Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fresh Vegan Pasta

I am considering offering fresh pasta at the bakery next month--not really a baked good, I know, but I think it will have some appeal. I have blogged about fresh pasta a few times before, and was particularly happy with the pumpkin pasta recipe. However, I have found that eggless pasta has a tendency to get mushy, or even a bit pasty (especially when you go back for a second helping). Eggs provide protein which helps bind everything together and, when cooked, give pasta its texture (at least, I think that is was happens). Running on this theory I decided to add more protein to my pasta with vital wheat gluten and see what happened. The results were exactly what I was looking for--a durable pasta that had a nice "bounce" when bitten without being too tough. I made some this weekend for some visiting guests (who make their own egg-based pasta) and they gave it their seal of approval. Next up: trying to make a whole wheat pasta.

Makes 1 lb of pasta
- 1 cup semolina flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
- 1/2 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/2 cup tepid water (or more)

1. Whisk together flours and salt (if using) in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Put water in the well and slowly incorporate the wet into the dry, making a rough dough, adding more water if needed.
2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead into a smooth dough (5 mins). The dough should not break apart or crack, so wet your hands if the dough seems too dry. On the other hand, try not to make it too moist. The dough should be smooth and fairly tough.
3. Roll into a log and wrap in a slightly damp towel. Set aside for 20 mins to let the dough relax. Roll and cut as per usual.

1. On Making: If the dough is too tacky when rolling, dip it in some flour. If your dough is too wet it will stick together when being cut.
2. On Storing: Fresh pasta can be kept in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer. However, you need to dry the pasta out a bit first or it will clump together. You can hang your pasta on drying racks, but I find it easier to sprinkle the pasta with flour and let dry spread out on floured linen towels. Rotate/flip the pasta every 10 mins, adding more flour, if needed. I let it dry for about 40 mins, until it is no longer tacky to the touch. Store in a plastic bag to keep from completely drying out.
4. On Cooking: Fresh pasta cooks in a flash. For spaghetti, I find it is done as soon as the water comes back to a boil. Drain and briefly rinse with a some cold water from the tap.