Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Daring Bakers May 2009 Challenge - Strudel!

Hey cute people :)

This is going to be short and sweet..

Unfortunately I had another lil hiccup with my health and spent a few days in the hospital this month. I hadn't made my strudel before I went in and now that I'm home again, strudel just isn't in the cards for me.. I'm now on a fat free, low-carb, no salt diet.. so I am really enjoying sugar-free pudding and tomatoes. :P

I suppose after abusing my body for 40 some years, it had to catch up with me, eh? I'm going to get better though.. and will conquer another DB challenge in the future, but ya'll have to forgive me this month. 'kay? :)

Please make sure to check out the blogroll at The Daring Kitchen and go give Linda of make life sweeter and Courtney of Coco Cooks a lil extra loving for picking such a kick-ass challenge! They were both wonderful hostesses this month and we are forever grateful!!

Bake on Gorgeous Daring Baker Type People! :)


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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ever Thrown a Party and...

felt like the only one who didn't have a good time?


Before I get into it, I guess I've got some apologizing to do.. mainly to myself for being such a slacker. :P The three of yous that still read my blog, did you know that the brand new The Daring Kitchen website has been up and running since March 7th? Yeah.. it has been. And quite swimmingly too! Did you also know that we've got a whole new exciting theme with brand spankin new logos/badges created especially for the Daring Bakers and Cooks?? DID YOU KNOW we have a brand spankin' new addition to the Daring family called The Daring Cooks????

Jebus. I'm like the world's worst mom. I haven't even bragged about what a fabulous new website we have.. I haven't introduced ya'll to my youngest, lil Daring Cooks (she's the lil one at the end.. with the curls, cute eh?) and I haven't been passing out the wallet-sizes for ya'll to carry with you to show off to your own friends and family. Hell, I've even failed to mention that ya'll can own your own merchandise featuring these gorgeous logos and be the ENVY of all that know you!! I'm so ashamed.

This is all true! And today, today is lil Daring Cooks' inaugural introduction to the world! Today, after months and months of awaiting her arrival, she comes to us all fluffy and cheesy.. lightly fried or slightly boiled.. dressed in the most finest of fashion.. look at her positively glow in that clarified butter and glitter with peeps of chopped fresh sage. Why she's absolutely a vision. Isn't she?

I really couldn't be a more proud mom. Honest! :)

Mark this day on your calendars, kids! For every 14th of each month, lil Daring Cooks' will be showin' off her gorgeousness! That's just 2 weeks after her big sis, Daring Bakers' strides down her own red carpet on the 27th of each month!

So what's all of this about not having a good time at your own party? Well.. here's the deal. For our lil Daring Cooks' inaugural bash, Ivonne thought it would be a good thing if she and I hosted. She's the hostess between the two of us, you know? I'm more of the "fill up your drink?" and "let me take your coat" kinda gal, while Ivonne knows exactly what to do to make even a drab venue sparkle and shine with excitement. So I agreed to the hosting thing, but yanno... wasn't exactly all jazz-hands about it.

And the she told me I could pick the recipe!


I never get to pick the recipe! I mean, it's always an option for me, Ivonne never says "we're making this and that's that" but I just am more comfortable setting the table and making sure we've got enough toilet paper, than I am with you know.. choosing the color scheme. yanno? But since I've wanted the Daring Cooks to join with the Daring Bakers for many, many months - ya'll know me by now.. I'm a cook. Not so much a baker. :P Well being able to pick the recipe was just the nicest gift ever. :D

So I headed over to my sagging bookshelves and immediately grabbed The Zuni Café by Judy Rodgers. This book was given to me by my sweet and very talented "sister", Veronica. She said she just knew that I'd like it because we share the same brain. hahaaa! She was right. I LOVE IT! But! I'm kinda scared of it. Go figger. I've wanted to make so many recipes from this book but I'm always afraid I'd mess it up. So I just knew the recipe for the first Daring Cooks' challenge had to be something from The Zuni Café because of all the help and support our members are capable of, surely I'd be able to get through my first Zuni recipe in victory! :)

I chose Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi from pages 221-226. The way Judy describes them, so fluffy and light and bursting with flavor.. and my being a big gnocchi fan, well it was the perfect match!

