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Perfecting Gnocchi

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126 replies to this topic

#31 hathor

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:28 PM

The actual dough is pretty hardy. We've been successful making the dough ahead of time (24 hours), and then forming them and cooking. Absolutely fine.

#32 mongo_jones

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:42 PM

brad, paul, hathor,

would you be willing to share your recipes? i've only tried making gnocchi once and while it wasn't a disaster it wasn't an unqualified success either.

thanks,

mongo

#33 Brad Ballinger

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 03:54 PM

Mongo,

Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook. Two deviations - I bake, not boil. And I pierce the skin to let moisture escape. If boiling, don't pierce.
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#34 mongo_jones

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Posted 29 April 2004 - 04:52 PM

Mongo,

Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook. Two deviations - I bake, not boil. And I pierce the skin to let moisture escape. If boiling, don't pierce.

i have that cookbook--i probably used the wrong kind of potatoes.

#35 MobyP

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 04:55 AM

You have to be careful about freezing them, because you could damage the cell walls, and release too much starch (See Jackal10's Potato Primer). What you can do is prepare them, cook them until they float, drain, and refresh in ice water, drain again, and drizzle with a little oil. You can hold these for a few hours. Then you can reheat just before serving (in the sauce, preferably).

For a recipe, you want approximately 150g flour to every 500g potato (cooked and squeezed through a ricer. When relatively cool, mix in an egg, a handfull of parmagiano, some salt. The dough should be just damp, but not sticky. Add flour to moderate. Roll into logs, about half an inch thick, and cut into sections. These you can roll off a fork for the traditional shape, or leave as is - or sauté in a non-stick pan for fantastic crispy gnocchi.
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#36 cjsadler

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 07:57 AM

For a recipe, you want approximately 150g flour to every 500g potato (cooked and squeezed through a ricer. When relatively cool, mix in an egg, a handfull of parmagiano, some salt. The dough should be just damp, but not sticky. Add flour to moderate. Roll into logs, about half an inch thick, and cut into sections. These you can roll off a fork for the traditional shape, or leave as is - or sauté in a non-stick pan for fantastic crispy gnocchi.

If sauteeing the gnocchi, do they need to be boiled first? I see this instruction for alot of books. I'm wondering if it's just intended as a prepare ahead method, though-- boiling them beforehand, then sauteeing later when you're ready to serve.

Also, I'm curious about the use of cake/pastry flour in gnocchi. Heard this was a good trick for really light gnocchi. In principle (lower gluten) it sounds like something worth exploring.
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#37 Comfort Me

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 08:11 AM

I was worried about this, too. Had several anziety attacks. BUt I have come up with a method which allows me to make them en masse and freeze. I bake my spuds to reduce moisture, replace 1/3 of the flour with semolina for structure, form, freeze on a sheet pan, then put them into a ziplock.

Drop the frozen gnocchi into rapidly boiling water. Rapid is important. It keeps them from sticking to each other or to the bottom of the pot.

I made a variation last week which was really good. On a whim, I added 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. I then cooked them, drained them well, and dropped them into a skillet with browning butter. Spank my ass and call me Charlie, but they were really good eats. I wish I had made enough to freeze.
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#38 Bond Girl

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Posted 30 April 2004 - 08:27 AM

I think there are two camps to the Gnocchi preference. I like them light and airy (think Hearth) while my insignificant other likes them thick, hearty and gummy because his mother made them that way. I'm not sure if the latter type of gnocchi will drop off in taste if you freeze them. But, I made a huge batch of the kind of gnocchi I like once and double sealed them in two ziplock bags. A week later I dropped some in a pot of boiling water and scooped them out the minute they start to float. There were no drop off in quality and came pretty close to the restaurant version that I like. The advice that I was given was that you scoop out the gnocchi the minute they start to float and you eat them while it's hot. They aren't so good even when they get cold on your plate.
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#39 fryguy

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 09:45 PM

I made a big batch of mashed potatoes tonight and had a ton left over after dinner. Immediately, I'm thinking "What in hell am I gonna do with 2# of mashed potatoes?"

Gnocchi comes to mind. But I've never made gnocchi before. Can I used leftover mashed (butter & cream)?

Thanks in advance.

