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Jan 25, 2012 06:02 PM

Home-ground Semolina & pasta-making....

I opened up my new pasta maker (atlas wellness 150) today, and ground some durum wheat for pasta. I used Ruhlman's 3-2 ratio, so my first batch--ground at the normal "bread" setting--was 3 eggs at 140 g, and 210 g of flour. It kneaded beautifully, was pliable and tender-feeling, and went into the "1" setting of the pasta maker just fine. I did it 4 times on that setting--still fine. "2" was alright. "3" started to tear and get shaggy. I looked this up online, backed up to "2", and still had trouble. Flouring it a little seemed to help. Finally, I added a tiny bit of olive oil, which made it hard to push through the pasta maker, but it stayed less shaggy; I didn't dare go beyond "3".

Half my dough had clearly been overworked, though, so I tossed it to the chickens and started a new batch. This time, I did it on "pastry" setting, so notably finer; I figured the coarseness of the grind might have been part of the problem (combined with it being a whole grain, which I'm not willing to change). This time, no oil, but I did add a tiny bit of water.

Same problem, though: beautiful dough, that then tore at "3"--and so shaggy, this time, that I ended up cutting it by hand, as putting it through the fettucine cutter clearly wasn't going to work.

Anyone have experience using home-ground flours for pasta? I make all my own bread, and am very at ease with doughs and gluten development and about how they should feel...but I'm discouraged by today's pasta experiment. I haven't cooked the pasta yet (I'm waiting for my friend to arrive), but the strands with the olive oil in them definitely look the best, (less shaggy, and much longer because they didn't break) even though that was from the coarser first batch, so I'm guessing that using a whole grain necessitates a little extra fat to get the dough smooth enough to roll somewhat thinner. Thoughts?

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  1. Can tell us more about your home ground flour? My first thought is that the Durum flour used in pasta making is ground very finely and yours may be coarser causing it to cut it self up when it gets thin.

    3 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      Well, there are 3 settings on the wondermill--"pastry", "bread", and "coarse". So first I did the middle, then the first. I'm not sure how it really compares to fine commercial grinds......

      1. re: eseattle

        I know that the commercial Durum flour is "00" which is super fine. I also wonder what the bran particles are like, may be they are the culprit, since they tend to cut the gluten stands when used in bread making.

        1. re: chefj

          Could be--that's why I'm hoping there's someone else on the boards who grinds their own flour for pasta. The taste & healthfulness are so different....

    2. Did you let the pasta dough ball set for at least 30 minutes in a bowl covered with a damp towel? Contrary to what people here say, I don't go too crazy with the kneading. Just make sure things are mixed well is good enough. After the dough sets, I just press the ball a little with both hands (floured) to remove any air bubbles. You will be removing most of the bubbles when you put it through setting #1 repetitively.

      I use extra fancy (extra fine) durum flour (ConAgra brand that I buy in bulk at Dawn Foods) and when I mix together the flour, salt, and eggs, I make sure that the resulting dough ball is somewhat rather sticky in consistency, not dry, when I let it set in the bowl covered with a damp towel for 30 minutes.

      I like a sticky dough because additional flour (I use unbleached all-purpose) is added when you flour your dough ball, hands, board and pasta maker. If you are a beginner and use this method, remember to keep flouring the bottom and top of the pasta sheet and pasta maker between each setting.

      Whenever I make other pasta doughs like for wonton wrappers, egg rolls, etc. that I hand roll, I don't use a sticky dough. The only exception is for pasta noodles via the pasta maker, you want to start with a sticky dough.

      Rolling through setting #1 is the trickiest. After the first roll, you want to fold your sheet into thirds, then flour the top and bottom of the sheet. Next, I use my hands to press out any air between the folded layers as much as possible before I put it through setting #1 again. I repeat this step of folding into thirds and putting through setting #1 for at least 4 times, then proceed with the other settings.

      Don't bother using oil, because the oil comes out and wasted in my opinion when you boil the noodles.

      As you can see, I'm an amateur cook, so these methods have made things foolproof for me. It should work for you too. Once you get a hang of this, don't forget to mix in herbs and other ingredients to flavor your pasta dough. If you are going to go through all this trouble, you might as well go the extra distance to make your homemade pasta more flavorful.