Last week, in a fit of pique, my PC decided to have a little break. Of course the fact that said break clashes horribly with this whole blogging thing I have going meant little to my PC. She was miffed, and that was that.
After several days of cajoling, bribery, the PC equivalent of a luxury manicure and pedicure and of course, some money, my PC is back to behaving.
I never quite realize how much I miss my blog until I can’t have easy access to it.
I’m back and happy to be so.
When last I left you, it was the 14th of May, which was quite the glorious day for those of us that belong to The Daring Kitchen for that was the day that newly launched Daring Cooks revealed their first ever challenge.
Hosted by my partner Lis and myself, The Daring Cooks were challenged to make ricotta gnocchi.
Let me begin by saying that making ricotta gnocchi is very different from making the better known potato gnocchi. A different process and different ingredients obviously yields an end result with a very different texture.
Ricotta gnocchi are soft and almost creamy (but not to the degree that they should fall apart). They’re mild in taste, unless of course you flavour them strongly or you use a sharp sauce or cheese with them. Well-made ricotta gnocchi should be light but with enough substance to hold their shape.
As our go-to recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi, we decided to go with the best of the best and used a recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rodgers. Both Lis and I are tremendous fans of this books so were excited to give the recipe a go.
I have a photo journal of my Ricotta Gnocchi procedure below, so I won’t bore you with the details, especially since I’m sure that you’ve read more than enough posts about this dish in the past few days.
But what did I think of the Ricotta Gnocchi?
I found making them to be fairly straightforward. I cooked half of the gnocchi as soon as I made them. I gently placed the cooked gnocchi in a pan of sizzling butter and added lemon zest and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to the mix.
Everyone, myself included, loved them. They soaked up the butter sauce beautifully and held their shape nicely, although they did puff up considerably. They were light, but not insubstantial.
Are you sensing a “… but”?
Here it is.
I froze the second half of the gnocchi and prepared them for dinner about a week later.
Sadly, they were awful. First of all, they puffed up considerably more than the first batch when boiled. Secondly, while the first batch was compact and relatively dry after cooking, the frozen batch took on a sponginess that was unpleasant. They looked kind of icky, too.
I know icky isn’t exactly the best word to use when describing cooking but have pity on me, that’s the best I can think of.
To be honest, I ended up dumping out the second batch as we just couldn’t eat them.
So what’s my final verdict?
Making these and serving them fresh was worth it, but I’d never freeze them again.
I am glad, though, that we tried the recipe and I’m happy to see how The Daring Cooks embraced the challenge.
As The Daring Bakers approach two-and-a-half years of life, it’s exciting to see the birth of a new group. Here’s hoping that it will be just as successful!
Here’s my photo journal of my efforts in making Ricotta Gnocchi:
The strained fresh ricotta.
The ricotta gnocchi mixture, prior to forming the gnocchi.
Scooping the mixture into the flour.
Gently forming the gnocchi.
The formed gnocchi.
Dropping the gnocch into the boiling water.
Watching the gnocchi boil.
Cooking the gnocchi in the butter and lemon sauce.
The final product.
Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi
Source: The Zuni Cafe Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant by Judy Rodgers.
Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)
Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.
– If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it.
– Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn’t look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
– When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It’s okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they’re not perfectly smooth.
– If you’re not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
– For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.
Cheesecloth or paper towels
Large mixing bowl
Baking dish or baking sheet
Wax or parchment paper
Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)
For the gnocchi:
1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (Â½ ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
Â½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about Â¼ cup very lightly packed)
about Â¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi
For the gnocchi sauce:
8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water
Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.
If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricottaâ€™s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water thatâ€™s released. Either way, itâ€™s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.
Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.
To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (itâ€™s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.
Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.
Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if youâ€™re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture. Add in any flavouring that youâ€™re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If youâ€™re not using any particular flavouring, thatâ€™s fine. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt. Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).
Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.
Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isnâ€™t too damp. In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour thatâ€™s Â½ an inch deep. With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl. Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour. At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What youâ€™re looking for is an oval lump of sorts thatâ€™s dusted in flour and plump. Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until itâ€™s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes. If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success. Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But donâ€™t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them. Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour. You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.
Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.
Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside. In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure itâ€™s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi wonâ€™t bump into each other and damage each other. Once the water is boiling, salt it generously. Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi). When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking. Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now. With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.
Freezing the gnocchi: If you donâ€™t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you donâ€™t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.