Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Ricotta Gnocchi Daring Cooks' #1 Challenge
I was waiting with high anticaption for the first Daring Cooks' challenge from the Daring Kitchen..... two-and-a-half years after the birth of The Daring Bakers, Lis and Ivonne were happy to inaugurate The Daring Cooks with the first ever challenge!
So to do away with the suspense, they were happy to announce that the very first Daring Cooks' challenge was... Ricotta Gnocchi!
Truffle oil (white), pesto (light green) & roasted red bell pepper (light red) gnocchi
Fried lime infused dessert gnocchi served with blueberries and cream.
They chose a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.
On the surface, this is a very straightforward recipe. The challenge is in the forming and handling of the gnocchi and what you do with the recipe, in terms of variations, was up to us.
What a weird coincident I have been watching a few Australian cooking shows and all of have featured Ricotta Gnocchi and I decided to make this so this meant I had almost made it before the reveal I am letting the gnocchi rest for an hour at the moment! I just love the Synchronicity. I had organised a tasting party at my house for this new recipe and as usual I thought I'll try a few flavours to see what the gnocchi goes best with.
I found the easiest way to shape the gnocchi was to scoop out the mixture and very roughly clump it together without pressing and roll and shape it in the flour, this ensures a very light and open gnocchi. Surprisingly this gnocchi goes very well with strong and mild flavours it's very versatile. The texture of the cooked gnocchi is very open and light and the taste is a very mild ricotta flavour and the colour is very light yellow. It does swell to about half again and is a little lumpy which is appealing. The verdict these gnocchi are light cloud bursts of yummmmmm! So much better than the normal heavy potato gnocchi.
I found to get max size increase was to use very hot water and let the gnocchi cook for about 8 mins this gave the biggest gain in size. I had no problems with them breaking apart since I used hot water and not simmering/boiling water. The gnocchi's shape improves when it is cooked.
Make sure that you don't overmix the eggs before you place them into the ricotta mixture they will be mix correctly by the time you have finished adding and mixing all the other ingredients.
I did small gnocchi only 1 teaspoon each and I got roughly 100 gnocchi from 500 grams ricotta I froze the leftovers.
I made my own ricotta it is very simple and to dry it perfectly leave it overnight uncovered in a sieve over a bowl this makes it bone dry and push the cheese through a fine sieve this makes for a very light textured gnocchi.
Here is the ricotta cheese recipe I used (makes about 500 grams of ricotta)
Home-Made Ricotta Cheese
4 cups of skim milk powder (equal 4 litres of milk)
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup of cream
6 tablespoons of lemon juice
Mix the skim milk powder, cream and water it will form a thick liquid. Heat until it is very hot (not boiling) add the lemon juice. Stir gently once every minute for three minutes do not let the liquid boil. It should now be a mixture of curds and whey, let it cool about 15 mins or so. Strain using a very fine sieve place the sieve over a bowl and place into the refrigerator overnight uncovered. Since so little water is used the ricotta well be very dry when you want to use it. Push the cheese through a fine sieve when needed this adds lightness to the gnocchi mixture.
Here is the home-made ricotta cheese straining overnight
The ricotta cheese drained overnight notice how dry and crumbly it is
The ricotta, eggs and cheese mixture
The mixture waiting to formed into gnocchi
The formed gnocchi waiting to be cooked
A very easy challenge recipe that leads to a very stylish dinner meal. Also it is very very filling!
I made three types since I couldn't decide – sweet chilli octopus, Avegolemono (Greek Lemon Egg Chicken Sage sauce), spinach and cheese. I liked all three! And two guests seemed to like the spinach and cheese and the last guest the sweet chilli octopus. Of course all the gnocchi was gone very quickly.
Sweet Chilli Octopus
Avegolemono (Greek Lemon Egg Chicken Sage sauce)
Spinach and Cheese
I also made fried lime infused sweet ricotta gnocchi with blueberries and cream. Here are the shaped gnocchi - I made home-made ricotta from skim milk powder (recipe above) but added sugar (instead of cheese) and lime juice and lime zest which makes the lime infused ricotta cheese.
Fried sweet gnocchi is so nice and forms a very thin & crisp crust of a beautiful light brown colour and it goes well with canned blueberries and cream. They only take literally 90 secs each side. This is a very easy and very elegant dessert.
Fried sweet gnocchi
Close up of fried lime gnocchi
I thought I would do another batch since they are so tasty and simple to make.
The tri-flavoured gnocchi waiting to be cooked.
Truffle oil (white), pesto (light green) & roasted red bell pepper (light red) gnocchi
Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi
Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.
• Cheesecloth or paper towels
• Large mixing bowl
• Rubber spatula
• Baking dish or baking sheet
• Wax or parchment paper
• Small pot
• Large skillet
• 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 (½ 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)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ 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 ricotta’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 that’s released. Either way, it’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 (it’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 you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.
Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’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 isn’t too damp.
In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ 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 you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’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 it’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 don’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 it’s side), 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 won’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.
Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion, sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your chance to go nuts. Enjoy yourselves. Surprise us!!!
Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’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.