggie substitute would be 6 oz of finely chopped baby bella or other common supermarket mushrooms (5-6 mushrooms). These would need to be fried with the onions and 2 Tbsp. butter until browned]

1/4       cup matzo meal

1/4       cup water or broth

1          small onion or half a large yellow onion, grated

1          egg

Roll the meatballs no larger than 1 ¼ inches; wet your hands between the balls.

This recipe will make far more meatballs than you will need, but trying to dispense a fraction of an egg doesn’t work.

I have tried pre-cooking the meatballs at 400 degF for 10 min, but it does not make much difference to the final appearance.

Boiled egg.

Soft boiled or poached eggs work best for this recipe as they will be less rubbery in the final product, but soft-boiled eggs are difficult to peel and soft eggs are difficult to wrap in the matzo ball batter.

So I suggest placing shell-on eggs in boiling water for 5 minutes. The water should come only 1/3 of the way up the egg and you should cover the pot while boiling/steaming.

Plunge the eggs in ice-water and peel in that water. According to various internet sites:

  1. Eggs older than 10 days peel better.
  2. Addition baking soda to the boiling water and short boiling time improves peeling.
  3. A youtube video suggests peeling off the ends of the egg’s shell and then blowing the egg out the wide end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2gYHJNT3Y
  4. I find that it’s better to crackle the entire surface of the shell rather than pulling off large plates of shell.

 

The stuffing technique:

Wet your hand and spread a thin layer of matzo ball batter over your palm, approximately ¼ inch thick. Place the egg or meatball at the base of your index finger and wrap the batter around the filling. The wrapping will have a gap over about 1/3 of the surface of the filling. Use fingers of both hands to gently massage the filling from the opposite side to close the gap. The final wrapping should be less than 1.4 in, but not have any gaps. Use a wet hand to smooth the surface.

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Cooking:

Prepare the balls on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. This will help prevent breaks during boiling.

Lower the ball one at a time cradled in a spoon into the pot of lightly salted boiling water. These balls are unusually large, so be sure they do not touch the bottom, or they will stick and your balls will be damaged.

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Boil covered for 40 minutes.

 

Transfer the balls to soup and let sit for 30 minutes prior to serving. Do not let the balls cool outside of a liquid, they will get dense and retract from the filling.

 

Serving:

The balls should be served sliced in half. There is no way to prevent partial separation of the ball from the filling. If this bothers you, there are several options:

For meatball filling, you can press matzo farfel (broken up matzo) into the surface of the meatballs – these shards will stick out from the ball into the surrounding batter and hold it in place. Another option is to just add the meatball recipe to the matzo ball batter in a ratio of 1:3 (meatball to batter), but I would call that product a poached meatball.

 

For egg filling, you can remove the egg (halved or whole) at the time of slicing/halving. Then you can fill the cavity with something more interesting: chopped hard boiled egg with optional additional add-ins like pickes or matzo farfel, a traditional seder food. Alternatives also include a poached egg with soft yolk, or you can color the egg in a solution of water and Turnuric (yellow), grated beets (pink), boiled cabbage water (blue).

 

Part 4. Chemistry of the matzo ball.

The consistency of the matzo ball is predominantly determined by the properties of the eggs.

For a denser tougher balls, you can use extra-large eggs, acidify the cooking water with a spoonful of vinegar to coagulate the eggs, salting the cooking water to raise the boiling temperature. Longer refrigeration times will congeal the balls, also let the fat get absorbed in to the meal so water can’t penetrate and puff as much.

For lighter balls, you can add baking powder (soda water is pointless) to the matzo meal; this results in both carbon dioxide gas formation and ball inflation. One can beat the whites separately and fold them into the rest of the mixture (yolks, water, fat, add-ins like spinach).

The fat will also determine the texture and taste since it is retained in the matzo meal until the end. The best choice is schmaltz, rendered chicken fat, but margarine is a reasonable substitute. Vegetable or olive oils can be used, but will render a denser and greasier ball.

Cook and writer Jonathan Meyer suggests that one caramelize a finely chopped medium onion in 4 tablespoons of margarine and use 2 tablespoons of the onion and 1 tablespoon of the margarine in place of 2 tablespoons of chicken fat. I have not tried this, but it sounds wonderful.

My recipe for meatball stuffed matzo ball below will obviously have more fat and be denser than an unstuffed ball, but the effect is limited by the fact that the fat only hits the matzo ball mixture after it is partially hydrated. That is, the matzo meal doesn’t absorb all the fat because it is already full of water.

The other issue is the size of the eggs. If you plan on separating the eggs, beating the whites to stiff peaks and folding them into the rest of the ingredients, then extra large eggs (more whites) will lighten the balls. However, if you just plan on beating whole eggs into the batter, the overall clumped extra egg protein will weigh down your balls. Do not change the proportion of matzo meal to number of eggs, this will result in either a unpleasantly chewy/doughy or egg’y; too much meal and the ball will seemed undercooked; too many eggs and it will have the texture of an under-mixed chremzl (matzo meal pancake).

After cooking, cool the mazto balls in soup or canned broth. Otherwise they will collapse and become dense and leather like.Untitled

Cooling them in the cooking liquid seems to leave them with an uninspired salty flavor when later reheated; they need to be permeated by soup on while they are hot.

The basic Matzo ball recipe (6-8 balls):

1/2 c. matzah meal
2 eggs (separated*)
3 Tbsp. fat
4 Tbsp. water

(1/2 teaspoon baking powder)*

Several grinds of black pepper.

