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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Holy Spaghetti (Batman)!

So, I appear to be getting better at the making of the pasta.

I did a couple things this go around which I will be sure to repeat in subsequent trials.  Of these, however, I'm not entirely certain to which one today's successful iteration can be attributed.

Perhaps all of them.

Perhaps none of them.

In any case, I'm going to remember today's technique.

First of all, I used a fair bit of Durham Wheat Semolina.  Not exclusively, but at a good 3:2 ratio to regular all-purpose flour.  Now... before you traditionalists start yelling at me, extolling the merit of typo 00, and other super fine flours... shut up.  :)

Of course I have used such finely sieved flours before, and they create an unparalleled smoothness of texture.

However, today I didn't do that.

Unsurprisingly, the pasta I made today was a little coarser.

Surprisingly, however, is the fact that the dough was infinitely more manageable.

So, that was one variation.

A second, was the fact that I used a lot of eggs, and most of that, yolks.  I think I used 10 eggs, and only the whites of 2 of those... so 8 yolks, 2 whole eggs.

That made a difference.

Thirdly, and if I had to go out on a limb to guess which one was most important, I kneaded this dough substantially more than I normally do pasta dough.  Which is to say about 10 minutes.

I suppose an additional variable could be the humidity, which is exceptional today (close to 80%)...

At any rate, those are the things I did differently.

So... in regards to the first thing.  I've read all about different grades and types of flours, and suppose I understand a little.  Although not totally cut and dry, it seems as though the finer you go the better and more uniform the texture of your dough (and resultant noodles), but the trade-off is in strength.  Gluten strength.  So... my Durham Wheat flour?  Well, it apparently scores quite low on the fineness, but relatively high on the gluten strength.  So, this could very easily explain today's dough's easier manageability.

As for the second... really, from what I understand, the eggs are there to provide cohesion (as they do in most things) and more strength.  So particularly needed with finer flours like type 00, but not really all that needed with Durham Wheat.  I'm sure they certainly added to the strength, however.  As for yolk vs white, as far as I know that has less to do with cohesion or strength and more to do with richness, flavour, and colour.

And, thirdly, as with all gluten dough, kneading is essential to form the gluten strands needed for the end product to keep its shape.  And—I'm not sure of this, as I am not an expert on the matter—if I had to hazard a guess, I bet pasta dough does not need to worry so much about over-kneading the way that bread or other leavened products do, as there is no need for pasta to house carbon dioxide...  Just a guess though.

So there you have it.

I suspect all of these things were important, and perhaps it was a combination of all of them which yielded such a successful pasta making experience today?

I should also mention that I chose to secure my pasta machine to my Dining Table this time, instead of my kitchen counter, because it fits better, and it gives me a ton of room.

That also helped.

Anyway... I made a lot of noodles, and even had some of the smaller spaghetti noodles turn out lovely.

Check out how long these spaghetti noodles ended up being:

There's my phone beside it to help gauge the size.  These noodles were very, very long.  And gorgeous!


So, all in all, these noodles were a little coarser than usual, but still no where near the texture we've all become accustomed to in eating whole-wheat or multi-grain pasta noodles.  Still very light and smooth... just not as much as with finely sieved flour.

And the trade off was exquisite manageability.  So much that I had almost NO waste (leftover bits that the machine creates from odd shapes of dough) and was able to create some spectacular noodles.

With some of my previous pasta doughs, I've never even attempted to go any thinner than a fettucine noodle... but as you can see here these spaghetti noodles look lovely.