By the way, this is also where babies come from. "I honestly like how firm it is, and I know you don't.". This can be frustrating to those of us who want to outsmart a recipe on a path to precision and certainty, but there's another, I think better, way to look at it. No matter the gnocchi you aspire to, getting there is something of a journey. Put the finished gnocchi on a flour-dusted tray. He spent nearly a year working on organic farms in Europe, where he harvested almonds and Padron peppers in Spain, shepherded a flock of more than 200 sheep in Italy, and made charcuterie in France. Roll each piece lightly in the palms of your hands. I've been there: I was taught by an old Neapolitan nonna in Italy, whose expert hands made the process look ridiculously simple. Based on a five-ounce weight per cup of flour, that's a spread of anywhere from 1.25 to 5 ounces per pound of potato, a pretty big difference. Egg will help you succeed and hold your gnocchi together. The answer is baking. And pat it all together into a loose ball. You want some of the cooking water to get into the skillet, too, so there's no need to drain them carefully. Del Conte and Ferrigno's Complete Italian Cookery Course suggest using Italian 00 flour, which is the very fine stuff called for in pasta recipes. That's a nice ideal to work toward, but there are plenty of good, more substantive gnocchi along the way. Daniel cooked for years in some of New York's top American, Italian and French restaurants - starting at the age of 13, when he began staging at the legendary restaurant Chanterelle. In my recipe and tests, I used only all-purpose flour. With gnocchi, you want none of that lateral shearing/stretching motion, since gluten development is your enemy. We start by baking the potatoes whole, and we want to get them very tender all the way through, since undercooked potato will fight you every step of the gnocchi-making way. After that, I prepared them frequently during my days as a restaurant cook, and recently, I made batch after batch to develop this recipe. Just as I'd rather not sleep on a pile of jagged rocks, there are limits to what can be called good in the world of little potato dumplings: Some version of light and tender is what we're after. The worst that happens is you waste a potato or two in the process. Gather mixture together and turn out onto work surface; knead, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough comes together. Of course, as soon as I start looking at recipes, I realise this is going to be a little more difficult than perfecting mash or jacket potatoes – because, where food's concerned, all Italians seem to agree on is that it's very, very important. Better it float off into the air than reabsorb into my potato. Then drop the gnocchi into the water, and when they're all in, give them a gentle stir to make sure they don't clump, while also being careful not to damage them with your spoon. Scatter 250g of the flour over a clean work surface along with ½ tsp fine salt and a pinch of nutmeg, if using. Using the same before-and-after weight tests, I was able to debunk the moisture theory: Potatoes baked on a bed of salt lost roughly the same amount of water weight as those baked either on a rack or directly on a baking sheet. This makes sense when you factor in both water loss during baking and the removal of the skins before ricing. Some days, you may end up adding a little less than the full quarter cup per pound. A lot of chefs skip this step; some claim that it's unnecessary and that it doesn't actually help with sauce adherence. "Baby, the couch is so hard and uncomfortable, and you're sick: I should sleep there! This, of course, means that you will have to be brave, because the phrase hot potato didn't come about by accident; insulated by their skins, it's like juggling rocks thrown straight from the sun. Classically, gnocchi are ridged, which can be done either on the tines of a fork or using a little wooden paddle called a rigagnocchi (from riga, the Italian word for "ridge" or "line"), which is designed expressly for that purpose. I'm a sucker for its sweet, peppery flavour, as has been noted with disapproval by many of you before, and again, I think it works really well with the rich, buttery sauces that gnocchi tends to be paired with, but feel free to leave it out if you hate the stuff. The photos in the step-by-step below show the process with yolk, but you don't need to change the method if you skip the yolk. [Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]. I let them go about 20 seconds longer, then taste one. And, for those who might be wondering, tasting the potatoes revealed that baking on a bed of salt does not season or otherwise significantly change the flavor of the potato flesh, so that explanation is out, too. Locatelli puts the oven on low, so he can dry the cooked potatoes out before use, but a better idea comes from Hartnett, who bakes the potatoes on a bed of rock salt (presumably to absorb any moisture). Anna del Conte agrees with him, yet in her recipe, she describes Désirée as waxy, and then I discover that it rates as a five on the Potato Council's consistency scale, which means it's very much a medium potato if ever there was one. The dough may still be slightly warm, almost like it's radiating body heat, and incredibly supple without any elasticity, yet it should also feel like a cohesive dough. I'm proud to say that they held together fine – but perhaps it's my palate that's inferior, because I preferred the more robust egg-bound versions produced by Locatelli, Hartnett and Ferrigno.
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