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Perfecting Gnocchi

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126 replies to this topic

#121 jcg

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 09:25 AM

Here are the notes/results from my 2nd to final test that I emailed to a friend that also loves gnocchi (with just minor edits).

 

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I used my original America's Test Kitchen recipe (which I've emailed you before), and at it's base it uses 16oz of baked/riced russet potatoes to 4 oz of flour (I use the Italian 00). The only change is per Tom Colicchio's (he's from Top Chef - posted his link in prior post) where I didn't add any salt to the potatoes. Tom says it draws out water and as a result you will need more flour, so he says to add 1T per 4 cups salt to the water, and the gnocchi gets it's salt when you cook them. Makes sense so I followed those steps and used his exact amount of recommended salt.

The big change for this experiment was to try and reduce the amount of flour. One batch had the original 4oz of flour  (4:1 ratio), and the 2nd batch had 1.8oz (a 55% reduction). The 2nd batch is almost a 9:1 ratio, and not sure if you remember but I sent you a link at one point that said the best Italian gnocchi makers get down to a ratio of 10:1 (so I was close). The 2nd change for each batch was to roll out the dough, or use a pastry bag to pipe out the dough (a trick I had never heard of but got from a chef that is known for his gnocchi).

1. The original rolled is still very good, but is a bit heavy when compared to the ones with less flour. These held together the best, but that was to be expected as it has the most flour.
2. The original piped was the best. It was slightly softer / less heavy than #1, but again that would be expected as there was no rolling which will knead the dough somewhat.
3. The 1.8 oz flour rolled was a bit difficult to work with as the dough would break apart in certain parts as you were rolling it out. It was also lighter, but here is the main point - there is a point where you use too little flour and the gnocchi gets a bit mushy.
4. The 1.8oz flour piped was even ligher as expected, but lighter in this case was even mushier. It was easier to pipe them out, and doing it this way there was no issue with the dough breaking apart.

Conclusion: I think I went too extreme in reducing the amount of flour. Maybe 3 oz of flour (a 25% reduction would be perfect), and maybe piping that dough will be the best option. Next up we still need to test bread flour vs 00 flour, and there is the option of not using any eggs in the batter too. We are getting very very close to the ultimate gnocchi!!!


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#122 jcg

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 09:32 AM

The final test I did was comparing 00 flour to bread flour. I'll edit this post later with the details.



#123 teonzo

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Posted 08 March 2014 - 11:10 AM

Some personal suggestions (based on my tastes).

The most important thing is the potato variety, you need a "firm" one (don't know what's the correct term in English language, plus I don't know how to translate the potato variety names), meaning potatoes that are quite dry after cooking, so they will absorb less flour possible.

The best way to cook potatoes for gnocchi is baking them on a baking tray covered with salt. Salt will tend to absorb the potatoes' humidity, so you'll end up with the drier cooked potatoes possible.

The best way to make the potato puree is passing the cooked potatoes through the finest sieve possible. In this way the puree will be finer than with the other methods (resulting in better gnocchi texture) and you will loose another good amount of residual humidity. Food mills or "potato mashers" (don't know the English term for that specific tool) are the traditional tools used to prepare gnocchi, but they give a worse result than a fine sieve.

Just after sieving the potatoes, spread the potato puree as thin as possible, so it will loose more humidity and will cool down sooner. Move it every minute and dry the condensation that formed on the surface before spreading again the potato puree over it.

Adding the yolk(s) will help getting a plastic dough (easier to handle while forming the gnocchi), but will result in more flour to be used. I much prefer to avoid using yolks. You just need to add a bit of flour, mix the dough, add some flour again until you get a manageable dough, then form the gnocchi. If you follow all these steps then you can get a dough with as low as 10% flour (10% of the weight of the cooked potato puree). The higher % of potatoes in the final dough, the better tasting gnocchi you will get.

Avoid using bread flour, you need flour with low gluten content.

Don't add salt to the gnocchi dough, salt the cooking water as when you cook pasta.

Some nutmeg (just a pinch, not to be noticed) is always a good addiction to the gnocchi dough.

 

 

 

Teo


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#124 ChrisZ

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 05:18 AM

Thanks for sharing this, I love gnocchi too.

 

When making gnocchi, the enemy is gluten development.  It's important to knead / work the dough as little as possible to avoid gluten development or the gnocchi will be tough and dense.  The worse thing to do is make gnocchi in a mixmaster, as they'll end up like little rubber balls.

 

I have a few gluten intolerant family members and I have experimented with making gnocchi using corn flour instead of wheat flour.  Because corn flour has no gluten there's no risk of over-working the dough.  Although I make them this way to accommodate their allergies, the end result is a drier, almost crisper gnocchi that is always very tender. They're noticeable different to wheat gnocchi.

 

Personally, I think 100% corn flour isn't as good as perfect gnocchi made from wheat flour, but I think that a mix would certainly be worth experimenting with. A 50-50 mix of corn flour and soft wheat flour would be an interesting experiment (I'll do it one day…)

 

I'm mentioning this because you say you're using OO flour, but unfortunately this isn't a consistent global standard.  I think that in Italy OO is a softer / lower gluten flour for pasta and if the choice is between O and OO, then you'd use OO for gnocchi.  In other countries OO is a high protein bread and pizza flour.  It might be marketing (OO means Italian flour!  Pay more!) but using a OO flour that isn't made in Italy could result in something very different.  If you can find a low gluten cake flour then that would also be worth experimenting with.

 

Thanks for the tip about piping, never thought of that.  Will try it next time, although I'm not sure if the disposable piping bags I normally use will hold together with a gnocchi dough.  



