Monday, 11 July 2016

Raya Weekend Cooking: Pasta From Scratch

I've talked about pasta dishes so much I doubt anyone wants another pasta story from me. But bear with me, this one is different because...

A wild ball of pasta dough appears! How will it turn out after
some kneading, resting, cutting and boiling?

A couple of recipe videos managed to convince me that it was easy to make your own pasta and that it tastes better than store-bought. Knead an egg and 100g of flour into a ball of dough, flatten it out, cut it into rustic pasta strands, boil, season and enjoy.

What the videos didn't mention was how HARD it is to knead the dough to the right consistency, and that you need to rest it for maybe one hour, not half. I had to rest the dough twice, adding a little water to knead before wrapping it up in cling film.

From dough to bowl, the process took a whole afternoon, and I did chores afterwards. My arms were feeling it for a while. I can see why Italians of yore went "Meh, I'll just toss this with some olive oil and cheese" after making a batch of this. A good idea, though.

Getting the flour into a dough didn't take long but, my, how the dough STICKS. I would knead it again after a failed attempt to roll it flat, then stored half in the freezer, in case 100g was too much for me (it wasn't). The resulting portion was snack-sized and it was almost 5pm when I tucked in.

When I finally arrived at this stage, my heart did belly-flops.
Watching DIY pasta come together in real life is incredible.

As you go along, it's easy to get lost in the kneading, especially if you have issues to work out. At some point, you might even feel it's ... fun.

Three rounds of kneading and a bit of rolling and ... can it be? Is it ... ready? Yes, it is! The strands were ragged and unevenly rolled but they were ready. This is technically a bunch of Chinese egg noodles, since I didn't use durum wheat semolina.

I remember dining at a place in Penang called Cozy in the Rocket, where I saw the chef make pasta from scratch and was mind-blown. I'm still not close to that level, but this still feels like an accomplishment.

Yes, once cooked they looked and tasted like pan mee. The strands almost doubled in width and thickness in the boiling salted water, but took half as long to cook as store-bought linguine. Tastes better too, but I think that's because it was seasoned with Blood, Sweat and Tears and that special ingredient: Personal Satisfaction.

Actually it's just olive oil, a clove of garlic (grated), powdered
Parmesan, black pepper and a dash of mixed herbs. But it
tasted like satisfaction. Sweet, sweet satisfaction.

But this portion was still half of the dough I'd made. The other half's chilling in the freezer and probably not kneaded enough. I'll have to deal with it soon...

22/07/2016   I've since found out that this kind of pasta has a name: pasta all'uovo, or "egg pasta" (jidan mian in Chinese). Mais bien sûr.

I also came across this piece by someone who takes her pasta more seriously than me. That's a lot of dough she went through.

Full portion of pasta dough from 100g of flour, mostly rolled out.
Any flatter and it might stretch wider than the counter.

But after this batch, I determined that the dough had not been kneaded enough because I had not been tracking the time. So for the next batch, I stopped at intervals to check how long I'd been working on the dough.

The dough stretched better when rolled. Well, I did spend 25 minutes kneading it. I started sweating around the twentieth minute. Despite flouring the dough and the strands liberally, the pasta was still sticky and hard to unravel.

Same amount of flour and egg, yet I ended up with enough pasta
for two - or three people. What gives?

Ah, so there's supposed to be a drying period, like in this recipe? I'll explore that.

This time, I decided to cut up the whole portion into strands. However, I was puzzled at the amount I ended up with. Easily more than twice the amount of the previous batch - just enough for two hungry people.

Home-made pasta with home-made basil pesto

More than twice the portion, more than twice the satisfaction. But 25 minutes of kneading? Probably because I'm no Zangief.

Perhaps it's time I take up a workout regime. But I suspect I'd be working on another batch of pasta much sooner than picking up a pair of weights. It's much easier, and I get to eat my exercise equipment afterwards.


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