Sunday, April 1, 2012

edible play-doh

I generally fail both at sleeping in and the lazy weekend morning concept. Today I decided that because I couldn't sleep in, I'd try to make fresh pasta again. My sister gifted me a pasta extruder attachment for Kitty the Kitchenaid stripper a while ago, and shamefully I'd only used it once before today.

Last time I made pasta from scratch, the resulting noodles were a little too thick and kind of a weird texture. So I've been doing some research online to see if maybe I made some grave error the last time around. All I really learned, though, is that there's a pretty wide range of recipes, techniques, and opinions on the dough-making process.

Ultimately I landed on a tutorial by Giuliano Hazan, son of of the famous Italian chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan. Not only was the page I found extremely detailed, it also included a helpful "how-to" youtube video embedded within. As if all of that weren't enough to convince you that you, too, could whip out pasta like a Hazan, there are pictures of little kids with mounds of flour and egg in front of them. See? So easy a kid can handle this.

So instead of keeping things simple, I decided to try a couple of dueling methods/recipes. I made a dough solely of whole wheat flour and eggs (from Hazan's tutorial), and one of a combo of whole wheat pastry flour, regular flour, eggs, olive oil, water, and salt (from here
). Originally I planned to split them each in half, and put half of each recipe through the pasta extruder, and roll the other half by hand. Hence this set up:

Normal people go to brunch or church or a museum on a Sunday. I conduct ill-fated culinary experiments. Is there a specialist out there I could discuss this disorder with, I wonder? No time, I have eggs and flour to play with...

Anyways, the whole wheat/egg dough was what I would, at first, have described as an unmitigated disaster on par with that night I ate wine for dinner or the recent mug cake fail.

I didn't whisk enough flour in to the eggs, resulting in a runny mess when I put the fork aside and tried to incorporate things with my hands. Once I contained the egg runoff, I couldn't get things to come together at all. After adding probably 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water, I managed to get the crumbly mess in to some semblance of a cohesive ball. Frustrated and unsure of what to do, I threw it in some saran wrap to rest, and turned my attention to the other recipe.

In what would be my first real deviation from any sort of standardization in this experiment, I threw all the ingredients in my kitchenaid to let it do the combination step, a blatant attempt to avoid another eggy mess on my cutting board. I quickly realized I had a Goldilocks dilemma on my hands. My first dough was too dry. This dough, on the other hand, was the picture of sticky, and with its olive oil component, smelled more like bread than pasta. I yanked it out of the bowl and kneaded it for a good long while trying to incorporate sufficient flour. When I thought I'd reached a sufficient level of flour, I put it in saran wrap and turned my attention back to the dry whole wheat dough.  

The whole wheat dough was too dry to even thing about rolling out with my rolling pin, so I attached the pasta extruder to Kitty and picked the "large macaroni" plate. Strike two (or three?) for my original experiment. I slowly fed walnut-sized pieces into the hopper, and was greeted with fairly normal looking rigatoni-ish noodles. The whole ordeal was far less Laverne and Shirley at the chocolate factory than my last attempt, for which I was quite grateful. 

Once I'd patiently used up every last ounce of whole wheat dough, I taste-tested a few of the smaller noodles. Not bad at all, I conceded, with a healthy level of surprise.

So I arranged it all on a new Ikea towel and set it aside to dry (a state of this adventure that is still in process, I am annoyed to report). 

Then, in my third (or fourth) violation of the original tenets of the experiment, I opted to roll out the pastry flour dough. You're only supposed to run you're kitchenaid mixer for something like 30 minutes straight, and Kitty had definitely been working longer. I'm the picture of penny pinching these days, so a new Kitty is not in the budget. And I figured using a rolling pin would be my version of exercise today. 

I'm sure I didn't get the dough anywhere as close to the "proper" level of thinness, but I produced some pretty little disks. 

Then I let them dry about 10 minutes until "leathery," per my pal Giuliano's suggestion. At that point, I rolled up each disk and cut papardelle-width noodles. Upon un-rolling each strand, I wasn't happy with the looks of things. So I rolled each one back up and cut something more along the lines on linguine-width noodles. I tossed groups of about six noodles into bundles to dry. 

My taste test of the papardelle noodles (pre-second round of cutting) wasn't as promising as the whole wheat dough. The noodles were thick and kind of slimy. Much of the same issue I had with my last attempt at pasta. I haven't tried them again since trimming them down to a smaller size. I'm not holding my breath, although part of me obviously holds out some hope for the little suckers, because I didn't just pitch the whole batch or anything. 

Had I not used up every last "oh shoot these are about to expire" eggs, I probably wouldn't tried yet another recipe/method. In case you've really started to worry about my sanity at this point, rest assured that I was up so early that I actually completed all of this prior to 11am. After my kitchen was covered in flour and drying noodles, I popped out to meet up with a friend at Eastern Market. My stomach has been queasy for a couple days, so I didn't actually eat anything, but we wandered around for hours. It was the perfect spring day.

Now, however, I am exhausted. I think I've earned some couch time before what promises to be possibly the busiest month of my life. Think I'm exaggerating (now why would you think that?!)?  Just stay tuned. 

ps-If Giuliano Hazan's name sounds familiar, it may be from the recipe of his I used for dark chocolate gelato here. Yum. That reminds, me, Fiona could really use a workout...

pps-yes, that blog make-under lasted all of one day. I tried to browse through my archives and it was such a hassle that I changed things back straightaway. 

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