How to Make Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi
June 26, 2012
Turning on the oven to roast potatoes during the summer seems silly. But summer foods, including pesto, caponata, and fresh tomato sauce, pair so well with potato gnocchi that it's worth the hour or so of extra kitchen heat. And if you break the process down into two steps: making the gnocchi and then freezing them for later, you're guaranteed a quick summer dinner. Once frozen, all you need is to boil the gnocchi, top with sauce, and enjoy.
Without wheat flour to bring stretchy gluten to hold the gnocchi together, starchy potatoes provide the structure that we need. So be sure to select russetts or Idaho potatoes for the recipe.
To further ensure the gluten-free gnocchi hold together during cooking, you need to bake, not boil, the potatoes. Baked potatoes not only reward you with a stronger potato flavor, they don't absorb water during the cooking process. During testing, batch after batch of gnocchi made with baked potatoes used approximately one to one and a half cups of gluten-free flour. The same recipe made with boiled potatoes sometimes required up to two and half cups of flour, leaving the gnocchi heavy and unpleasantly gummy.
Thanks to the starchy, roasted potatoes, we don't need to use a complex gluten-free flour blend or xanthan gum for this recipe. A simple mix of white rice flour and sweet rice flour does the trick. And the sweet rice flour is important. Made with only white rice flour, the gnocchi were too soft. A half cup of sweet rice flour, which is ground from glutinous, short-grain rice, added a nice bite without making the gnocchi gritty.
Once the potatoes are cooked, wait until they're cool enough to handle before you peel them. While some cooks make gnocchi with hot potatoes, in my non-scientific tests, I found the negatives (handling hot potatoes and the possibility of the eggs cooking when they hit the hot potatoes) outweighed any benefits. To prep the potatoes for the dough, pass them through a potato ricer or food mill. If you don't have a potato ricer handy, you can grate the potatoes or mash them. (In fact, you can make small batches of gnocchi with cold, leftover mashed potatoes!)
Work the eggs into the rice potatoes with a bench scrapper or fork.
As soon as the eggs are incorporated into the dough, the potato-egg mixture resembles a very soft dough. Stop mixing at this point.
For two pounds of gnocchi, you need about 1 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour. The few times I used less flour, the gnocchi fell apart while they boiled. Begin by adding 1 cup of flour. Work it into the dough and then go from there.
You want the dough to be firm, not soft and sticky. If the dough seems too soft, add the remaining flour mixture, 1/4 cup at a time. If you've never made gnocchi before and aren't sure if you've added enough flour, you can pinch off a little piece of dough and test it in a small pot of boiling water. The dough should not fall apart, if it does, add more flour. (I've even boiled water in the microwave for this test.)
Divide the dough into quarters. And then, right before you work with it, cut each quarter in half. Place a damp paper towel over the dough you aren't working with. This prevents a skin from forming.
Knead the dough a few times before rolling out into a long log.
Cut each log into bite-size pieces. Since my dough wasn't on a cutting board, I used a small icing spatula to cut the dough into pieces. This prevents my knife, and countertop, from damage.
The easiest way to shape gnocchi is to simply press a small indentation into each piece.
Or you can roll the gnocchi over a fork or gnocchi board. This creates ridges which hold onto sauce for serving.
Transfer the shaped gnocchi to a floured baking sheet. You can either boil the gnocchi immediately after shaping or you can freeze them to serve at a later time.
Once you've roasted the potatoes and whisked together your flour, it's time to shape them.