[Sweet Speculoos Gnocchi]
Today is the 7th edition of Is My Blog Burning?, the collective food blogging event, brainchild of my favorite Italian baker, Alberto. This time around, the theme is You're just the cutest little dumpling!, and is hosted by Jarrett, to whom the food enthusiast community owes a lifetime of gratitude for coming up with the Food Porn Watch.
I love dumplings of all shapes and tastes and origins, but I have little experience making them myself, and that is exactly why I think IMBB events are great, getting you to step outside your comfort zone a little. The only two dumpling experiments I conducted in the past were ricotta gnocchi and spaetzle, those Alsacian egg pasta. I must say those attempts were quite time-consuming, but that may have been the lack of practice and the results were well worth it in both cases.
This time around, I felt like making desserts dumplings, and researched the sweet gnocchi possibilities. The only recipe I found was for Sweet Amaretti Gnocchi, but those were baked, which seemed to take them out of the IMBB scope : can a dumpling be called a dumpling if it isn't dumped at some point? I think not.
But I loved the idea of a sweet gnocchi flavored with cookie crumbs, so I decided to build on that recipe and create my own, using one of my favorite cookies in the whole wide world : the speculoos (not homemade this time, though). It also pleased me greatly that this recipe had a nice "North meets South" twist, with the typically Belgian cookie and Italian dumpling blending together into a fusion dessert of sorts.
As I was working on my dumplings, I had great doubts about the success of my recipe : improvisation baking is always a high-risk exercise and I had no idea what the dough was supposed to feel like. Mine was probably a bit too sticky, resulting in somewhat messy-shaped gnocchi. But the raw dough tasted really good, and the final sautéing in butter corrected the aspect issue a little.
And the result was really really good : a warm, pillowy version of the delicious speculoos taste I like so much, the spices wonderfully complemented by the velvety vanilla ice-cream.
Gnocchi de Speculoos
- 1 egg
- 60 g sugar
- 30 g (2 Tbsp) mascarpone cheese
- 90 g flour (or more, as needed, see instructions below)
- 50 g speculoos (substitute graham crackers, ginger snaps or any other crispy, flavorful cookie)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- a hazelnut-sized piece of butter
To serve :
- confectioner's sugar
- vanilla ice-cream
Grind the speculoos finely. You can do this in your food processor, or just put the cookies in a ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over it until finely ground (excellent stress-relief, too). You should get about half a cup of crumbs.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the egg, sugar and mascarpone cheese, and whisk together well. Add in the cookie crumbs, salt and half the flour, and blend together with a fork. The mixture will get quite thick. Add in the rest of the flour progressively, until you get a dough that's still somewhat sticky, but not so sticky you can't work with it at all. You may need to add more than stated in the ingredients list above, depending on the precision of your measures and also the size of the egg you used (French eggs are substantively smaller than the ones you find in the US for instance).
Put the bowl of dough in the fridge to rest for about an hour. Turn it out on a floured work surface or, better yet, a silicon baking mat. Working with two small spoons, form gnocchi-shaped dumplings, not too big (they will expand in size when poached). At this point, if you find the dough still too sticky to work with, add in more flour.
If the surface you're working on is a bit far from your cooking range, place the prepared dumplings on a floured plate so you can take it with you when you're about to poach them. If you're working on a baking mat, make sure you can carry it to the range on a tray.
Bring water to a gentle boil in a large saucepan. Using a small spoon, gently drop in the gnocchi. Try to do this quickly so they'll all be ready at about the same time. You may want to work in batches.
Leave them in for about four minutes : poaching time will depend on the size of your gnocchi, but they're ready about two minutes after they've bobbed to the surface. Take one out with a slotted spoon, wait for it to cool slightly and probe it gently with your finger. It should still be firm, with a little softness in the center.
When ready, take them all out and transfer to a colander to drain for a few minutes, then onto a greased plate. Repeat with the remaining dough. The gnocchi can be prepared ahead up to this point : cover and store in the fridge.
Just before serving, heat up a little butter in a skillet and reheat the gnocchi, sautéing them until golden. Place a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in the center of each plate, surround with the warm gnocchi and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Serve immediately.
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