#125 slkinsey

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 08:35 AM

I may be in the minority, but I prefer potato gnocchi to have a little firmness to them. I once very successfully made gnocchi with practically no flour at all and, while they did hold together, they were so tender that it was like eating little bites of mashed potatoes. I didn't dig it.

Edited by slkinsey, 09 March 2014 - 08:37 AM.

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#126 jcg

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Posted 09 March 2014 - 11:16 AM

Thanks for sharing this, I love gnocchi too.

 

When making gnocchi, the enemy is gluten development.  It's important to knead / work the dough as little as possible to avoid gluten development or the gnocchi will be tough and dense.  The worse thing to do is make gnocchi in a mixmaster, as they'll end up like little rubber balls.

 

I have a few gluten intolerant family members and I have experimented with making gnocchi using corn flour instead of wheat flour.  Because corn flour has no gluten there's no risk of over-working the dough.  Although I make them this way to accommodate their allergies, the end result is a drier, almost crisper gnocchi that is always very tender. They're noticeable different to wheat gnocchi.

 

Personally, I think 100% corn flour isn't as good as perfect gnocchi made from wheat flour, but I think that a mix would certainly be worth experimenting with. A 50-50 mix of corn flour and soft wheat flour would be an interesting experiment (I'll do it one day…)

 

I'm mentioning this because you say you're using OO flour, but unfortunately this isn't a consistent global standard.  I think that in Italy OO is a softer / lower gluten flour for pasta and if the choice is between O and OO, then you'd use OO for gnocchi.  In other countries OO is a high protein bread and pizza flour.  It might be marketing (OO means Italian flour!  Pay more!) but using a OO flour that isn't made in Italy could result in something very different.  If you can find a low gluten cake flour then that would also be worth experimenting with.

 

Thanks for the tip about piping, never thought of that.  Will try it next time, although I'm not sure if the disposable piping bags I normally use will hold together with a gnocchi dough.  

 

I am using 00 flour from Italy. The brand is called Antico Molino Napoli and says produced by Antimo Caputo. It also says tipo "00" on the bag.



#127 jcg

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Posted 10 March 2014 - 10:18 AM

I was not aware of the 1 hour time limit to edit your posts and I can't get a moderator to edit my post #4, so here is what I intended to put in that post. The thread will be out of order, but not much I can do about it now.

 

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Real post #4:

 

The final test I did was comparing 00 flour to bread flour. The same chef that told me about using a pastry bag to pipe out the gnocchi also told us he used bread flour. Bread flour has more gluten in it than regular flour and gluten is not your friend if you are trying to make a nice light gnocchi, so this seemed a bit odd. He explained that bread flour is lighter than regular flour and will soak up more water from the potatoes so you can use less of it. Also this is the reason he uses the pastry bag as there is virtually no kneading of the dough, so therefore no gluten is really formed. Out of all the recipes I have researched I have never seen any of them use bread flour or use a pastry bag to pipe out the gnocchi, so I was excited to try this out to see if it could improve my gnocchi.

First let me recap the most important things (in order of importance) I had learned to this point:
- Getting as much water out of the potatoes as possible is the most important thing. That is why poking holes in the potatoes (so the steam can escape during cooking) and baking them is key. Boiling potatoes (even with the skin on) is going to give a much waterier potato. Also ricing the potatoes right after they come out of the oven and spreading the riced potatoes on a baking sheet and letting them cool (and letting the steam dissipate) helps in this regard. America's Test Kitchen (ATK for short) used all these techniques in their recipe.
- Next most important issue is the amount of flour. ATK used 4oz per 16oz potatoes (4:1 ratio) and my final version reduced this to 3 oz per 16 oz of potatoes (5.3:1 ratio). You MUST use a scale so you get this right! Remember the 16 oz of potatoes is after cooking/ricing/cooling!!
- Be very gentle with mixing / kneading the dough. It really gets all the kneading it needs just during the rolling out process, but if you want a little firmer dough you can gently knead it for maybe 30 seconds tops.
- Don't add salt to the dough as it pulls water out of the potatoes (as per the first link I posted), but instead use highly salted water to salt the gnocchi during cooking.

Ok, so onto the final cookoff where I made the final version of the recipe that I posted in my first post (did it both piping the gnocchi with the pastry bag and rolling it out), and compared those to a version with 2.5oz of bread flour (piped & rolled). The gnocchi with the bread flour came out too mushy, with the piped one being the mushiest as it doesn't get any gluten formed since there is no rolling. One could knead the dough first and then pipe it, but I don't see the benefit. The final recipe that was piped out also didn't have enough bite to it, so in the end I realized it's just best to roll the gnocchi out. Since I used 2.5 oz of bread flour vs 3 oz of 00 flour it's not clear whether the slightly mushy texture was just do to the smaller amount of flour or the fact that it was bread flour. In the end I think it's the amout of flour that is key and if you used 3 oz of AP/00 or bread it wouldn't make much difference.

Lastly a few comments on freezing gnocchi dough. I never freeze my dough as it changes the texture - from my reading/research it will make the consistency a bit heavier and/or a bit mushier. Tom Colicchio (in the first link) freezes the dough after it is cooked, as he says at his restaurant he has tried freezing it before and after cooking and the after cooking method is the best. If you need to freeze your gnocchi I'd go with his recommendation. Remember most restaurants need to freeze their dough as it would just be too difficult in a restaurant environment to make it per order. This is why you can actually make gnocchi at home (fresh) that will be better than almost any restaurant!

Anyways, looks like we are at the end of the road so I hope this was a useful thread and it helps you make your perfect gnocchi. Remember that some people might like a gnocchi that is a bit heavier that what I like, so you can always try 3.5oz or 4.0oz of flour in your recipe to see what you prefer (or knead the dough a bit more, etc). Enjoy!

jcg


Edited by jcg, 10 March 2014 - 10:19 AM.

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