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HELP! Troubleshooting Gnocchi...

So I tried to make gnocchi tonight...

I had about 1 kg of potatoes cooked and mashed. Added a 1/2 cup of flour and one egg. Mixed it all together. It failed to really resemble a doughy mass, and it was instead incredibly sticky. I thought this was an indication that the mixture needed more flour. So I added a bit less than 1/4 cup of flour and mixed it all in. Still too sticky. Added another dusting of flour and incorporated it. The dough became even stickier than it was before!!

Any idea what went wrong??

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  1. how did you cook the potatoes? baked is best, as it doesn't add any extra moisture.
    what kind of potatoes did you use? i prefer russet for having the lowest moisture content.
    did you rice/mash the potatoes when they were finished cooking and still hot? if you wait til they cool, the flesh starts to take in moisture.
    what kind of flour? i like to use 00 flour if i have it or i do a combo 2:1 cake:all-purpose. also 1/2 cup is awfully light.
    Egg - sometimes i eliminate it, as it isn't in the most traditional of recipes. egg white only will make it tougher and chewier. egg yolk will make it richer but stickier dough.
    how much mixing did you do? did you overwork the gluten?

    what i use...
    ~2 lbs russet potatoes - baked (rice immediately after out of oven)
    1 egg + 1 yolk (sometimes just the egg, sometimes none)
    1 cup (00 or cake/ap blend) flour to start - may need a little more
    salt

    that's it...

    1. I'm not really seeing how more flour could make it stickier. Unless there's something you're not telling us, I'm not going to be able to give you any help on that front.

      A little sticky is alright, btw. As long as you can still work it.

      Emme is giving you good advice. A big principle of making good gnocchi is to have as little extra water in the dough/potatoes as possible. On top of her suggestions, I suggest using a ricer while the potatoes are still quite hot and then spreading the riced potatoes out on a flat surface to let some of the steam escape for a bit before adding the flour. It should still be pretty warm when the flour goes in (or at least that's how I do it). I also get better results without an egg than with, though I know some people use egg to good results. Many people say that using older potatoes helps as well, if you can reliably determine the age of your potatoes (I've never really managed or bothered to).

      When you're rolling them out, a key to fluffy gnocchi is to keep them loose - just barely holding together well enough to survive cooking.

      1. I only succeeded with russet/baking/starchy potatoes. I have had sticky dough and leaden gnocchi using both fingerlings and Yukon golds (which are both better roasted or boiled for potato salad in my opinion).

        1. I'm having some problems myself, and I'm hoping I can get some guidance. I've tried to make gnocchi unsuccessfully several times now. They always turn out some combination of mushy, slimy, and/or grainy.

          Here's a photo of my most recent attempt. When I was rolling out the dough, it did something..odd. It's like a seam opened up somehow in the dough. This seam is circled in red - you can see the patches where the dough just isn't a cohesive mass.
          http://i.imgur.com/9b0Yl.jpg

          I'd love to get some feedback, because I love good gnocchi, but I just can't seem to replicate it at home!

          2 Replies
          1. re: hobscrk777

            can you post your recipe? it looks like your dough is too dry, at least on the exterior. if you've got flour coating it, those pieces aren't going to seal together. my guess is your issue includes too much flour and overworking the dough... please let us know your recipe and methodology to get a better answer.

            1. re: Emme

              I used this recipe from Simply Recipes:

              *2 lbs whole baking potatoes
              *2 beaten egg yolks
              *1 1/2 cups flour
              *Pinch of salt

              I baked the potatoes and scooped the flesh out as soon as I pulled them from the oven. I don't have a potato ricer, so I gently mashed the potatoes with a fork and then walked away for an hour to let them cool. I poured the egg yolks over, and then began to add the flour.

              However, I have read over and over that you should only add enough flour so that the dough has "just come together." I put in more like 1 cup of flour, not the 1.5 cups the recipe calls for because I could tell that adding any more would cause the dough to become overly dry.

              What I don't understand is: how could my dough possibly be too dry when I added only 66% of the flour specified by the recipe?