#40 Jinmyo

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:37 AM

Well, one can make gnocchi out of ricotta so why not?
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#41 Redsugar

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 06:53 AM

A cook can prepare gnocchi from various main ingredients:

The classic Roman version is Gnocchi alla Romana (baked semolina), basically enriched with butter, Parmesan, and eggs. The chilled polenta is cut into shapes, dotted with fat, sprinkled with cheese, and baked in a moderately hot oven. A quite similar dish is indigenous to the northern regions of Lombardy & Veneto, where polenta has been a traditional staple. Classically, the latter interpretation of these cornmeal dumplings may be served with a mushroom-&-prosciutto sauce.

Gnocchi maloreddus are made from Parmesan and topped with a tomato sauce.

Gnocchi di papate, the potato dumplings, are often shaped into small balls and served, at times, with a well-seasoned meat sauce, known as Ragù alla Romagnola; or Affumicato, smoked fish (such as sturgeon); or Pesce, tuna sauce.

A worthy first candidate for your pot of mashed taters is Gnochetti all Piemontese – a mouthwatering (and assuredly addictive recipe – combines the comforting potato gnocchi with the exquisite flavor of Fontina cheese:

2 lbs. potatoes, peeled & boiled well in salted water; best to push them through a ricer, whipping to keep them dry & fluffy;

Add about 2 cups sifted flour and a good pinch of salt to make a dough by working the mixture with the best tools in your kitchen, you own hands; roll up & shape into 1- by 1½-inch pieces logs (for sizing, I use the mental image of a walnut shell);

Press each shape against tines of a fork so that the back is ridged and the front has a hollow indentation, like a little shell. (The practical reason for this shaping, according to Claudia Rosen in her Good Food of Italy, is “so that they hold the dressing better.” – p. 92). Place them on a floured board, covering with a cloth; refrigerate the gnocchi if making them much in advance;

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and poach the gnocchi, a few at a time, for about 2 minutes.

Spoon a layer of gnocchi into a gratin dish, cover with thin slices of Fontina (imported, not Fontinella, please!), sprinkling with melted clarified butter (or duck fat?). Repeat layering until all ingredients are used, ending with cheese. Bake in moderate oven until cheese is melted. Serve pronto!

Edited by Redsugar, 08 November 2004 - 06:19 PM.

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#42 Bond Girl

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:59 AM

If you have the Times magazine from this past sunday, there is a basic gnocchi recipe there.
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#43 slkinsey

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 08:07 AM

I've never made gnocchi with leftover mashed potatoes. Have to think you'd have a very hard time keeping them appropriately light. Personally, I'd be more likely to save them for shepherd's pie or something like that.
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#44 Kevin72

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 08:29 AM

Yeah, I'd skip making gnocchi. You've already over-developed the gluten by mashing them to that extent and they would be gummy and never come together. You could make fritters out of them though by mixing in a couple eggs, cheese, maybe ham, coat them in bread crumbs, and fry them.

#45 russ parsons

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:41 AM

i'd be really skeptical. the butter and cream would be the problem. gnocchi (potato gnocchi anyway) are made by developing hte gluten in the potato starch (the word gnocchi comes from teh same latin root as the word "knead"). any decent amount of fat would interfere with the development of said gluten.

#46 slkinsey

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:13 PM

i'd be really skeptical. the butter and cream would be the problem. gnocchi (potato gnocchi anyway) are made by developing hte gluten in the potato starch (the word gnocchi comes from teh same latin root as the word "knead"). any decent amount of fat would interfere with the development of said gluten.

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This is very odd. I've never heard that one wants to develop the gluten when making gnocchi. In fact, I have always proceeded with exactly the opposite assumption: that one should work the dough as little as possible in order to avoid developing the gluten.

I've also always heard that the word gnocco, which most sources seem to agree is of relatively recent, late 19th century provenance -- can probably be traced back to Middle High German, perhaps knöchel (knuckle), and comes most directly from the Italian (Veneziano dialect?) word nocchio meaning "a knot in wood."
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#47 russ parsons

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:25 PM

[This is very odd.  I've never heard that one wants to develop the gluten when making gnocchi.  In fact, I have always proceeded with exactly the opposite assumption: that one should work the dough as little as possible in order to avoid developing the gluten.

