Monthly Archives: October 2013

Btw, Gnocchi is Unbelievably Easy

Gnocchi is one of those things that many people only get at restaurants, partly because store-bought is usually not-so-good and partly because they have no idea how easy it is to make at home. Way easier than pasta, easier even than bread. More on par with cookies. That easy. Here we go:

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Potato Gnocchi for Two

-1 lb. Russett or Idaho potato (since it’s hard to get an exact amount of potato, go with anything between 14-16 oz.)

-1 egg

-1/2 cup all purpose flour

-pinch of nutmeg, if you like

-I don’t add salt because I salt the water pretty heavily.

First things first, if you have such a thing as a ricer in your kitchen, this is what its for. If not, that’s fine, we’ll use a regular potato masher. If you don’t know what a ricer is, click here.

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Boil the potatoes whole, until you can break them with a fork and the skin slides off. While they’re still hot, mash them up super-fine or put them in the ricer which is basically a giant garlic press. Scramble the egg(s) in a bowl and add to the potatoes and stir up real good. Now add the flour and stir until just combined. You don’t want to develop too much gluten or you’ll end up with hard gnocchi. A chef I used to work for said, “Don’t knead it, want it.” I’ve always liked that.

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Once it’s all mixed in, take a hunk (depending on how much counter space you have) and roll a snake about one to one-point-five inches wide. Cut into sections of a similar length and toss onto a well-floured sheet. Continue in this manner until all the dough is cut. There’s a cool (but not strictly necessary) maneuver you can do with a fork to make ridges, but I’ve found it very hard to describe. Therefore, here is a link with a video of a lady teaching others how to do it. Also some good looking sauces. Watch the video.

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While cutting the dough, get a big pot of water on to boil. Salt it like you would for pasta. Toss maybe twenty in at a time and be ready to take them out in about two minutes. You’re going to see them bob at the top for a few seconds, then start floating determinedly, this is when they’re ready. In another 30 seconds will be over-done and start to fall apart, so be quick. Using a slotted spoon, remove them to a bowl very quickly and toss in some olive oil or melted butter. Cook the rest in batches like this until they’re all done and switch to a different serving dish or serve on plates, so they’re not sitting in a pool of oil and water at the bottom of your bowl. Serve with pesto, marinara or whatever sauce you like.

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Raivas: Easy Cookies Because I’m Training

I’ll be honest with all of you, this week I’m finishing up training for the AthHalf race so my posts are going to be short and sweet. Today we’re making raivas, a Portugese cookie that, yes, is supposed to be kind of cakey. It isn’t what we in The States are used to, but they’re great for dunking in tea, coffee or a mulled wine. And they look really cool! Every recipe I’ve found for this recipe is exactly the same (with the exception that some called for 4 Tablespoons of butter as opposed to 5), so I’m going to give credit to the book that I first found it in: Nick Malgieri‘s A Baker’s Tour.

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Raivas

-2 cups all purpose flour

-1 teaspoon cinnamon

-5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

-1/2 cup sugar

-3 eggs

First, pre-heat the oven to 350F.

This is a pretty standard technique for mixing cookie dough: mix together the dry ingredients (in this case flour and cinnamon) and set aside. Next, whip the butter and sugar together until it’s nice and fluffy. You can do this by hand or with and electric mixer. Now add the eggs to the butter mixture and mix until they are fully incorporated (you’re better off adding them one at a time, trust me). Add the flour mixture and mix that just until it’s all in there. You don’t want to make too much gluten.

Now comes the fun part: Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. An easy way to do this if you don’t have a scale is to divide the dough in half, then divide each of those into thirds, then divide each of those into quarters. And there you go: 2x3x4=24. Roll each one of these bad-boys into a snake 20 inches long. I find you’re better off just using your fingers, when I tried to use my palms they got all smooshed. Now join the ends together and gently scrunch them up into a scrunched-up shape. Elegant, me. You can also make most letters pretty well, while you’re scrunching. Play around with it. When you’ve got one done, place it on a buttered or papered baking sheet and move on to the next. These only puff a little bit during cooking, so you can place them pretty close togeter. Leave about 1 inche between each cookie. Bake the sheets, one at a time for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating once mid-way. Remove to a cooling rack and serve with a nice, hot beverage. Check out the links to some other cool cookie recipes I found.

