Friday, January 24, 2014

My First Time Making Fresh Pasta

So I finally had a chance to break out my new Christmas present...

It's a pasta-roller attachment for my mixer. It rolls the pasta dough out for you mechanically so you have two hands free for the really long diaphanous sheet that is the final product. It's a super nice machine and I was excited about it, because I have been talking about rolling out pasta with a dowel for a really long time and, predictably, have never yet gotten around to it.

There are actually three attachments: one to roll our your sheet to the desired thickness, and another two for splitting it into spaghetti or linguine noodles. I decided to make ravioli, but now that I've gotten the hang of it I'll probably make a go for homemade spaghetti!
I ended up making two batches of dough. I did the first one manually. It just doesn't feel like you can claim you've actually made pasta until you've kneaded some by hand!

Unfortunately for my romantic pasta-related ambitions, I have never made it before, so I pretty much copied the ratio and the technique from this YouTube video posted by a very nice man who clearly knows much more about pasta than I do. You know what, I'm just going to embed it in my blog so you can learn from the expert.

I was pretty giddy when my finished product looked like pasta dough :D

It was at this point that I was informed that we would be having three extra high-school-aged boys for dinner and that we would probably need more pasta. I thought I would experiment with the second batch and try making the pasta dough completely mechanically, which, if it worked, would be much more convenient in the future. 

I also used a different recipe that lent itself more easily to combining in a mixer, this one containing olive oil instead of just flower and eggs. 

Guess which one worked better. :(  So much for being an honorary Italian ;) 

What happened is when I tried to thread the hand-kneaded dough through the roller-attachment, it was developing these strange pockmark-like indentations, in contrast to the mixer-formed dough, which smoothed out very nicely into a strong, stretchy, translucent sheet that could be rolled very thin. It could be because I refrigerated the hand-kneaded dough, which apparently you're not supposed to do, or it could be that the addition of the olive oil in the second recipe helped everything come together better, or it could be that I am an incompetent kneader, which is not entirely out of the question!

At any rate, both of the doughs I made were functional (and delicious!), so I am posting both recipes/techniques. If anyone has any tips or input about preferred pasta-making methods, please comment!

Fresh, Homemade Pasta Dough
I used two different techniques: one dough I made completely by hand using the well technique and only flour and eggs (right). The other I combined in the  mixer and kneaded with a bread machine and added olive oil (left). The one I made in the mixer worked better for me, but I'm still in the experimental phase!

Hand-kneaded Dough

Three eggs
2 1/4 cups flour (you probably won't incorporate all of it into the dough)
(The ratio is about 3/4 cup flour to one egg)
1 tsp salt

1. Measure out your flour onto a wooden cutting board.
2. Create what's called a well with the flour. This is essentially a circular ridge of flour with an empty basin in the center. The well should be large enough to hold your eggs and tall enough so that they don't run all over your counter!
3. Crack your eggs into the well; add the salt on top of the eggs. Beat the eggs with a fork.
4. Using a fork, begin to gradually incorporate the flour into the eggs by scooping flour from the well into the center and mixing. Be careful not to break the well!
5. Once the mixture in the center of the well is thick enough that it will maintain its shape without running over the cutting board, you can start using your hands to mix. Brush the flour to one side, and add it gradually until your amalgamation starts to resemble dough. Do not feel compelled to use all the flour! You can tell when you have enough flour in your dough when it stops feeling sticky. (Though it's better to add the right amount of flour now to minimize kneading time, you can adjust later.)
6. Clear the extra flour and doughy crumbs from your board. You're ready to knead!
7. Knead the dough. (about 5 minutes)
- Press the dough into a flat disk.
- Fold the disk in half by bringing the farthest edge towards you.
- As you press down to complete the fold, press the dough down and away from you, making sure that you are rolling it along the board instead of just compressing it in one place.
- Repeat the last two steps: fold the dough in half, and then press down and away from you.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat the last three steps, folding and rolling twice. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat everything.
- You get the pattern: fold, roll, fold, roll, turn, fold, roll, fold, roll, turn...
- You can adjust for the consistency of the dough. If it feels too sticky, sprinkle some flower onto the board and the dough will pick it up as you knead. If it is too dry, wet your hands and continue kneading and it will absorb the water.
- Your dough will become very homogeneous and take on a smooth texture. If you press a finger into it, the dough should rebound.
8. Wrap your ball of dough in plastic wrap, otherwise it will dry out. Let it sit for from 20 minutes to 3 hours so the gluten can relax (whatever that means). Try to avoid the refrigerator...(whoops)

Machine-Kneaded Dough (this one worked better for me)

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tbsp (approximately) olive oil

1. Mix the flour and salt in an electric mixer with a dough hook.
2. Add the eggs. The mixture should start to form dry clumps.
3. Add olive oil, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the extra flour is absorbed and a dough starts to form. The dough will not form a cohesive ball; it will still look scrappy and perhaps lumpy. Never fear.
4. Remove the dough from the mixer and push the pieces together into a rough ball. If you have a bread machine, you can knead the pasta dough on the dough setting (be careful not to bake your pasta dough!). Otherwise, you can knead by hand (instructions above). 
5. Done!

Hand-kneaded Dough

The well
Crack eggs into the well
Beat the eggs
Here is roughly what your dough should look like after you have finished incorporating the eggs and flour (before kneading)
The finished dough
You will know your dough is done when it springs back after being poked. (That's my brother in the background. I am exercising vengeance ;) ). 

Machine-kneaded Dough

Here is what the dough looks like after adding just the flour, salt, and eggs. As you can see, at this point it is not going to hold together very well.
After adding the olive oil, the dough starts to come together
It should kind of stick together after you compress it with your hands
Pop it in the bread machine

The bread machine actually did a really good job of producing that silky, homogeneous texture

I ended up rolling it through the pasta machine and making to follow!

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