Monday, December 10, 2007

Pasta dough primer

On the Day 2, before I knew what was coming to me (peas), I cranked out some mean pasta dough. ChefX had me create the dough from scratch and run it through the hand-cranked machine to create tortellini and tagliatelle. He did most of the kneading for me last week, so this time I learned very quickly how strenuous a job it is. Not only does it require the strength of a giant (ChefX), but super speed to keep the dough from drying out. At the end of the day, I thanked my dad for making me work on my iron grip from when I was little.

The basic formula for pasta dough is 14 egg yolks + 2 whole eggs, roughly mixed with 1 quart + a little mound at the top of flour. This is a little different than most recipes that require equal mounts of egg whites to yolk. According to Jamie Oliver, some people prefer using mostly egg yolks for a richer, more satiny pasta.

For the tagliatelle dough, you have to pass it through about 20 times (quickly) to get a beautifully smooth finish. Sheesh. But there's something ridiculously satisfying about feeling the satin-smooth surface of a 20x-kneaded dough, not unlike carpentry.

For tortellini, you pass the dough through the machine only a few times to prevent a too-elastic-y dough that will dry out too quickly. I was overenthusiastic and passed it through too many times, ending up with a sea of pasta circles on a deadline. I sweat a little.

All-in-all, pasta-making's a rough and tough job, but very rewarding. I'm just itching to make some homemade pasta now, just for the satisfaction of achieving that satin-smooth dough.