          2. LIke others have said - we need more info.

            My first instinct is to wonder what type of potato you used and how you cooked the potato. It definitely sounds like there was too much water from somewhere in your gnocchi.

            6 Replies
            1. re: thimes

              I used russet potatoes, and they were baked. Your comment about there being too much water seems to conflict with Emme's response above - that I was using too *much* flour.

              1. re: hobscrk777

                yes, my comment was directed at the Original Poster who is having a gummy problem.

                It sounds like you are having a different problem. First let me say, making gnocchi is not ever an exact science are actually very hard to get right without some hands on training from someone who has done it before (in my opinion). This is mainly because potatoes are so inconsistent in terms of moisture content, texture, etc. So knowing what it is supposed to feel like is important.

                I don't use egg when I make gnocchi (that is how I was taught) and my understanding is that it is used in many recipes because it helps the gnocchi hold together in the end which can help "fix" other minor variations when making them.

                I also don't let my potatoes cool quite as long as it sounds you do. I bake my potatoes, scoop out the inside, mash (I use a ricer but wasn't taught that way originally), let them cool just until I stop seeing steam rising from them. You can of course let them cool longer (I know many people that do but I wasn't taught that way).

                I then sprinkle flower over the top of the potatoes that are essentially spread out about a 1/2 thick - ish - (I don't measure so I don't know how much to tell you honestly or I'd be happy to) - but I sprinkle flower over the top until it looks like a light snow over them (not enough for a real layer of flower but enough so you can tell it is there). Using a bench scraper I then almost "chop" the flower into the potato rather than mixing, then "fold" up all the potato like folding a letter into one mass. Then chop it apart to spread it back out into a similar 1/2 in thick sheet. Repeat sprinkling the flower, chopping, folding. I do this for about 3 additions of flour total. At that point it holds its shape when folded into the final block shape. It is still a little "sticky" so I lightly flour it when I roll it out. Cut, boil, and then I like a crispy outside so saute in butter.

                That is my method as best as I can describe it. Most recipes I've ever read call for WAY too much flour (in my opinion) so I wouldn't be worried about using less than the recipe calls for. Your picture reminds of times when I'm hand rolling breadsticks. It is very easy in that instance to have too dry of dough and then when you flour it and try to roll it out you can easily end up with those types of "cracks" or "pockets" that wont stick together and never come together when you are "making a snake" (as the kids say). So from your picture I would have to agree you may have a combination of problems - one being too much flour (given the moisture content of your potatoes) the other could be overworking our dough when mixing.

                Marco Canora's method is the most similar to how I learned to do mine (or at least who has online videos). I did a quick search and found this page with a video at the bottom of him describing how he makes his gnocchi. Maybe it will help. Gnocchi are too good to give up on!

                http://ozersky.tv/2010/09/maro-canora...

                1. re: thimes

                  Many moons later, I have read your instructions and want to thank you for taking the time to detail your technique. I'm going to give this a try soon and report back. Thanks!

                  1. re: fame da lupo

                    I've had pretty good luck with gnocci.

                    I boil the potatoes whole and avoid sticking them with a fork too much, and peel them and run them through a ricer immediately, while still piping hot. Then I add the flour (low gluten) but no egg, and quickly mix until it's still very slightly tacky, but easy to handle.

                  2. re: thimes

                    I agree, no need for egg. I used one russet and 1/2 cup of flour and they turn out like delicate little pillows. I am not allowed to link to my blog but if you search "melbo's toast gnocchi" you can see pictures of what the dough looked like after I mix it and after they are rolled out.

                    1. re: thimes

                      Okay, so basically I think I blew it. I got sidetracked and let the potatoes sit in water (did not read this before) for a while, then added a TON of flour (again, before I read this) and the dough is still a sticky lump. I have yet to get said blob of sticky dough out of the bowl. Is there any way I can repair/save these?

                2. The goal is to achieve a light, silky dough prior to forming the gnocchi and that is achieved by controlling the moisture in the mix, using as little flour as possible and never overworking the components.

