A baker’s kind of dinner

A bakers dinner

Generally speaking I am more of a baker than a cook. I like working with recipes and am not someone who can look in the fridge and whip up something decent from whatever’s there (luckily I live with someone who’s a pro at this and enjoys it). I enjoy the step-by-step process of baking. Usually it’s easy to follow and for the most part you just add things together in a bowl, then put the output into the oven – easy! The work’s done upfront then you’re left to relax while it bakes and by the time it comes to eating, all that’s left is popping the kettle on so you’ve got a tea ready for when whatever you’ve baked has cooled down. No different timings to worry about, different parts of the meal to tend to or worrying about keeping everything warm. I find baking a pretty chill activity – I know I’ve got my ingredients, I’ll have the time and I’ve got into the habit of putting on a good podcast to listen to while I’m at it.

During lockdown, like many others, I’ve spent some time baking. I’ve baked on multiple occasions and though I have baked some banana & choc chip cupcakes, so far there has been no sighting of banana bread (why do we all have an excess of bananas during this time?) Along with the banana bread phenomenon, I started to see a few people making homemade gnocchi. Though I’m not much of a cook, this seemed more up my street. A bit like baking in the upfront prep and making, then really simple to cook – sign me up. I thought it might also be a fun thing to do one lockdown evening and a change from watching back to back episodes of Tiger King. So, I found a recipe on Tasty which looked pretty straight forward and off we went.

The Verdict

We were sceptical on how it would turn out (I’d heard a couple of gnocchi disaster stories) but were pleasantly surprised with the result and enjoyed the process – it’s a nice balance for those who like to bake and those who like to cook. If you fancy swapping Joe Exotic for kneading dough one evening, I’ve included the recipe below including how I made the homemade sauce.

Recipe taken from Tasty and can also be found here.

Ingredients

For 2 servings – supposedly. For us it made 4 so we froze the other half and have that to look forward to. 

4 medium russet potatoes – I won’t lie, I don’t know what russet potatoes are. We used 2 big-ish potatoes and a few smaller ones we had and that seemed to work 

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for the water

1 teaspoon pepper

1 egg

1 ½ cups / 190g all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust – again, I’m not sure what ‘all-purpose flour’ is. I guessed plain and went with that which seemed to work fine

Preparation

1. Add the potatoes to a large pot of cool salted water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce a potato. Drain the potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm. 

Boyfriend gave me a look when he saw I’d cut the potatoes into smaller pieces as he thought they ‘should remain whole so water doesn’t get in’. Maybe he’s right but it still worked (I wanted them to boil quicker so we could get to the fun part).

2. Using a peeler or your fingers, remove the skin from the potatoes. In a medium bowl, mash the potatoes until all lumps are gone. Add the salt and pepper and mix well. Make a well in the center of the potatoes and crack an egg into it. Whisk the egg briefly. Then, using your hands, gently mix it into the potatoes until evenly distributed.

I’ve seen other recipes which recommend using a ricer to mash the potatoes but who knows what that is? We used a masher. The potatoes were definitely still a bit lumpy. Do the best you can, a few lumps never hurt anybody.

3. Put 1 cup of flour onto a clean surface and turn out the potato dough onto it, keeping the remaining ½ cup close by in case you need it. Working quickly and carefully, knead the dough, only incorporating as much flour as you need along the way until the dough loses stickiness and becomes more solid. Slice the dough into 4 quarters. Roll out 1 part into a long rope, about 1 inch wide, cutting in half and working with 1 half at a time if the rope is becoming too long. Slice the rope into ½-inch squares and set aside on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with the remaining dough.

This is the fun bit and is also the point we realised this can definitely serve 4 and not 2 – and we like to eat!

knead the dough

4. If desired, place a fork on your work surface and slide each gnocchi square from the base of the fork prongs to the top so they make a decorative shape.

Needless (or should I say kneadless, sorry couldn’t help myself) to say, we didn’t risk mucking up the so far successful gnocchi so skipped this part.

cut the dough into half inch squares

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the gnocchi in batches, stirring gently once or twice to ensure they are not sticking. Boil until they float to the surface; after another 15-30 seconds in the water, remove.

6. In a pan over medium heat, melt butter and add the sage. Add the gnocchi and toss until lightly golden.

We skipped the butter and sage bit but did fry it off before adding some homemade sauce to get it lightly golden.

fry the gnocchi until lightly golden

E’s Homemade Sauce

I’d made a pretty nice homemade sauce for a spaghetti dish the night before so we had the leftovers with our gnocchi. It’s nothing spectacular but it was fresh and tasty so if you fancy giving that a go it’s really simple to make (providing you have a food processor or blender).

Ingredients

1 red pepper

2 cloves garlic 

A few leaves of parsley

½ juice of a lemon

2 tablespoons philadelphia 

Method

1. Pop everything into a food processor and blend

My kind of cooking!

homemade tomato sauce

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