I asked Ivonne what she thought about the book and she said she owned it as well and loved it very much and as soon as I said "Zuni Ricotta" she chimed in with "GNOCCHI!!" So yes, I believe this was the recipe she wanted to go with as well. hahahaa!

I don't know if a trip to a local Italian chain restaurant clouded my judgement before I had even made my ricotta gnocchi or not. I want to say no, but it really might have.. to my surprise that evening, this restaurant had spinach ricotta gnocchi on the menu. Well you know damn well I had to order it. My first bite was far from spectacular.. my second bite was leaning towards being offensive.. the third bite (and quick spit into my napkin) turned the corner and went full balls to the wall disgust. I couldn't believe these were gnocchi! The texture of sponge. The flavor of well.. mustiness. Does mustiness have a flavor?? It was just a fowl, malodorous taste. One, obviously, descibed better in a smell than a flavor.. if that makes sense? Ugh.

So to say I was a bit apprehensive the day I was going to make my own ricotta gnocchi isn't an exaggeration.

But, surprisingly, everything went really well. I had hung my fresh ricotta cheese in cheesecloth well over 24 hours prior to cooking, so it was nice and dry. My "dough" was as soft as a baby's bottom, yet had some firmness where I could actually handle the lil gnocchi pretty easily. I even made sure to have time to set them in the fridge, as Judy recommended, to gain a little more firmness before boiling my test batch. I had decided beforehand that I wasn't going to get fancy-pants with what I was going to serve them with / in. I wanted them to be the star of that evening's dinner, so they were only getting a small spoonful of my marinara with some grated Locatelli on top. And that was it.

My two lil gnocchi went into the salted boiling water and dove all the way to the bottom.. and then they headed back up to the surface and practically sunned themselves on the gentle waves of the boiling water (ha! didn't know I was poetic, did you?). I had a tiny lil bowl with just a schmear of marinara in it, waiting on the side.. 1 minute.. 2 minutes.. 3 minutes.. DONE! I scooped them out gently and allowed the excess water to drip off, then gently slid them in the tomato sauce.. OHMYGOD they smelled SO GOOD. I was SO FAKKING HAPPY that word "malodorous" didn't even pop to mind!

And then I used my fork to cut one in half.. a lil resistance was met, but that's okay - I'm a lover of the more hearty "toothsome" (God I hate that word) traditional potato dough gnocchi with a lil chew to them. My hopes were high! I took my first bite..



Oh for fucksake. They were horrible. Spongy texture all over again. You see, I don't correlate "light and fluffy" with "spongy and fowl" you know? But apparently, I'm one of the very few that didn't love these gnocchi. From what I've read in our private DC forums, most everyone has enjoyed their gnocchi.. some so much that they've made several batches AND turned them into dessert as well! God bless 'em! :)

This is the only photo taken that day.. after they were formed, before I knew they were spongy and ka-ka. :(

I would love to say I'm going to try these again and this time add a lil flour to the dough.. but nope, oh hells no, I am not going near this recipe again. I am defeated. Okay that's not the right word. The recipe worked fine for me.. they actually did turn out perfect. I just don't like a "light and fluffy" gnocchi. Who knew?

I am happy though that I finally got to make a recipe from The Zuni Cafe cookbook because now I'm rarin' for more. Especially that roasted chicken salad I keep hearing about. *slurp*

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you thought of it.. :)

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 1 hour.

Equipment required:
• Sieve
• Cheesecloth or paper towels
• Large mixing bowl
• Rubber spatula
• Tablespoon
• 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 fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon 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 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 underneat 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 better 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 ban 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 you’re 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 you’re 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 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 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.

*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.

Here is a photo of the ingredients I used to make Chicken Cacciatore the following weekend.. see the plate? That's the batch of DELICIOUS potato dough gnocchi I made to go with the chicken. *slurp* :P


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