                  I learned from my grandmother who immigrated at age 14 and worked in a commercial kitchen for 50+ years doing homemade pastas.

                  Our family recipe has a couple variations to enhance the actual gnocchi flavors like using one sweet potatoe for every russet potatoe, potatoes selected for comparable sizes. We cook a batch consisting of 3 lbs total weight potatoes which is family dinner for 12. Baked with knife piercing to let steam vent so as to avoid the extra water inherent to a boiling process. Immediately peel and rice them while hot (burning your hands approach). Spread them out to allow extra steam to dissipate.

                  Wait about 15 to 20 minutes to reach room temperature then gently lift out onto a floured wood board into a donut shape. Add 1 egg yolk, salt, white pepper and about 2 Tblspn of very finely pulverized Reggio Parmignano.

                  Start with just enough flour (pasta 00 or all purpose mixed with cake flour) to lightly cover the potatoes.....work in lightly, very lightly with just your fingertips.....this is where technique is everything.

                  The quantity of flour you will need is highly variable and depends on several factors so how much you add will need to be determined by touch, not by measure.

                  Keep working on a floured board and just add small bits of flour, working the mix until you achieve a light, silky feeling dough that almost seems puffy. Least amount of flour, never any additional liquid, least touching and never manhandle the dough.

                  Do not wait to cut and form the gnocchi as they will become sticky sitting at room temperature.

                  I cut the dough into about six or eight pieces using a pastry scraper and on a well-floured board, roll them out to the diameter of my finger and cut them into 1/2" lengths. Form by rolling each piece off the backside of a cleaned, floured fork (something you have to change out perhaps every dozen or so pieces to keep them from sticking) that creates their classic shape with ridges in their surface.

                  Drop each onto a well floured cookie tray....never letting gnocchi touch each other. Sprinkle lightly with flour Immediately place each partially filled tray into the freezer to allow them to firm up for 30 minutes prior to cooking or an hour prior to bagging for longer term freezing.

                  Cook gently in small batches in an abundance of simmering liquid, more poaching not a rolling boil, in salted water or flavored stock. I use a pastry scraper to transfer them from cookie tray into the pot and immediately stir them to prevent them from clumping together.... allowing them to cook for about 2 minutes after floating to the top before lifting out with a strainer and placing them into a large heated casserole.

                  Casserole platter has been prepped with a layer of (our favorite) a pink tomatoe cream sauce and sprinkled with finely grated cheese. Keep the casserole in a 300 degree oven as you repeat the batches and layering until you've cooked the quantity you have planned. Do not drown them, just enough sauce to cover them lightly. Top off with final layer of sauce and cheese, place back into the heated oven for up to 10 minutes, getting the family to the table and serve. Light. Airy

                  1. The last time I made gnocchi I used baked Yukon Golds and put them through a ricer. This made more potato than the recipe called for, but I was cooking with an Italian friend, and she urged me to use all of the potato. She said it's more about the potato than the flour. The dough was not too sticky, and we didn't have any trouble working it. The result was perfect gnocchi.

                    1. I prefer French gnocchi to Italian. It is easier to make, pretty much foolproof and is lighter in consistency.
                      http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/09/th...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zackly

                        love those. it's basically choux pastry and is fool-proof.

                      2. As per my last post, threw out my goopy mess and started over. Boiled russets with skin on, riced while hot, and worked my way through several test batches. Initially used just salt and flour and worked through consistencies. I'm on final round, this time added some egg whites for adhesion... so far working much better in creating a more dense gnocchi... inside is nice and light with good texture, but outside is still coming out a bit goopy. Will add some extra flour to last ball to test. IMO, I highly recommend anyone doing this for the first time to do a test batch on another day, as it's somewhat laborious. p.s. I did use an ice bath after boiling.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Moimoi

                          Yes once the dough turns into wall paper paste it can't be saved

                          If the outside is falling apart once cooked - my first guess is that you're overlooking them, especially if the inside is still the right texture. When they float they are done - not a cook 2 min once they float kinda of a method.