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Perfecting Gnocchi

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126 replies to this topic

#61 russ parsons

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:06 PM

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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i use baking potatoes. the italian books i use seem to agree on "patate piu vecchie e farinose" (sp? gr? tr?). so to get the flouriest potatoes possible, I use russets. i have never seen them in italy, though, just the smooth-skinned. but i have to confess, potato shopping is not a big item on my trip to italy list.

#62 Redsugar

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:47 PM

In agreement with Marcella Hazan --but In disagreement with, e.g., Lidia Bastianich -- I recommend a viable remedy to achieve a dough with the proper density is to use neither baking nor new potatoes: Put your smart money on old boiling potatoes. Resist adding eggs to the dough, as they will cause the gnocchi to become heavy and course-textured. After all, the goal is to produce gnocchi that are light & soft.

Moreover, please do not underestimate the value of knowing the comparative uses of different potato varieties: For mashed and/or creamed potatoes, many chefs prefer to use either russet or Yukon Gold. Yet, for some tastes, russets are too mealy in texture. The latter variety, though, has a good amount of waxiness for mashing up. I’ve also had good results using Maine potatoes, notably Kennebecs. Try Green Mountain potatoes, too – if you can find them.

On the other hand, because of low-moisture content, baking potatoes (such as Russet Burbank, Norgold Russet, and Shepody) are ideal for latkes.

Also, I concur with Russ's comment, above -- viz., potatoes do not contain gluten. (Starch, yes, but not gluten.) People on gluten-free dietary constraints thus eat baked goods made with, among other types, potato flour.

Edited by Redsugar, 09 November 2004 - 05:29 AM.

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#63 beccaboo

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 06:32 PM

I make fadge (potato pancakes) with my leftover mashed potatoes: Rub in enough flour (and a little baking powder) that the potatoes are roll-out-able, then roll them out into 1/6-inch thick circles about 7 inches in diameter. cut into farls (wedges), then cook on a lightly buttered griddle, turning once, till both sides are browned.

To make apple fadge, roll out two circles of dough, cover one with thinly-sliced apple, stick on the other, and bake the entire sandwich-circle on the griddle at a lower heat than you would have for the plain fadge.

#64 fryguy

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 07:43 PM

<snip>
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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Based on a very bad experience at school, duchesse potatoes can kiss my ass. But it is a good suggestion.

#65 jschyun

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 09:36 AM

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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The reason why they way you want to use white, old potatoes, specifically old potatoes is that potatoes convert the sucrose in the potato into starch as they age. You want a starchier (or "floury") potato for gnocchi.
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#66 jklon1

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 04:25 PM

I'm making gnocchi for a dinner party this weekend and wanted to know if others have had success/problems with making the gnocchi in advance?

Is it better to roll and cut the day before and then boil and saute the day of, or roll and boil the day before and then just saute the day of?

Also, I would like to make either a sweet potato gnocchi or a butternut squash gnocchi. I've made the sweet potato before. When making butternut squash I've heard the puree needs to drain after roasting - any experience here?

Thanks.

#67 monavano

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Posted 20 October 2005 - 06:00 PM

Gnocchi freezes BEAUTIFULLY. Just freeze them on a baking sheet. Once fully frozen, place them in a zip loc baggie. Then, they can go into boiling water straight from the freezer. Easy, peasy lemon squeezy.

#68 Kevin72

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 05:12 AM

Yep, they do freeze quite well after you roll and cut them. I know some recipes direct you to give them an inintial boil, but I never do.

Gnocchi made with squash are indeed pretty wet. Having now done both, I prefer sweet potato gnocchi. Not as much of a production and they hold their flavor well.

#69 handmc

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 05:34 AM

Made Butternut squash ones before. Great taste but water was an issue. I divided the ingredints into 2 batches, just to be safe. The first batch not drained sucked up huge amounts of flour and the results were they were a bit chewy. I would not serve them.

The second batch I drained they came out much better. I served them with brown butter, sage and peas.

Edited by handmc, 21 October 2005 - 05:35 AM.


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#70 lperry

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 06:57 AM

Did you roast the squash? Or boil? Pan cook? I'm curious if roasting might help with the water problem.

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#71 Kevin72

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 09:58 AM

I roasted mine when I made 'em and they sucked up huge amounts of flour to get them to come together.

