flour + water. . . not so fast!

by mulberryshoots

homemade pappardalle noodles with mushrooms and scallions for dinner tonight

homemade pappardalle noodles with mushrooms and scallions for dinner tonight

Okay, so maybe I was a little impulsive to order a Philips electric pasta machine before I read the cookbooks about making homemade pasta. There I was after my day-surgery to remove hardware from my ankle going through those beautiful books about how important it is to knead the dough and then let it rest for a half an hour before rolling it out, either by hand or with a manual pasta roller.

The Philips machine doesn’t do that. It mixes the flours and water/egg for three minutes and then starts extruding it through the pasta wheel that you select. I did this the first time and cut up lasagna width noodles. I thought that maybe rolling out the extruded noodles after resting a half hour might make them tender to the bite. Not so: they were thick and tough. Not a good beginning and I set the pasta machine in the other room until I had another chance to use it.

So today, (since I can’t really return the machine now that I used it to make the first batch,) I thought I’d try again. This time I used King Arthur flour and Italian “OO” flour; plus water and egg yolk. The proportions are KEY. Even when I followed the markings on the plastic measuring cups they provide you with, the dough was too moist. The pasta sticks together when it’s being extruded. Not good.

'angel hair' noodles sticking together as it comes out of the machine. . .

‘angel hair’ noodles sticking together as it comes out of the machine. . .

I stopped the machine and added a couple of sprinkles of flour and re-set it on “mix” again, starting the cycle from the beginning. This time, it was a little better as the pappardalle noodles came out, but not by much. I hand-separated them and laid them out on a plate so that they would unstick and also dry a little before this evening when I’ll boil them up and make an alfredo mix with mushrooms and green onions for tonight’s supper.

To sum up the lessons learned so far in trying to develop a hybrid method for making tender, homemade pasta in an electric pasta machine, they are:

  1. Add less water/egg yolk mixture to the flours than called for. A smidge less liquid or else the pasta comes out goopy.
  2. If it is, try stopping the machine (including unplugging it) and sprinkle a little more flour into the dough mixture, reset it and start from the beginning of the cycle. At least this way, you don’t have to throw out the whole batch just because it’s too sticky.
  3. Be patient. I still have a small ball of dough that I took out of the machine, kneaded and rested for half an hour in the fridge. It wouldn’t extrude when I tried it back in the machine, but I plan to roll it our on a board, and hand cut it for noodles and see how they turn out.

    ball of dough, kneaded after scraping out the too-sticky angel hair

    ball of dough, kneaded after scraping out the too-sticky angel hair

  4. As in any kind of cooking, paying attention to the core chemistry factors at play is key. In this case, it’s the development of gluten in the mixed flour and how it is handled from then on either in the electric extruder or rolled and cut by hand. I’m still thinking about how to manage this part with the electric machine.

But the concept is still good, isn’t it? A bare cup of flours, a scant half cup of egg yolk beaten into some spring water; mix it together and voila, a scrumptious plate of tender homemade pasta with fresh ingredients on hand for supper! Simplicity isn’t always simple, is it?

At least, that’s still the plan.

Update: decided not to cook the pasta for supper. Will have to revisit how to use the machine so it produces noodles that aren’t too sticky, not too thick and which might approach that ideal in my head of tender, tasty pasta. In the meantime, the machine parts are loaded into the top layer of the dishwasher. And we’re having salmon for dinner tonight. Not too bad of a compromise!

Footnote: Actually, I’m thinking of changing direction and exploring making onigiri, Japanese rice cakes with seasoning, wrapped in sheets of toasted nori. May come back to the Philips pasta machine when the weather turns cooler and less humid.