Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Egg Noodles By Hand

Noodles - of all kinds - are so cheap. Stores are well-stocked with shapes and sizes and colors. So why make your own noodles, and why make them by hand?

The only good reason I can think of is that there's nothing quite like a hand-made noodle. The texture is completely different. They have a rough, craggy surface that grabs on to flavor and won't let go. They have a chew to them that makes you understand that you're eating something significant.

Whether they're floating in a chicken broth, or glistening with butter and sprinkled with cheese, or flecked with sauce, home made noodles have a presence about them that demands attention. They aren't just noodles, they are VIPs - Very Important Pastas.

While it takes a little work to make noodles, it's not all that complicated, and the list of ingredients is mind-bogglingly short. On the other hand, the list of optional things you could add to home made pasta is endless. You could make home made noodles every day this year and never have the same noodle twice. And we're just talking about ingredients. You can also cut them into a different shapes and sizes. The possibilities are infinite.

If you can get Italian semolina flour intended for pasta-making, that's a good choice, but bread flour works very well. You can also use all purpose flour, if that's all you have.

Egg Noodles

1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Pile the flour in a mound on your work surface and make a well in the center, so you have a hollow volcano of flour. Put the salt in the center, then add the eggs.

Take a fork and break the yolks, then begin stirring the mixture in the center, drawing in more and more flour from the outside as you go, but not letting the liquid break through the volcano walls. At some point you'll have a sticky dough surrounded by a circle of flour. Now it's time to get your hands into it.

Flour your hands and begin squishing and kneading the dough, adding flour as needed from the outer ring to create a somewhat firm dough. It should be soft enough to knead, but firmer than a bread dough. Keep kneading the dough, adding as little flour as necessary to keep it from sticking, until you have a smooth dough. There will probably be flour left on the counter. That's fine. You can leave it there for rolling the pasta later, or clean the counter and use some fresh flour for rolling - your choice.

Form your dough into a flat disk and wrap it in plastic wrap and set it aside to rest for at least 30 minutes on the counter. You can also do this well in advance and refrigerate the dough until you need it.

When you're ready to roll the dough, flour your work surface lightly, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough as thin as you want it, turning it over and dusting it with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Keep in mind that the dough will expand during cooking significantly, so you should roll it thinner than you want the final product to be.

When the dough is thin enough, dust the surface and roll it, jelly-roll style, then slice the roll into disks as wide as you want your noodles. After slicing, unroll all the strips, and dust with flour to keep them from sticking.

Cook the noodles in boiling salted water. It only takes a few minutes to cook fresh pasta, depending on how thick you've made it, but mine was cooked at about the point when the water came back to a boil after adding the noodles to the pot.

Variations: Once you've mastered plain noodles, you can add flavor and color. Herbs, spices, small bits of lemon zest, flavored oils or powered dried mushrooms can be added for flavor while beet juice or spinach or tomato sauce will add interesting color. Experiment and have fun!

This was also published in the Longmont Ledger and the Daily Camera.