I've also always heard that the word gnocco, which most sources seem to agree is of relatively recent, late 19th century provenance -- can probably be traced back to Middle High German, perhaps knöchel (knuckle), and comes most directly from the Italian (Veneziano dialect?) word nocchio meaning "a knot in wood."

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it's a matter of degree. if you overwork the dough, the gnocchi will be tough and heavy, certainly. but if you don't develop any gluten at all, what is to hold the gnoccho together? (oh sure, you could cheat and add egg ...)

and i don't have an oed in front of me, but i believe knead and knuckle both come from the same root.

#48 jschyun

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:37 PM

Yeah, I'd skip making gnocchi.  You've already over-developed the gluten by mashing them to that extent and they would be gummy and never come together.  You could make fritters out of them though by mixing in a couple eggs, cheese, maybe ham, coat them in bread crumbs, and fry them.

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But potatoes don't have gluten. gluten is the protein found in cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats, among others. the reason why you get gummy potatoes if you overbeat them and break the cell walls, releasing starch that gums up the works. I think I read this in cooks illustrated. but if you properly mashed them, I would think this is not a problem but I could be wrong.

Heck, if you have leftover mashed, why not try it? It's cheap right?
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#49 phifly04

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:49 PM

how about some potato pancakes?great accompaniment to many meals and lends itself well to a number of varied cooking styles.Just a thought\
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#50 Kevin72

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:54 PM

But potatoes don't have gluten.  gluten is the protein found in cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats, among others.  the reason why you get gummy potatoes if you overbeat them and break the cell walls, releasing starch that gums up the works.  I think I read this in cooks illustrated.  but if you properly mashed them, I would think this is not a problem but I could be wrong. 

Heck, if you have leftover mashed, why not try it?  It's cheap right?

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You've already processed them far past the point you need to for gnocchi. Plus you've incorporated I'd imagine some form of liquid into them, correct? So now you need to compensate for that, which means extra flour, which means leaden gnocchi.

#51 Kevin72

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:56 PM

how about some potato pancakes?great accompaniment to many meals and lends itself well to a number of varied cooking styles.Just a thought\
                                            Dave s

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Yes, that would work out much better.

#52 slkinsey

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 01:25 PM

it's a matter of degree. if you overwork the dough, the gnocchi will be tough and heavy, certainly. but if you don't develop any gluten at all, what is to hold the gnoccho together? (oh sure, you could cheat and add egg ...)

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If I am not mistaken, there is a certain amount of interlinkage that happens automatically when water and gluten are mixed. And, needless to say, there is a certain amount of gluten development that happens as the ingredients are incorporated and as the dough is rolled out, etc. I've never found that it wanted any more working than that. Certainly not ultra-minimal as one might do with a pastry dough, but not really anything I would call "kneading."

and i don't have an oed in front of me, but i believe knead and knuckle both come from the same root.

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Hmm... Maybe, although I am a little dubious about infusing modern-day words with meanings according to their ancient origins.
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#53 albiston

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 01:26 PM

[This is very odd.  I've never heard that one wants to develop the gluten when making gnocchi.  In fact, I have always proceeded with exactly the opposite assumption: that one should work the dough as little as possible in order to avoid developing the gluten.

I've also always heard that the word gnocco, which most sources seem to agree is of relatively recent, late 19th century provenance -- can probably be traced back to Middle High German, perhaps knöchel (knuckle), and comes most directly from the Italian (Veneziano dialect?) word nocchio meaning "a knot in wood."

View Post


it's a matter of degree. if you overwork the dough, the gnocchi will be tough and heavy, certainly. but if you don't develop any gluten at all, what is to hold the gnoccho together? (oh sure, you could cheat and add egg ...)

and i don't have an oed in front of me, but i believe knead and knuckle both come from the same root.

View Post


I think Russ is right, although I'd imagine the gluten comes from the flour added to the gnocchi dough. You want something to keep those starch granules together. The butter and cream, apart inhibiting gluten development, might have already added too much humidity to the potatoes for the gnocchi to come out right.