 

Whisk together the eggs, fat, water. The whisk works much better than a fork to break up the egg and homogenize the fat. Sprinkle the matzo meal over the top and fold in with a spoon or rubber spatula.* Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 min. Make balls the size of walnuts and drop into boiling soup. I typically take a tablespoon spoon full into my palm and roll. It helps to wet your hands after every 2-3 balls.

 

Prepare the balls on a plate and add them one at a time to a deep pot of lightly salted boiling water (they can not touch the bottom). Boil covered for 40 minutes. Transfer the balls to soup and let sit for 30 minutes prior to serving. Reheat the soup before serving. Do not let the balls cool outside of a liquid, they will get dense and crust. Adding the balls to soup allows them to absorb the flavors.

 

*Two extra steps if you want a lighter ball (see above).

  1. Add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the matzo meal mixture.
  2. Separate the eggs and proceed as described above using only the yolks. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using your mixer or a clean whisk. Stir in 1/3 of the whites to the matzo meal mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in the remaining whites with as few turns of your spatula as possible.

 

Honestly, the lightening effect of the whipped egg whites is minimal when you are making such small batches of matzo balls. I would only bother if you are making double the recipe or more.

Part 2-3. The matzo ball variations and Personal recollections of Passover

From the outside, we Jews appear to be obsessed with obfuscated rules; no pork or shellfish, fasting, no driving on Shabbat. But navigating these restrictions has brought creativity and richness to Jewish culture; just because we are restricted by rules of kashrut, doesn’t mean we can’t have a bit of fun.

I’ve entitled this challenge the matzo ball variations in homage to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. (1) The festive meal at Passover is part of an overall ritual called the Seder, whose rules are set out in a book called the Haggadah. Seder means order, and the Goldberg variations evoke a sense of order. Jeremy Denk of NPR describes the Goldbergs in an online post:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/03/16/148769794/why-i-hate-the-goldberg-variations

“Every third variation is a canon, and these are organized in ascending order by interval. The theme is set up symmetrically, in a set of perfectly balancing questions-and-answers…the Goldbergs are the Martha Stewart of Variations.”

J.S. Bach (JSB) also seems an appropriate guiding spirit in this project since he often dwelled on themes rather than using is as an anchor for a symphony. The Goldbergs turn their theme around and around, upside down and inside out without losing our attention. I will try to do the same with the Matzo ball.

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Part 3. Personal recollections of Passover

Growing up, Passover was the event that brought together my extended family. The minyan+ of relatives was the cheek-pinching, gossipy group of a Woody Allen film; a group where talking over each other and whispering at the table were considered polite! If you were silent, you must be sick. The musical analogy of our Seder likely be a canon (2) or follow the leader format and we all had our parts to play…

As is the tradition, the holiday is designed to give everyone a role – recitation of the four questions is a transient honor (and fearful obligation) of the youngest at the table,  assigning the roles of wise or wicked son required diplomacy, and those who didn’t get the prize for finding the afikomen would need to be compensated by equitable reimbusement, perhaps a chocolate covered macaroon.

The best part was the holiday was the wonderland of my grandparents house in Crown Heights Brooklyn. The house had secret rooms and compartments that never left us disappointed (think Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the Gene Wilder version). An unused shower stall was filled with cheap plastic toys like a cargo container from China, the drawers and shelves of my mother’s old room were lined with old photos and antiques of the 1950’s. Every corner had small ceramics, wooden and cloth chachkies, souvenirs of my grandparents world travels; I still have a sharply clawed stuffed koala from Australia, and a train of leather camels from Egypt. In the basement was my grandfather’s office. It was a long ago retired, traditional general practice medical clinic with exam table, glass cabinets filled with metal trays, cotton balls and balloons for the kids. The waiting room led out to the street and was always dark and a bit spooky.

Even with all these distractions, my immediate focus was on the kitchen. I have always been fascinated with food preparation and am sorry to have never actually cooked with my grandmother. However, I did get to help with the logistics of entertaining and catering. The packed cabinets in that kitchen and in the dining room side boards were deep enough to fit my entire torso once emptied of plates. With the crowd at the seder, we used them all!  Of course, these plates were specifically for Passover and had a gorgeous pattern around the rim. The real silverware would also come out.  The table was crowded and homey, but elegant. I still have the large round mirror that hung over the side-board and sometimes think of looking through to see if their dining room is still on the other side, fixed in time (time locked to Dr. Who fans).

The variety of foods and number of courses at our seder was impressive – gefilte fish, soup, matzoh kugel, chicken, brisket, chopped liver, horse radish and haroseth – one could not avoid getting stuffed to excess, and I can’t help but make the analogy to Babette’s Feast (that poor turtle).  In this matzoh ball challenge, I have tried to capture that spirit of variety and whimsy.

The one aspect of the seder meal that I found most unappealing was desert including the boxed Barton’s candy we were forced to sell in Hebrew-school fund raisers, the sickly sweet and fibrous canned macaroons, tasteless brittle dry cookies.  Part of this challenge included finding a way to evolve the matzo ball into a desert.

 

End notes:

The seder itself was a bit more orderly, but perhaps became more of a Pachelbel’s canon (2) with relatives singing a bit out of synch for the cumulative songs like Chad Gadya or just wandidering into and out or losing their place; “have we already done the plagues?”.

  • Pachelbel’s Canon – remember the repetitive theme from all the NPR fundraisers of the 1980’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachelbel%27s_Canon. Our seder was never this harmonious; only perhaps for us kids singing the Birkat Hamazon (Benching in Yinglish) in the lively hebrew-school version. Perhaps my next project will be to sing the 4-questions as a round (like row-row-row your boat at a campfire).