 

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Oat Praline Buttermilk Bonbons. That’s Right.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think I just invented a new candy, then I dipped it in chocolate! I’m calling it the oat praline buttermilk bonbon. It’s a two-part recipe and takes a little doing, but it’s totally worth it.

Oat Praline Buttermilk Bonbons

Oat Praline

-1/3 cup steel-cut oats

-1/2 cup sugar

I haven’t tried this recipe with rolled oats yet, so I’m hesitant to say it will work just the same, but it might.

First things first, toast the oats by placing them in a dry frying pan (a six-inch if you have one) on a low heat. In a few minutes they’ll darken up a little and start to smell nice and toasty. Shimmy and stir them often to keep the toasting even. When they start to make a little crackly noise, transfer to a plate to cool.

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Now place the sugar in the same pan and melt on a medium low heat. When the sugar begins to melt, begin stirring with a rubber spatula and don’t stop until it’s smooth and slightly darkened. Turn off the heat, add in the oats and quickly stir until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture onto a parchment paper or, in a pinch, a buttered baking sheet.

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Let cool for about 15 minutes, then break into small pieces and crush either with a blender or chop on a cutting board, then use a cup and bowl as a makeshift mortar and pestle. This makes about 3/4 cup, which should be stored in an airtight container. Sprinkle on cakes, ice cream, oatmeal, or use in:

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Candy

When researching buttermilk candy I found this exact same recipe in no less than 6 different places, which means two things: 1) I have no idea where it originally came from, and 2) It had to be delicious. It is. My wife said it was candy for grown-ups.

-1 cup sugar

-1/2 cup buttermilk

-1 1/2 Tablespoons butter

-1/4 – 3/4  cup oat praline, depending on how oaty you like it.

Measure the sugar, buttermilk, and butter right into the frying pan and turn on a low heat. While waiting for things to get going, fill a clear glass with cold water. Trust me. You’re also going to need a spoon, mixing bowl, whisk, and small, buttered dish. A plate will work in a pinch.

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Once the sugar starts to belt and the milk boils, stir with your rubber spatula to dissolve the sugar. After that, stir just often enough to prevent sticking. After the mixture has been simmering for 10 minutes, when the mixture has thickened a bit, take a small spoonful of the liquid and dribble it into the water. It’s not really necessary to go through all the stages of candy temperatures (which wouldn’t be that accurate anyway due to the buttermilk and butter in the sugar) so I’ll just give you the pertinent information. When the liquid hits the water, it will probably dissipate into bits. This means it’s not ready yet. Try again about once a minute until the drop to turns into a little ball that stays more-or-less in ball form all the way down.

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When your candy reaches this stage, pour it into a mixing bowl, add the praline and start whisking. This is going to take about 10 minutes, so if you have an electric mixer you may want to use it.Keep whisking until pretty cool, at which point it should be thick and hold streaks pretty well.  Transfer this to  the buttered dish and allow to cool at room temp at least 3 hours or even overnight. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls, you should end up with about 14, depending on how much praline you used. Refrigerate until set, then store in an airtight container layered with parchment paper. These are super-delicious on their own or just rolled in a little powdered sugar, but if you want to chocolate coat them, who am I to stop you? Also, a little touch of sea salt never hurt.

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Chocolate Coating

-1/2 lb. semi-sweet chocolate

-that is all

Set up a double boiler by placing the chocolate in a bowl that is sitting on top of a pot with about an inch of water in it. Set to a medium heat and stir the chocolate until it melts. Be very careful not to let any water get in the chocolate or it will become all grainy and horrible.

When the chocolate is smooth, remove the bowl from the pot. Dip the candies in the chocolate one at a time, coating and removing as quickly as possible. You can cover them entirely if you like, or dip them partially like buckeyes. Refrigerate again to set the chocolate (half-an-hour) and store with parchment paper in an airtight container, which is always a good rule for storing candies.

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