Fresh Pasta Nightmere
I need some help. Maybe you can shed some light on a frustrating day for me? I have made homemade pasta before. With a hand cranked machine, with a Kitchenaid attachment. I've done the mixing both by hand and by machine. Never a problem. Today, after 4 solid hours and three recipes to get to 1lb. pasta, I am flummoxed. Each time I put the dough through the roller the first time on the lowest setting, the dough came out looking like Alpine Lace Cheese (the best result) or completely falling apart into what looked like the casing from organs in tripe! Was it too much flour? So I added water? same thing. Too much water? added more flour. Same thing. I cannot figure out what on earth I could have done wrong. Two of the three attempts I used kosher salt; the third recipe regular table salt. No change. Recipe 1 and 2 were Marcella Hazan's : 4 eggs, 3-31/2 c. of flour; 1 T water, 1/2t. salt. 3d recipe from my Italian mother : 6 eggs; 4 c. flour; 1/2c. water; 1/2t. salt. All came out same. alpine lace. I did manage to work finally with half of the recipe to get some pasta but 4 hours for 1 lb. of pasta is ridiculous. Flour was good quality King Arthur all purpose flour. Any ideas why I couldn't even get past the lowest roller setting?
Dumb comment first: Check your roller selection. My latest Marcato Atlas has gotten to the point where the wheel rolls all the way around, and I have to be careful to make sure I have the right thickness. But rolling at a thinner setting than you expect, can cause the lacy-ness problem.
I'm not sure what the dough problem is..."lace" usually says to me that the dough is too dry. The six egg recipe should have worked (the other seems a bit dry to me, though not if I'm leaving a bit of flour in the bowl - my basic pasta dough recipe is 3/4 cup each of white flour and semolina, so 1.5 cups of flour, plus two eggs).
One thing I can suggest: When your pasta dough goes lacy, for me, usually it usually means it's dry, and I roll more slowly. (Sometimes VERY slowly, slowly enough that I often get frustrated, toss the dough and start over. lol.) I can usually beat it back into submission that way.
Hope that might have helped a little.
The problem is I tried adding a little water (wet my hands) and knead the dough. Same lace result after the initial roll. My last go where I used my mother's recipe (6 eggs), the dough was very very sticky and I added flour as I kneaded the dough. Once again, the lace result after rolling. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was. Thanks anyway for the insight.
re: Portland Frenchie
Seriously, roll slowly. And if it's sticky, flatten out a portion, dust it with flour, roll it through (slowly!), dust it, fold it, roll it slowly through. You'll eventually tame it. (If the dough is perfect, you can zip it right through.)
Don't give up on homemade pasta. Once my dough is made, if I'm making it for 2 people, it takes me less than 10 minutes from the time I start rolling until it's rolled, cut, cooked, drained, sauced and on the table, and it's SOO much better. Just takes a bit of practice. (It's actually faster for me at this point than most dried pasta.)
Before I started using semolina as half the flour, my ratio was similar to your mother's dough. Try it again with one less egg, and don't feel like you HAVE to incorporate all of the flour...just knead it in until the dough is satiny and workable.
Keep in mind moisture levels: Large eggs have a lot more moisture than small eggs. Most U.S. recipes are calling for large eggs if they don't specify. Then again, eggs dry out - the older the egg, the less moisture in the egg (which make's 'em easy to peel when boiled, but the yolks often get a bit uncentered. :P)
Also, even "large egg" is pretty general. Some months, a large egg is barely above a medium and other months, they're almost jumbo. Those have very different moisture contents.
Flour, same problem. Flour has a base moisture content. But a very dry climate or very damp season can cause it to add or drop moisture.
Al this means that your results can vary, even a few days apart. I use, as I said, 3/4 cup unbleached flour, 3/4 cup semolina (Bob's Red Mill, usually, because that's all that is available here) and 2 eggs. I can make pasta on Monday and have it be perfect with those ratios, then make it on Friday, same ratios and have the dough be difficult.
Once you get the feel for it once or twice, though, where it works, you shouldn't have any problem adjusting the dough to the state of your ingredients...ya get a feel for it.
Don't give up!
My recent favourite pasta recipe is Mario Batali's. It's 3-1/2 cups of flour and 5 eggs. I usually add a bit of salt - but otherwise that's it. No water, no nothing else. It's absolutely perfect and a dream to work with.
Another thing - did you let the dough rest before rolling? I find that a good long rest - at least an hour or more - really helps with the workability. It might also have helped to let it rest after you added the additional water.
Though highly unqualified to answer, I second the resting suggestions. I recently had a similar experience when rolling out pasta. I, too, made several attempts. After ruining the first half of yet another batch of dough, I left the second half in the fridge while I took a stress relieving walk. An hour later, viola! Velvety easy rolling pasta. Same actual batch of dough, different resting period.
If I recall correctly, Keller calls for 12 hours resting or some such in Ad Hoc.
I recently made pasta after not having done so for several years. Stupidly, the first time I went to put some dough through the rollers, I put it on the smallest setting thinking it was opposite to the way it is -- i.e. larger number, larger opening -- which is, of course, not the case. Is there any possibility that you might have done something like that? As far as resting goes, I did not rest my dough since I was in a bit of a hurry. The pasta was ethereal -- light and delicious. I just used Marcella Hazan's amounts and recipe, and never used any water at all.
This always happens to me -- I think I usually use a recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. I do use eggs, too. I roll the entire dough through flat rollers quite a few times, starting at a thick setting (rollers far apart) and progressively tightening them and also folding the dough in thirds again each time I feed it through again. I do this until it is really satiny and smooth, and only then start to cut it. And...sometimes I cut it and it gets lacy again. Then I know that I was being impatient with the roller kneading and have to run it through the rollers again.
Hope this helps! It sounds as if maybe when you played with the the moisture/flour proportions you set something in motion that made it difficult to reach the equilibrium in proportion the original recipe provided.
What kind of flour were you using?
If you are using a low gluten flour like pastry flour, it might not be springy enough.
Sounds like the dough didn't rest long enough to become elastic. Also, I find that rolling a thicker dough initially then changing the roller setting a couple of times is beneficial to achieving a smoother dough. Before you beat yourself up remember it's dough....it becomes alive and the atmosphere has lots to do with the success.....just as we do! I've been making pasta for over 40 yrs., learned from my grandmother and have had a few failures but many more successes!! So, don't give up.
BTW, my grandmother used King Arthur flour which she said was best!
I tried to make pasta not long ago after not having made it in years, and I got the same result--I love your description, "like Alpine Lace cheese." It had rested for several hours, so I determined the problem was too much dry/not enough wet.
But before I was able to make a new batch, I realized that the "recipe" that had always worked best for me was Giuliano Bugialli's, from THE FINE ART OF ITALIAN COOKING. The big difference is that he uses a little olive oil in the dough. I made all of my pasta his way, back when I used to do this all the time.
Here are pics of two of the covers. The one on the left is from an older edition, but it's the same cookbook inside of each. There are any number of copies on Amazon Marketplace.
Also, a friend of mine told me this week he had his greatest success yet when he used part semolina.