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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Egg Noodles

I come from a long line of Germans from Russia cooks.  And so does Hubby.  And one thing both of our families have in our tree is homemade noodles.  I remember watching my grandma and my great aunt make noodles.  And have many, MANY memories of making noodles in our house as a kid.  If there's one thing us Germans from Russia like to eat...it's boiled dough.

Here's how easy it is to make homemade noodles:

First, a pasta machine.  Not absolutely necessary, but oh-so-nice to have.  My great aunt used to roll the dough with her rolling pin and cut them with a very sharp knife.  My rolling pin and I have personality conflicts.  He doesn't want to roll and I don't want to force him.  There, I've said it.  Admitting there's a problem is the first step to a new rolling pin.

Back in my wild single days, I went to a lot of auctions.  Not bachelor auctions (which might explain why I was single until I was 28), but estate and household auctions.  Always one for a bargain, I stocked my kitchen and home with lots of auction items.  My pasta machine is Italian, even the directions are in Italian!  It also comes with ravioli attachment (not pictured).  Not even my mom has the  ravioli attachment.  Guess how much I paid for it??
 A dollar.  Yup, one whole dollar.

The pasta recipe is simple:  flour and eggs (salt is optional).  The ratio is 2 eggs for every cup of flour.  Now that is approximate.  Some days you'll have to add a little flour, others it's a bit much.  It depends on the humidity, the size of the eggs, how careful you are about measuring.  (I'll let you guess which one is my problem.)

I'm making a big batch so I'm using 6 cups of flour.  Organic wheat flour, to be exact.

I'm going to start with six eggs and add a couple every so often. 

Just look at those farm fresh beauties!

Kiddo1 has mastered the art of egg cracking so she helped me crack eggs.  Those are her little hands on the left.

Six golden yolks.  I feel kind of bad showing you those yolks because when the hens are out on pasture, they are orange.  These are about as pale as we get.  Still much darker than store eggs, but not the orange color we've come to expect.

I mix my noodle dough in my KitchenAid Mixer.  My mom mixes hers on the counter.  To do the counter method:  pile your flour, make a well in the center, crack the eggs into the well and gently mix them (little by little) into the flour and then knead with your hands until all the flour is incorporated.

Both ways perfectly acceptable.  I tend to do large batches (this is triple what my mom does) so the mixer really helps.  I use the dough hook on the stir setting.

While it's going with the first six eggs, I add two tsp of salt (if I remember, hence the optional part).

The first six eggs have been incorporated and now I'll had two more.

I ended up added another four eggs after that for an even dozen eggs into this batch.  I watch that last egg or two pretty carefully, you don't always need it.  Another batch I did later only used 11 eggs.  It really depends.

The dough should stay together, but not be wet or crumbly.  It will be very dense.  Remember, it's just eggs and flour.

A lot of recipes out there call for the addition of water.  That is an absolute NO in our family.  We don't add water because we are going to dry these noodles.  Why would we add water just to dry it out again?  If you need more liquid, add another egg.

Now we're on to the fun part!  Set up your noodle machine and a flour station.

Take a bit of dough, the size of a golfball.  NO larger, you'll see why in a minute or so.  (I'd like to point out my grandmother's flour sifter, I love it.)

Roll the ball in the flour for a light coating.  You want to knead that ball and work it a bit.

The settings on the pasta machine are numbered, 1 being the thickest setting.  We'll start there.

Lots of space in there!  

While cranking the handle, push your dough ball through the rollers.

Out comes a flattened ball of dough.  I know you're shocked.

Sometimes they come out looking like this.  This is NOT what you want.

Making pasta is very forgiving and you just crumple it up and start over.

Like this.

And it should look like this. 

Then get an industrious and oh-so-helpful three year old to turn the crank while you push in dough balls and you've got yourself the makings of a production line!

Dust the dough with a bit of flour now and then.  We don't want to cake it on, but we want to keep the dough dry to the touch.  Wet dough stuck in a pasta machine is simply awful.

Dial it up to level 2.

Still plenty of room there.  But we'll get smaller as the process moves on.  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was their pasta on the first pass.

Three year old production supervisor.  She scolded me for going too fast.  (I think she's taking over for my mom.  She always asked where the fire was...)

All of our pasta after level 2.

And then I get wild and crazy and skip level 3 all together!!  We're going straight to level 4.

As you can see after levels 4 and then 5, we've made some changes in that pasta!  Why do we pass it through so many times?  We're orienting the molecules into thin flat sheets.  If we just went from 1 to 5, the dough would tear.  We need to nudge and gently mold the dough into shape.  Notice the long lengths of dough?  And that's just from a golfball sized piece!  If you go any bigger, you'll end up with sox foot piece of noodle and that's bit much.  Start small!

The first couple of batches I did, I cut the noodles after level 5.  Then I talked to my mom who said, "I used to do that and then I went to 6.  It makes a beautiful noodle!"  Never being one to shun the wisdom of a lifelong noodle maker, I took her advice and my next two batches were 6.  She was SOOO right, exquisite noodles!  Go to 6, you won't regret it.

Now we're ready to cut some noodles.  My machine has the fettucini and spaghetti settings.  I prefer the wider noodles and pretty much always make them unless I get a special request.

Pretty simple.  Dough goes in, noodles come out, your arm goes round and round.

After they are cut, you want to either use them immediately or dry them.  I had this great idea to use a new clothes drying rack for drying my noodles.  In theory, the idea was awesome!  In reality, it was terrible.  First, it takes FOREVER to hang the noodles.  Second, when the noodles dry (and it WAS quickly), they dry slightly around the dowel and therefore you can't take them off without breaking them at the center.  Urrrrgh.  But now I know!

So, how do we dry them?  Get a clean sheet from your linen closet and spread it on your bed.  Lay the noodles out loosely so that they can dry.  In other words, no clumps.  When they are just about dry, fluff them with your hands and change their position, every so gently, so that any damp spots have time to dry completely.

 How do you know they are dry?  When they feel dry and are completely stiff.

If you apply even a little pressure, they break.  These are very delicate!  It doesn't take long.  I finished my last batch at noon today and they were dry by 7pm.  I package my noodles in gallon bags and store them in the freezer.  Because they are made with just eggs and flour and no preservatives and additives, they may mold in your kitchen cupboard.  The freezer is an excellent way to store them safely.

And then you can make chicken noodle soup or other yummy dishes like Ree Drummond's Homemade Chicken and Noodles.

I gave homemade noodles as Christmas gifts when I was teaching.  One woman came up and gave me a big hug after Christmas break.  (She wasn't the hugging type.)  She said she used my noodles to make chicken soup and her husband was so impressed.  Really, really impressed.

So, if it can help her marriage...what can homemade noodles do for you??

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