When I have left over mash potatoes I often prepare some duchesse potatoes, by adding two yolks to every pound of potatoes, and maybe a bit of cream if the mash is too stiff. They freeze nicely once baked, so you can save them for later.
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#54 Carrot Top

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 02:22 PM

In agreement with the idea that leftover mashed potatoes won't be the best thing to try gnocchi with...particularly for a first effort.

Imagine...the difference between fresh hot mashed potatoes (which even to hold briefly for any quality at all must be topped off with milk and maintained at a certain temperature) and mashed potatoes which have sat in the fridge.

They flatten and become heavy. Dense. And even the flavor changes slightly.

There really are so many other great things you can make from them...as others have mentioned, a sort of fritter or a duchesse or a pancake or mixed with baccala or even regular poached cod to make a lovely fresh fish cake....

Gnocchi are lovely things....but there is some sort of texture thing that is integral to gnocchi that I do not believe you will get from using potatoes, pre-cooked, as the base for them.

Edited by Carrot Top, 08 November 2004 - 02:25 PM.


#55 eunny jang

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 02:29 PM

I'm no gnocchi guru, but would like to point out the (perhaps unintentional) pun in the subtitle of this thread. I have been chuckling every time I see it come up in Active Topics :biggrin:

#56 russ parsons

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:09 PM

But potatoes don't have gluten.  gluten is the protein found in cereal grains like wheat, barley and oats, among others.  the reason why you get gummy potatoes if you overbeat them and break the cell walls, releasing starch that gums up the works. 

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damn this not having an editor present! of course that's right. it's even in my damned book. actually, i think there is still some disagreement about what is happening ... could be pectin chains, could be something else.

nonetheless, the presence of fat would interfere with the linkages. and boy, do i love pommes duchesse.

#57 Carrot Top

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:14 PM

And please do forgive my rather unscientific explanation. Cooking is like sex to me. I can tell you how to do it (hopefully :laugh: ) well from my own personal experience.

The art and action of cookery should be a visceral, live experience rather than a science class.. but that is just my way of things. :wink: Others may live differently. :biggrin:

#58 russ parsons

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:15 PM

it's a matter of degree. if you overwork the dough, the gnocchi will be tough and heavy, certainly. but if you don't develop any gluten at all, what is to hold the gnoccho together? (oh sure, you could cheat and add egg ...)

View Post

If I am not mistaken, there is a certain amount of interlinkage that happens automatically when water and gluten are mixed. And, needless to say, there is a certain amount of gluten development that happens as the ingredients are incorporated and as the dough is rolled out, etc. I've never found that it wanted any more working than that. Certainly not ultra-minimal as one might do with a pastry dough, but not really anything I would call "kneading."


i did a story on making potato gnocchi several years ago and spent a week trying to perfect them. indeed it was the kneading that made the difference (granted, i was determined to make them without eggs ... exigente all the way!). it's a very tricky thing, recognizing when the dough has been kneaded just enough that it will hold together, but not so much that it toughens and becomes leaden. but "knead" it was--forming a dough and pushing/rolling it against the work surface. only a minute or so, and with just the right touch.

Just for the record, here's the procedure: boil baking potatoes in their skins just until tender. Drain them and as soon as it is physically possible, peel them. Press them through a ricer onto a wooden board and let them steam. Sprinkle with flour and gather into a rough, very shaggy mass. knead until they come together smooth. break off a chunk and roll it in a rope. cut in sections and shape them against a fork.

does that fit with your notion albert?

#59 Marlene

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:28 PM

Perogies? With cheddar cheese and mashed potatoes?
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#60 albiston

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 03:50 PM

Just for the record, here's the procedure: boil baking potatoes in their skins just until tender. Drain them and as soon as it is physically possible, peel them. Press them through a ricer onto a wooden board and let them steam. Sprinkle with flour and gather into a rough, very shaggy mass. knead until they come together smooth. break off a chunk and roll it in a rope. cut in sections and shape them against a fork.

does that fit with your notion albert?

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Perfetto! I couldn't have put it better myself, especially the missing egg part :wink:. The only difference in my method is that I use a gnocchi board to shape them, but that's just my kitchen gadget mania.

I have a question about potatoes: I found, sometimes with semi-disastrous results, that the definition of baking potato could mean quite different things in different countries. In Italy you would look for white, old potatoes to make gnocchi. Is that the same you'd use?
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