Is pasta making just time and practice?
- cronker Aug 29, 2014 10:29 PM
I recently bought an Atlas pasta maker, and whilst I realise my first attempts probably won't be good, I am wondering if my go-to recipes are right, or whether I am just stupid.
I use the pasta recipe from Taste.com and follow it with no alteration. I find the pasta comes out with holes in it. So I add a bit of flour. Seems to work, but then goes the same the next time through.
What am I doing wrong, or do you have any chow hounder tips and hints?
Stupidity has nothing to do with it! But literal-mindedness, following a recipe to the letter, might. Also, yes, practice is important as you have to be able to feel when the dough is right. Measuring isn't enough.
The moisture content of flour can vary, and it follows that the amount of moisture you add can vary. In any case, I'm not familiar with the recipe you're using, but I do have a few tips.
Knead the dough for several minutes by hand, even if you make it in a food processor or other machine. If you were to do it all by hand, you would knead for 30 minutes, so let that be your guide. The dough should be smooth and silky, not tacky to the touch, but not dry either. You will recognize this perfect moisture content when you achieve it, and being able to recognize it is more important than following any recipe to the letter. If you need to add a few drops of water, do so.
The formula we give in "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way" is 1 pound (450 grams) sifted all-purpose flour and 5 medium or large eggs or 4 extra-large or jumbo eggs. We recommend you weigh your eggs (without the shell). For every 100 grams of flour, you want 50-55 grams of egg (1 USDA medium egg). In ounces that is 1.75-2 oz egg to 3.5 oz flour. Keep extra flour for dusting and adjusting. Let the dough rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
When using a machine like the Atlas, it is important to work quickly as the dough begins to dry out as soon as you uncover it. Start at the widest setting and run the dough (a glob about as big as an egg or even a walnut to start with) through a couple of times, folding as the sheet becomes larger (and thinner). Working quickly, send each glob of dough through several times, gradually working down to the thinnest setting. If it tears on the thinnest, be satisfied with the second thinnest. You will achieve the thinnest another day.
Good advice. I'd say - Make the dough, knead it, and then let it rest 30 minutes before you start rolling.
It helps to have a partner when you start rolling and cutting. Use extra flour to put it through the rollers and cutters. You'll probably have to roll each piece 6-7 times as you go through the settings on the roller.
I can't get that website to load, so can't comment on the recipe that you are using. I use Hazan's ratio of 100g of flour per egg. I have used AP flour, but usually use 00 flour from Italy.
It takes time to know how the dough should feel. Expect a few failures along the way.
When I first got my Atlas machine, I could not do it by myself. My husband had to help by catching the pasta as it came out. After awhile, he didn't want to help anymore and I found I could do it myself. But it's like you need three hands when you first try it.
I also use a recipe that calls for mostly semolina fina along with the flour, as a matter of fact most of the flour gets sprinkled on the Atlas before each pasta sheets goes through. Never tried pure flour for the dough so can't comment on that. Also four eggs minimum. I believe a bit of olive oil in the mix is involved, but I'd have to look it up to be sure. It comes out very tender.
TRU, very upscale Chicago restaurant, used to have a window into the kitchen so you could stand out on the sidewalk and watch them cook, and this was on a route I often traveled. One day two men were making pasta in a hand-cranked machine and as I passed they were holding up an unbroken sheet of pasta that looked to me the size of a bedsheet. Nothing cracked, broke, or fell on the floor. That imagine remains in my head as the classic illustration of "Don't try this at home---we are professionals".
I use Marcella Hazan's recipe and do it in the food processor. Most days, the recipe is perfect. I find that after being processed, it looks like wet sand, and you would think it would be impossible to roll. But if I press it together in my fingers while still in the bowl, it sticks together. If it still seems "flaky" I will add a drop or two or three of water and whizz it again. Don't tell Marcella.
I don't usually rest it, and generally don't have trouble with the Atlas, if I've got the right texture on the dough to begin with. The first few times through the first setting, it's usually a mess, with tears and holes. But I keep folding it on itself and running it through again until I have something approximating a rectangle. ONLY THEN do I start going to higher settings, and I usually can just cruise through right up to 6 (which is where I almost always stop; I find that 7 gives me trouble, and I like it a bit thicker anyway).
I had a bit of success last night -- was able to make sheets (all the way up to 9) but for the life of me could not get the sheets through the linguine roller -- gummed it up every time, even with extra flour. I ended up improvising some farfalle and then nearly smacking my head against the table when my husband would scoop up ten at a time.
Any tips on the pasta cutter?
We also got an Atlas recently and our first attempt was disastrous. I am not a baker so recipes be damned but I tried everything I could read online. We started out using the recipe booklet that comes with the machine (egg pasta) and only ended up with a sticky, gooey, mess. It sounds like we needed to let the dough rest before running it through the machine but any other tips and tricks?
what do you mean "holes in it"? Actual holes or is the pasta sheet tearing or is it more or less "crumbling" when it is going through the rollers?
If it is the "crumbling" holes it could be one of two things - 1) the pasta dough was too dry or 2) your dough got too sticky (not enough flour on the outside when rolling) and the rollers are causing it to tear because it is essentially sticking to the rollers.
If the dough was too dry - that is harder to fix. It is hard to add just a little bit of flour to already made pasta dough. Lesson - it is always better to have your dough a little too wet because it is much easier to add a little more flour.
If it crumbled when rolling, you just need to dust a little more flour over your pasta sheet. But to fix the crumble, my recommendation is to fold the sheet in 1/2 THEN dust with flour and re-roll (you may have to back up a number depending on thickness). If you dust and then fold in 1/2 you run the risk of preventing the two sides from sticking back together and then when you get to the next number down, the flour pocket you created can cause it to tear again.
Hope those help if that was your issue. Home made pasta is the best, so keep on rolling!