Riffing off of Howie's post, Bill Spohn and I have been discussing Kitchen Aid Mixers lately. He just bought one and is in the process of amassing attachments, one of which he had sent to my house because the seller wouldn't ship to Canada. I emailed Bill yesterday to let him know the package had arrived but I didn't look in the box until he suggested I do so and maybe try it out. What he got was an attachment I didn't even know they made, called Pasta Press--essentially, an extruder for making stuff like rigatoni.
Well, you just can't dangle something like that in front of me and not expect action. And entirely coincidentally, it arrived on a day in which I planned to make pasta anyway, albeit ravioli--an Asian take, making a five-spice flavored filling out of leftover roast duck and a sauce from a pink szechuan peppercorn consomme I would make from the bones. So, new plan: a duck and noodle soup with green onions, chili oil, bamboo and shredded duck tossed with a bit of oil, fresh minced garlic and salt so that it would oven-fry crispy like the Mexican pork dish carnitas.
Bill's set came with several dies of which I chose 'large elbow macaroni', and which turned out to be more like rigatoni, especially once cooked, which was completely fine. It also came with an instruction book that provided a recipe for a basic pasta that would work well in the machine. I followed the recipe exactly, or so I thought, except to add an extra egg yolk since I had extra that had just been separated from the whites which were needed for the clarifying raft in the consomme. That would only make the dough stronger, I reasoned, not a bad thing.
So I got the first batch ready to go through the machine--little walnut sized balls, a little army of them ready to march into the hopper. The dough was pretty soft, I thought, but oh well, that only seemed to affirm my umbrage over the recipe suggesting that I first use the mixing paddle, then switch to the dough hook, and then remove the dough and knead additionally by hand. My comment to Bob went something like, "KNEAD BY HAND? This is why God invented dough hooks, so that princesses like me don't have to knead by hand!" I had no intention of going through with that step, and felt pretty self-righteous that I didn't need to after all. Harrumph.
So in went a ball of dough, followed shortly by another, with Bob and I arguing about how to hold the pusher device. That is, he didn't like the direction I was holding it in and thought it should be 180 degrees the other way, which I pointed out would require left-handed operation where "everything in the world is made for right-handers, so this has to be right!". He clearly didn't agree since he was absolutely correct that the u-shape of the flat part on the bottom end of it matched the u-shape of the hopper when the pusher was turned around to the left, but wimpered back into his corner since I obviously had no intention of doing this any other way.
After what seemed like way too long, so long that we went back to the book to verify the speed recommended, reluctantly came forth the new-borns. That attached themselves to each other immediately. And were inseparable, not to mention flat in that there was no structural strength to hold that hollow opening open. We stared at our creation in disbelief. Our newborns needed noodle neo-natal intensive care. I was ready to cry and Bob was speechless, obviously due to his inability to come up with a way of blaming this on me holding the pusher backwards.
And then I had a
moment. "Where's the measuring cup I was using for the flour?," I asked. Bob had been manning the cleanup station, so he went over there and rummaged around, finally holding up the little black cup with the green number on the handle. "1/2". F word! That was the problem. I hadn't put 3 1/2 cups of flour into the dough but only half that, presuming I was using a one cup measure! So back to almost square one. I put the dough I had back in the mixing bowl along with the semolina flour I'd dusted the first couple noodles with and added another cup of flour to the bowl. I didn't presume that replacing exactly the amount of flour not added originally would be the precise route back to success if in fact the dough could be remade at all, especially since I'd now introduced semolina, but took an incremental approach adding both water and flour until I had a very stiff but workable dough that felt right for the purpose.
In the meantime Bob disassembled Bill's Pasta Press and surgically removed all the gooey dough that had stuck to everything like wallpaper paste. And I do mean surgical--it took needles to get it out of the die and Bob thought he was going to have to cook the augur to get it to release. After quite some effort, we were ready to go again and the Rev. 2 dough slid nicely through the hopper, made noodles, and didn't stick to anything.
So here's what they looked like. I was a little disappointed in the ragged edges the swinging wire cutter produces, but it's entirely possible that a good batch of dough vs. the coarser rescue batch I was working with would cut cleaner. And you do have to work that cutter fast or you inadvertently create a set of Spaghetti-O's on every return swing.
The soup was fantastic.