#72 jklon1

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Posted 21 October 2005 - 04:39 PM

I roasted mine when I made 'em and they sucked up huge amounts of flour to get them to come together.

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Thanks for all the replies.

The recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of flour. I would not be suprised if I used double that...I wish I saw your note about the sweet potato gnocchi.

I did a test batch last night before freezing the rest. Chewier then the sweet potato ones a made last time but good flavor (roasted garlic gloves, sage, salt, white pepper, dried oregano) so I'm going forward.

I'll try to report back.

Thanks.

#73 pennylane

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 01:55 PM

Please help me, guys - I am going crazy!!! I feel like I have read everything ever written about gnocchi, yet I just can't get it right!! Every time I make it, the same thing happens. The gnocchi practically dissolve in the water! The few semi-solid ones which I manage to rescue inevitably turn to mush when I attempt to mix in the sauce.

I tried again tonight with the same result. I used one and a half potatoes, mashed, with about six tablespoons of flour. They looked so pretty shaped and formed and waiting to go into the pan. I cooked the first batch for about a minute, and they all dissolved completely. I took the second batch out as soon as they rose to the surface of the water, which was after about five seconds. Those were better, but still mushy!!

Help!!!

#74 doctortim

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 07:13 PM

You're obviously dedicated to creating great gnocchi, so perhaps set an afternoon aside and try this:

Set a pot of water to boil, and make your dough however you normally would. Cut off a little bit of the dough and shape it (one gnoccho worth), then put that in the water and see how it goes. Too delicate? Incorporate a bit more flour into the next pinch of dough. Too dense? Add a very small bit of water or milk. Make these changes only to the bits you pinch off, or you'll find that by the 5th modification you'll have overworked your original dough to the point where it's useless.

Keep doing this and noting the feel of the dough each time. Note how damp it is on the outside, and how sturdy it is when you're shaping it. As russ said, it's a lot like making pastry in that you go by feel. When I make gnocchi I still roughly weigh out the flour depending on the amount of potatoes I have but it's just a guide: if it doesn't feel right I'll go by that.

Some general considerations in technique that can affect the finished product:
- Baking the potatoes has always worked for me. If I'm making gnocchi on a weeknight and want to speed up the process, I zap the potatoes in the microwave for 8 minutes and then put them in the over to speed up the process. Since there's no added moisture, in theory it should reduce the overall flour requirements.
- I use a potato ricer, with holes that are about 0.75 mm diameter. When I use a potato masher, I find I have to overwork the potatoes in order to ensure I've evenly broken them all up. That equals gluey potatoes.
- Spread the riced potato on your bench in a fairly thin layer. That way when you sprinkle your flour, salt, and egg, it'll require less work to evenly combine.
- Make your dough when the potatoes are still hot.
- Don't overwork the dough! If you overwork a perfect dough, it'll become sticky and you'll have to add more flour. Work to combine the ingredients, but no more.\
- Once you've make the gnocchi, freeze them or use them. Don't leave them sitting there on the bench while you boil the water and make the sauce.

And finally, here's my rough recipe for gnocchi (1 person's large portion or 2 people's normal-sized meal):

- 2 large floury potatoes, baked skin-on until they're completely tender inside (I've tried all the varieties on offer here and find Sebagoes the best).
- All-purpose flour. After the potatoes are baked, I weigh them, divide that by 4, and that's how much flour I weigh out. So 250g flour for 1kg of baked potatoes. I never use more than this amount of flour, and most of the time it takes about 80% of that flour before I'm happy with the dough's consistency.
- 1 egg, whisked to combine. For this amount of potatoes I'd only use about 1/2 to 3/4 of the whisked egg mixture. I used to not use egg, but I find that with egg it's much easier to achieve a texture that is slightly firm to the bite (and importantly, doesn't fall apart when mixing with the sauce), but still melts in the mouth.
- Salt. I don't measure this, just use as much as you'd use to season the potatoes as if you were going to eat them straight.

Scoop out the potato flesh and rice it onto a bench. Evenly salt the riced potato. As evenly as you can, distribute the whisked egg over the potatoes. Evenly sprinkle about 60-70% of the flour over the potatoes. From the outside in, push it all together and start working it to combine. It'll be a mess at first of parts that are too dry and parts that are too wet, but eventually it'll come together. Dust as much as you like of the remaining flour over the dough when it becomes a bit sticky. The final dough should be slightly damp but not sticky. If in doubt, for the first few tries err towards a drier dough than a damper one. Sure they might be a bit heavy, but it's better than gnocchi soup. If you've used all your weighed-out flour and it's still sticky, you're probably overworking the dough.

