Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sugar High Friday! (or My little dough balls)

Before I start: I’m aware that my first few paragraphs are spaced differently than the rest of my post. To this I have to say: Blogger does not deserve any more of my time or frustration or anger or tears. And I wish there was an icon for pulling your hair out. Now, onto the food.

My dad is a meat man. Not only is he a meat man, he’s a grill man. More than anything, he’s a steak man. He grills steaks out about four times a week, on an average, sometimes more, sometimes less, but if it’s less, then he’s usually grilling some other form of meat (sausage, quail, chicken) in its place. He eats pasta and enjoys it enough, but his first taste of gnocchi (which I of course love, coming from dough) was a dish I had ordered at a restaurant, and he hated it. He called them “little dough balls.” He couldn’t pronounce the word correctly, and instead has since referred to them by this title.

That was about five years ago, and in that time I have gone to cooking school in Italy and came home to make him goat cheese gnocchi, which he actually enjoyed, and I, of course, ate them like candy. There’s something about the doughyness of gnocchi, I am a pasta-addict, but gnocchi go the extra mile and combine pasta with a hint of a thick, plump bread. It’s fun to bite through a piece of tender gnocchi, thicker than pasta but still retaining a similar taste.

So I love gnocchi, and I love sweet things. Desserts are my weakness. I’ve often wondered if I could survive only eating desserts (but then I would miss my pasta), or would I? For Sugar High Friday (yaya! My first one! But the 31st Sugar High Friday to date, created by The Domestic Goddess to celebrate sweets once a month) I decided to combine my two loves. The host this month is Seven Spoons, and the theme is Shades of White, with a given list of some possible ingredients such as ricotta, marshmallow, champagne, almond, and cream. I was immediately drawn to ricotta (I’m also a sucker for cheeses….my list of loves seems to be getting longer, but chocolate, cheese, and pasta are no doubt the top three) and I began to brainstorm what I could do with it. I thought about all the ricotta desserts I knew of, ricotta cheesecake, cannoli, and then I began to think if ricotta gnocchi, and ricotta gnudi that I’d made before. Light bulb! Sweet ricotta gnocchi. I’d never heard of it before yet it seemed like something that would have to have been done before. I searched for some recipes online, but only came up with fried ricotta gnocchi fritter things. I consulted Dan, and he mentioned fried gnocchi too. I didn’t want to do fried; I wanted seemingly regular gnocchi, made with ricotta, boiled and then finished in a buttery sauce, only I wanted them sweet. I’ve eaten candied olives for dessert before, why not a sweet version of gnocchi?

So I began to brainstorm again, thinking of shades of white, and again asked for some help from Dan (as much as I love to cook, and bake, and make and mix and stir things, I’m simply no good at throwing random ingredients together and coming up with something brilliant. I like to stick to my recipes, sometimes adding a little more vanilla than called for, but I need something concrete to follow). For the gnocchi I strayed. I would go out on a limb (while Dan held onto me, of course), and we came up with orange and almond gnocchi.

Orange and Almond Gnocchi
in Amaretto Sauce

170 g ricotta (after draining overnight in a fine-mesh sieve)
45 g ground almonds
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar (I kept adding this to the mixing bowl and it’s so light the scale didn’t register at all, hence the tablespoons instead of grams)
zest from at least half a large orange
liberal pinch of salt
20-25 g flour and extra for rolling

large pat of butter
a few glugs of Amaretto
juice from half an orange

First, I bought a container of ricotta that was 250 grams, used a little to test the gnocchi, and found that it was too runny, so following other recipes I’d looked over (see, I need that direction), I drained what was left by pouring it into a fine-mesh sieve on top of a larger bowl, which I then covered with Saran wrap and stuck in the fridge overnight. When I measured it out, it was 170 grams. Put it in a mixing bowl and add the ground almonds. Mix together, then put in the powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you want it, 3 or 4 tablespoons. Stick your finger in there and make sure it tastes good. Mix in the zest and a large pinch of salt (Dan says this really brings out the almond flavor), and finally mix in the flour. I say 20-25 grams because it depends on the consistency, you want them to be soft, but not too gooey you can’t roll them. (Some people hesitate to put lots of flour in their gnocchi, which I did at first and then ended up with some mushy gnocchi which ended up falling apart. If you’re one of those people that doesn’t like floury gnocchi, you can add a little more ground almonds and a little less flour). Finally, on a floured surface (marble, parchment, something flat and smooth) take the dough and roll out into a log under your hands. You’ll probably have to take it in sections because as you roll, it becomes longer and hard to deal with big pieces. Roll to about the circumference of your thumb, and then taking a knife cut into little one-inch pieces.
Put the gnocchi on a plate or tray, not touching, and stick them in the fridge while you start to boil the water. While the water is boiling, in a sauce pan over medium high heat, melt the butter, amaretto and orange juice with a large pinch of salt (Dan also thinks this is necessary to bring out all the flavors). You want the sauce to thicken and bubble a little, and when it does, turn the heat down to low. Once the water boils, add salt, take the gnocchi out of the fridge and put them in the water (I did this in two batches, but it depends on how big your pot is). Let them float to the top and then cook for another minute, the best way to know when they’re finished is to take one out and try it, you don’t want them too done because then they turn to mush. When they are perfect, take out with a slotted spoon and transfer directly to the saucepan, making sure everything gets coated, swirl around a few times. Pour onto two dishes and impress your date, or take the saucepan directly to the table and have a great afternoon alone.

Note: The finished product, as you can see, is not exactly white, but I guess that falls under the theme Shades of White. I was thinking of taking a picture of my actual whites (ricotta, ground almonds, flour, powdered sugar, salt) but I thought better of it and I'm sure yall all appreciate it more that I didn't. So my Orange and Almond Gnocchi is a lovely orangey shade of white. And thanks to Dan for being a taste-tester, although he borders on salt-obsessed and eats a whole plate of gnocchi before giving you his opinion.

1 comment:

tara said...

What an unexpected, and very sweet, post! I can commiserate with you on the evils of blogger this week, I would be using that "pulling hair out" icon left, right and centre. Nonetheless, I hope that participating in this month's SHF was less painful than dealing with technology! Thank you so much for your contribution.