In spite of gnocchi being our favourite Italian dish, we have never tried to make it ourselves. So everything could potentially go wrong here!! The recipe in our Tuscan cookbook calls for ‘waxy’ potatoes and not the ‘starchy’ kind. Various internet sites say the complete opposite. What to do??? Our local shops typically let us choose between ‘white’, ‘red’, ‘Yukon Gold’, and maybe ‘Russet Burbank’. So we got a couple of white, Yukon, and reds and went to work – scientifically like!
Our bottom-line finding is that we’d eat this again (Nam Nam) although we would need a real Italian to tell us if there is a real difference between the potatoes we tried. Still, in the name of science, we forced ourselves to rank the results from ‘best’ to ‘worst’:
Not surprisingly, we ran a sideshow science experiment to measure which potato has the most or least starch. If you are as nerdy as we are, you will want to scroll to the bottom of this blog entry to see the starch experiment involving: Betadine solution (=Iodine), straws (=pipettes), shot-glasses (=test-tubes), and inkjet-paper (=Iodine test strips).
Now back to the recipe…
Some side notes. We only had 400 grams of red potatoes and reduced the other amounts to 150 grams of plain flour and 40 grams of butter. This may have had an impact on dough consistency and the end product. Also, the dough from the Yukon potatoes wasn’t as smooth as the others and needed more flour to not stick to the counter. While we saw the excessive kneading as a bit of a gimmick it actually seemed to give the dough a better consistency.
Here are some photos from the process:
Ricing, mixing, kneading….
Cutting, cutting, poaching
The potatoes and their respective gnocchi below: white, Yukon Gold, and red
Sideshow Science Experiment
Hypothesis: The three potatoes have different amounts of starch, which correlate to gnocchi conistency.
Methodology: The cooking-related aim of the starch science experiment was to measure which potato has the most starch compared to the others. Starch binds iodine and turns it blue. It is not possible to get a good reading comparing which potato turns more blue than the other, but we can measure which potato binds more of the iodine (because it has more starch). The remaining iodine stays in the water solution available to turn blue with the cellulose (starch) in the paper.
The photo shows that the paper turned more blue from the white potato solution (left), less from the red potato solution (right), and least from the Yukon potato solution (middle).
Science Result: The Yukon potato (known as a starchy baking potato) appeared to have the most starch and the white potato has the least starch and is therefore the waxiest. Unfortunately, we could not detect different consistency in our gnocchi, so the correlation to starch content could not be determined in this experiment. Therefore we cannot reject the hypothesis.
Cooking Impact: According to our Tuscan cookbook, the best potato for gnocchi is a waxy one – like the white potato followed by the red and then the Yukon. Various internet blogs tells us that the starchy potatoes are best for gnocchi so the Yukon potatoes should have been best, followed by the red and then the white. The question is – does any of this make a blind bit of difference? We think not! It is all Nam Nam.
…but thanks for reading anyway….
Rob & Hild