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Gnocchi is traditionally made using potatoes, but one of its tasty variations uses butternut squash instead. The natural sweetness and smooth texture of butternut squash make it a perfect foundation for gnocchi, which can be difficult to make. There are a few tips for making butternut squash gnocchi that can help ensure that the gnocchi are soft and pillowy instead of dense and doughy. These tips include boiling the butternut squash with the skin on, ricing the squash soon after boiling it, adding just the right amount of flour and not overworking the dough.
For butternut squash gnocchi to be light enough that it is not chewy but sturdy enough that it doesn’t fall apart when boiled, just the right amount of flour must be incorporated into the dough’s mixture to counteract moisture. By leaving the skin on the butternut squash when boiling it, the skin acts as a barrier, preventing excess water from being absorbed into the squash. An alternative to boiling the butternut squash is to bake it. If baking, cover the squash in kosher salt or rock salt to heat it uniformly.
Proper consistency for a successful gnocchi recipe calls for ricing the main ingredient — in this case, butternut squash. Ricing is a preparation step during which food is pushed through small holes on a utensil called a ricer. The result is a finer, smoother outcome than mashing but not as fine as puréeing. Not allowing the butternut squash to cool too long after boiling or baking is also imperative. The longer the squash stays in its solid, unriced state, the longer it retains steam, or moisture.
The key to light and airy butternut squash gnocchi is to start the dough mixture with the driest, fluffiest squash as possible and utilize as little flour and egg to bind the mixture as necessary. Leave the riced butternut squash on a cutting board, and allow it to cool until all of the steam evaporates. Use low-protein flour or create a 2:1 mixture of all-purpose flour and cake flour, because these types of flour tend to develop less gluten during the kneading process.
Sprinkle the flour in conservative amounts over the cooled, riced butternut squash and add the mixture of beaten egg and salt over the squash and flour. Use a scraper to mix and lift the butternut squash gnocchi dough, slowly kneading in just enough egg and flour so that the dough holds together but is not sticky. Roll out the dough, and cut it into gnocchi shapes. Boil the butternut squash gnocchi right before serving, because they are ready right after they float to the surface of the boiling water.
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