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Fasta sourdough pasta

Friday, May 17, 2013

When Sourdough Surprises chose to make sourdough pasta for April, I was excited. I have a hand-crank pasta machine that rolls (and kneads) the dough and cuts the noodles, and I try to use it as often as I can, but to be honest, the machine only makes an appearance three or four times a year. A shame really, because although I like dried pasta and use it all the time, pasta made from scratch is a notch above.
I actually made three flavours of dough and used them for various pasta dishes, but the posting date of April 20 came and went without a word from me. I'll get to the reason in a minute.
I had made two of the sourdough pasta doughs with semolina (durum) flour and egg – one of plain, the other flecked with Thai basil. The third one, I thought I would like to try making my version of soba noodles and combined all-purpose and buckwheat flours with the addition of bamboo charcoal powder (no egg this time).
Three flavours of sourdough pasta dough
The egg doughs came together well, but not the black buckwheat noodles, possible because of the lack of eggs. The noodles broke up into little bits (they looked like orzo) almost as soon as they hit the boiling water.
However, I realised something when I tasted all three noodles: they were extremely sour! Which meant there was a problem with my sourdough starter.
I'm sure some people like that level of sourness, and in fact, it isn't extreme in a loaf of bread, but for the pasta dough that I made, it was almost like biting into a lemon.
Anyway, the reason I didn't post on April 20 was because I was really busy and didn't have time to write up a post (we had our country's General Election on May 5 and there was a lot of activity before and after the date). But that gave me time to come up with a better tasting sourdough pasta. 
I discarded over half the starter I have tended to for over two years, and fed the remainder every day for a few days. Maybe I'm just imagining it, but the bread dough I made recently appeared stronger and was more flavourful. I've also made sourdough cakes with the "new" starter, and the chocolate ones have been very good.
So then, on to the sourdough revamp. I mixed the dough by hand, like I've illustrated here. For my vegetable strata (pan-fried courgette, eggplant and mushrooms, mustard cheese sauce and tomato sauce), I made just a plain egg (sour)dough, again with semolina, and the flavour of the pasta was at just the right level of sourness for me. I'll add flavourings next time.
Cubed gouda cheese and breadcrumbs for the topping
Fresh Egg Sourdough Pasta (Dough)
Makes about 240g

120g (about ¾ cup) semolina durum
Large pinch of salt
70g (a bit more than ¼ cup) unfed starter
1 medium egg

Flavourings (and colours)*
2-3 tsp tomato paste (red)
1 tbsp finely chopped basil (speckled)
1½ tbsp puree of cooked spinach (green)
A pinch of saffron threads mixed with 1 tbsp warm water (bright yellow)

Place the semolina on a work surface. Sprinkle the salt on top and stir together with your fingers. Bring the semolina together into a mound, then make a hole in the centre. Place the starter and egg* into the hole and then gradually stir in the semolina with your fingers or a fork. Incorporate the mixture until no dry bits remain. 
Knead the mixture; it will be crumbly at first but the semolina will soon absorb the liquids and the mixture will come together into a smooth ball. Leave in the work surface and cover with a clean tea towel. Set aside for 1 hour before rolling out and cutting into shapes by hand or a pasta machine.
* If including flavourings, add with the liquids.

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