When this is ready, cut the dough into three even parts and roll them out to long tubes, about the thickness you'd like your final gnocchi. It'll become a bit more sticky so feel free to dust with flour to make it more manageable. Chop these into gnocchi-sized pieces, shape, and boil until they rise.

This has become ridiculously long, but I hope it helps you!
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#75 gfron1

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Posted 08 September 2007 - 07:21 PM

If you haven't already, check out the gnocchi cook-off HERE. There is tons of good data there.

#76 Chufi

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 01:22 AM

Another great tip I got from eGulleter Gnocchi queen Shaya, is to rice the potatoes onto a dishcloth and knead the dough in the cloth - this seems to absorb excess moisture. When I started doing this, I was able to make gnocchi for the first time (before that, I either had dissolved ones or very heavy stodgy ones)

#77 pennylane

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 06:13 AM

Thank you all SO much! Those are some great tips, doctortim. The only thing which confuses me, however, is that most of your tips seem aimed at reducing the amount of flour. But don't I actually need more flour to keep my gnocchi from falling apart?

- I use a potato ricer, with holes that are about 0.75 mm diameter. When I use a potato masher, I find I have to overwork the potatoes in order to ensure I've evenly broken them all up. That equals gluey potatoes.

It had already occurred to me (based on what I read in this and other threads) that I might have overworked the potatoes, but would that cause the gnocchi to dissolve and fall apart like they did? I would have thought gluey potatoes would lead to denser gnocchi, not the other way around?

I keep meaning to experiment with the dough as I'm making it, but each time I feel strangely confident that it'll turn out right so I don't bother. One thing I'll definitely try the next time, though, is adding the egg. I have tried that before but this time I thought I'd go without, and I guess that was a bad idea.

Sure they might be a bit heavy, but it's better than gnocchi soup.

Gosh, I just can't agree more. It seems like everyone's always complaining about "heavy", "leaden" gnocchi, whereas I am so far from that, it's hard to believe we're even talking about the same thing!!

Well, I'll let you guys know how the next batch turns out! Thanks again for all your help!

#78 doctortim

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 07:53 AM

Most of your tips seem aimed at reducing the amount of flour.  But don't I actually need more flour to keep my gnocchi from falling apart?   

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Simply adding more flour would be a good way to ensure that your gnocchi stay together (to a point). However the more flour you add, the more flour you'll get in each mouthful and worse the gnocchi will taste, both in flavour and in texture. Hopefully my tips and the other tips in the thread will help you handle the dough in such a way that a good result can be achieved with a standard amount of flour (which I've found is never more than 1/4 of the cooked weight of the potatoes).

I would have thought gluey potatoes would lead to denser gnocchi, not the other way around?

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I'm not really sure about the science of starch and what happens chemically when someone overworks mashed potato. But from practice I've found that 2 things make a gnocchi dough more watery and gloopy: one is overworking the dough, and the other is leaving the dough sitting around. Perhaps as the starch breaks down it releases moisture?

Best of luck!
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#79 chefadamg

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 10:56 AM

.

I tried again tonight with the same result.  I used one and a half potatoes, mashed, with about six tablespoons of flour. 
Help!!!

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Its quite evident youre not using ENOUGH flour. Many beginers make that mistake. This is a dough and needs the proper balance of potato to flour. Thomas Keller uses 2 lbs russets/3 yolks/salt and 1.25-1.5 cups AP flour. Thats what I use and it works every time. Also..some people dont quite mix it up enough...everyone always says over kneeding will make them tough..and thats true ,if you kneed for 10 minutes. The dough has to be mixed properly to homogenize.

#80 pennylane

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 02:16 PM

Its quite evident youre not using ENOUGH flour. Many beginers make that mistake. This is a dough and needs the proper balance of potato to flour. Thomas Keller uses 2 lbs russets/3 yolks/salt and 1.25-1.5 cups AP flour. Thats what I use and it works every time. Also..some people dont quite mix it up enough...everyone always says over kneeding will make them tough..and thats true ,if you kneed for 10 minutes. The dough has to be mixed properly to homogenize.

