Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pasta by Hand

Not bad for my second try, I think! Above-pictured is hand rolled egg pasta. I keep finding myself doing things I thought I'd never have the patience for just months earlier. Though, of course, there are still things that just take a long time and more effort than I can handle.

I've been thinking about making noodles and breads for a little while now. Noodles more than breads because, hey, my heritage is much heavier on rice and noodles than it is on breads, and that's what I grew up with. So how did I come to fresh egg pasta? Well, I recently bought this beast of a book:

That is a normal sized mug and mouse in front of the book, for scale. Damn! And I thought On Food and Cooking, at right, was hefty when I got it. There is so much knowledge and experience contained in The New Best Recipe*, and it's very technique and science focused, so right up my alley.

Anyway, while I stick mostly to East/Southeast Asian cuisines, I do want to mess with non-dairy Western dishes, too. So I was flipping through the pasta section when I found their very simple fresh egg pasta recipe. All you need is a ratio of:

2/3 cup flour
1 egg

plus additional 1/2 teaspoons water as needed. (1 egg's worth is about 1 large-ish portion.) Thank goodness I bought that little Cuisinart food processor last year. I've gotten more use out of it than I ever expected. So yeah, you blend the flour with the beaten egg(s) until the dough comes together. I may try the completely by hand method some day. Maybe.

Knead the dough a couple minutes, until it's smooth. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest 15 minutes to 2 hours before rolling out. They called for using a machine roller and cutter. Well, I wasn't going to buy those, as they are expensive and I don't anticipate making a lot of noodles. I'll buy a roller/cutter eventually. For now, though, I went for the hand rolling route.

Not so bad, right? Got it pretty thin. My first attempt wasn't so good--too thick. But I watched this video and read this blog post, and they (plus my experience from my first attempt) really helped a lot.

So then I rolled it up, cut it into strips and cooked them up. Now I want a large wooden work surface. I'm using an already dull knife and cutting very gently since I don't want to mar the vinyl counter or dull the blade further. I suppose I could just knead and roll on the counter, roll up the flattened dough and then cut on a cutting board, though. Also a large, non-tapered rolling pin would be great. Hell, and while we're at it, how about a small Chinese-style rolling pin, for dumplings? Though those fall into the too-time-consuming category for me.

Freshly made noodles have a nice body and texture to them that you don't get with the dried, manufactured ones. Or maybe that's because they were a bit thicker. Huh, my pasta expanded considerably while cooking. I'll have to cut it more narrowly next time. Though wide noodles are nice, too.

What I'd really like to learn, though, is to make lamian hand-pulled noodles. This is apparently very difficult to learn, and those who do know how are generally secretive about it. Much like with ramen. The particular ingredients and proportions may be critical, too. Hmm, a project for the future.

* [side note]: I have such great regard for libraries and museums; they are grand repositories of our accumulated knowledge and wisdom over the millenia. If we lose our recorded experience, we're left almost back where we started, thousands of years ago. Someone else recently expressed a similar sentiment about data centers, too, which has caused me to include them, too, in this general category of things.


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