Thanks, man! The more I've been thinking about it, the more convinced I am that that's a big part of my problem. I'm so scared of using too much flour, I go too far in the opposite direction. Also I wasn't using eggs, and that makes the dough take less flour. Thanks for your ratio - I'll keep that in mind.

#81 Mikeb19

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Posted 09 September 2007 - 03:03 PM

My 'recipe' (more like a technique), that I've used with great success in restaurants.

Bake potatoes on a bed of salt. Rice potatoes (you've got to work quick while they're hot). Sprinkle flour all over (and season with a little salt), then mix with your hands until it gets 'crumbly' - the drier the potatoes, the less flour needed. Add an egg yolk or two (for most home sized batches, 1 egg yolk should be enough), and mix until it is *just* combined (mix too much, it gets gluey). Roll into 'ropes' (make sure theres plenty of flour on your work surface), cut, and boil (or freeze).

Making gnocchi is more about technique than it is recipes. It's a very hands on, manual operation.

#82 moreace01

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 08:59 AM

Not sure if you are determined to make potato gnocchi, but I've found that ricotta gnocchi is much easier to work with - and to perfect - since you don't have the time consuming process of baking the potatoes (since it goes so much faster, I've found that it's easier for me to tell when the dough is right or wrong because that's what I'm concentrating on versus all of the additional steps with the potato gnocchi). Mario Batali has a great ricotta gnocchi recipe.

#83 pennylane

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 11:07 AM

Not sure if you are determined to make potato gnocchi, but I've found that ricotta gnocchi is much easier to work with - and to perfect - since you don't have the time consuming process of baking the potatoes (since it goes so much faster, I've found that it's easier for me to tell when the dough is right or wrong because that's what I'm concentrating on versus all of the additional steps with the potato gnocchi). Mario Batali has a great ricotta gnocchi recipe.

I'm not sure I've ever had ricotta gnocchi. What does it taste like compared to the potato-based kind?

#84 moreace01

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 11:33 AM

To be honest, I don't really think it tastes that much different (maybe others think differently?), but it might be because I usually pair gnocchi with strong sauces. For myself, I just think it's a whole lot easier. I've made riccotta gnocchi numerous times, so I kind of understand the texture that works. I made it a few weeks ago using a new recipe (for me at least - from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers - great sauce but gnocchi were heavy). I've had a lot of luck with Mario Batali's (and the sauce is excellent too).

#85 Paul McMichael

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Posted 10 September 2007 - 04:43 PM

Making gnocchi is more about technique than it is recipes.  It's a very hands on, manual operation.

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A couple of years ago, My wife I went to Tuscany for gnocchi lessons. It is an art.
Noella at Aiole insisted on old potatoes, steamed then dried on her special board. Not much flour in the dough, but lots of flour on the board. I have a photo on

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#86 Viwakavune

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Posted 13 September 2007 - 09:21 AM

Someone mentioned cooking Gnocchi with strong sauces. What kind of sauces do you usually use?

#87 moreace01

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 06:54 AM

I think that was me.

I qualify meat ragu as strong (heavy might be a better term) - which is what I typically seem to use. I did try ricotta gnocchi in brown butter with chanterelles and sweet corn following suzanne goin's recipe. while the sauce was awesome, the gnocchi were extremely "leaden" (I think that is an accurate description). They just weren't light, fluffy clouds. I noticed that when I was working with the dough that it seemed heavy/dense - it wasn't light and sticky like Batali's recipe. Next time i make that sauce, I'll follow Mario Batali's recipe for the gnocchi.

#88 UnConundrum

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 08:09 AM

I like a gorgonzola sauce. You can find my recipe here: http://www.recipeson...orgonzola-sauce

#89 Daniel Rogov

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 08:53 AM

Gnocchi have several things in common with potato latkes and nothing is more crucial to the success of either than, after the potatoes have been grated, crushed, mashed or otherwise mauled, placing them on a clean tea-towel (dish towel), wrapping the towel around them firmly and then squeezing the liquids out of them. The more liquid you get out the less flour you will need for binding and the better your gnocchi.

#90 slkinsey

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 08:58 AM

You can squeeze liquid out of cooked potatoes? News to me.
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