Making ramen at home is difficult. The difficulty level increases when I screw up the recipe in addition to being a complete newbie to this. Mostly I find this to be more along the lines of 'playing with food' rather than actual cooking. I got the recipe from Lucky Peach issue 1, which is not being sold anymore. You can find issue 2 on Amazon now. [Full disclosure: I add my affiliate code to amazon links.] The recipe is simple enough, and I'll talk about it in a minute, but it really isn't as easy as it seems. There's actually only three ingredients, which would lead one to believe it would be easy.. but it ain't easy unless you good at this shit, which I'm not. So let's get to it.
The very first step in the recipe should be for you to bake baking soda. They say this idea came from Harold McGee's article in The New York Times. Basically you put baking soda on a cooking sheet and bake it at 250 F for one hour. This is turns baking soda from sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate, which is a stronger alkaline. Instead of putting the baking soda directly on the cookie sheet, I would pour the baking soda on some aluminum foil so it's easier to extract later. From the magazine article and the NYTimes article, they say the baking soda should reduce in weight by a quarter. So if you bake 12 grams of baking soda, you should end up with 9 grams (and this is how you know you did it correctly, by weighing it before AND after). Also, don't try using a conventional oven, I tried that and apparently nothing happened or I did it wrong. The baked soda (sodium carbonate) is supposed to be a little irritating to your skin, so don't spill it all over yourself or snort it, unless you're selling it to a one-percenter as fake cocaine.
Then all you have to do is dissolve the baked soda in some warm water, and add flour. This should turn your dough yellow. I used all-purpose flour, although apparently if you use bread flour, which contain higher gluten levels, it might be chewier. I added too much water to mine which made the dough come together really easily. Instead, it's supposed to be really course and only come together when you mash it together with your hands.
There's a total kneading time of ten minutes in this recipe. I did it all in the mixer, which may or may not have been the right move. Does anyone know how effective it is to use the dough hook in the mixer to knead dough? The dough is supposed to be really hard to work with, but again, I added too much water and it came out easy to knead. How much extra water did I add?
If we just used ratios, where 1 = flour, then for every part of flour, you want half as much water. As for baked soda, it should be (give or take) 3% of the weight of the flour. So this is what I used, which was wrong:
300 g flour
9 g baked soda
100 g of warm water (should have been 75 g)
100 g of cold water (should have been 75 g)
So you can see, I added 50g too much of water. It doesn't matter much what the actual recipe is as long as your ratios are correct. If you're just making this for two people, you'd do 150 g of flour, 4.5 g of baked soda, and 75 g of water total (split into warm and cold). Changing the ratio might affect how well the mixer kneads, but then again perhaps doing it by hand is better?
Having a pasta machine comes in really handy. I don't own a pasta machine. I stole it from my mom, who says she barely uses hers. It was kinda a long process to get the pasta machine from my parents house because they live in Detroit. But since we was home for Thanksgiving, I was able to bring the pasta machine here to New York. Is it awesome???? Yes. How many times a year am I going to use it? Less than four or five probably. You can roll out the dough with a roller, although I will tell you... this is actually the second time I tried the recipe. The first time I didn't have a pasta machine or a rolling pin, and I rolled out my dough with a water bottle, but it didn't work since the water bottle didn't let me put enough force on the dough to get it flat. Word to the wise, if you don't even own a rolling pin, this recipe will be VERY VERY DIFFICULT. If you don't own a rolling pin, go to Bed Bath and Beyond's website, sign up for their newsletter and get a 20% off coupon. Rolling pin be like $7 bucks yo. I actually sign up for a fake email address every time I need to buy something from BBB.
So as you can see, the pasta machine kicks the doughs ass. It gets nice and flat. Nicer pasta machines probably let you adjust size of the cut, but this one is fairly simple. You get two sizes, spaghetti and fettuccine.
I picked the spaghetti setting and it gets the noodle very thin. They clumped together quite easily. Jonathan told me (after I had already made this mistake), that one could put corn starch as soon as the noodles are cut up, and that will prevent clumping. And you want to prevent clumping so that they all cook as uniformly as possible.
Last mistake to avoid is to make sure you boil a BIG pot of water for your pasta. When I make instant noodles or dried pasta, I use a small pot because it's easier and I have time to let the water reach a boiling point again. But fresh noodles cook really fast. They get gummy in like three minutes if you cut them thinly and if you use a small pot, by the time the water boils again, the noodles already is a mushy mess.
You can cook some eggs in an ice cooler, if you're into that sorta thing, and I am. Issue 1 of Lucky Peach actually comes with a great graphic about different temperatures and different results for sous vide eggs. Most of us don't have a controlled water bath. So with the cooler, the nice thing about that is all you're doing is filling the cooler with hot water from the faucet. You leave it in there until you're ready to go. Water cooler is pretty shitty about dropping temperatures, but if you know that going in, you can combat it. I just filled my cooler with water that's about 67 C and let it drop down to 63 or 62 by the time I pull it out (at least an hour). Works fine and dandy.
Next time I will definitely make sure to follow the recipe closely with the proportion of water, and also flour or corn starch the noodles aggressively as they fall through the pasta machine cutter, and boil the noodles in a LARGE water bath. I'll keep y'all updated on my progress. This is certainly going better than my other cooking project, which is to make croissants at home. I'm on my fourth try of those bad boys, and I haven't even made a single edible one. I just bake those and chuck 'em now. At least the noodles are semi-edible, if a little mushy. Cooking is hard yo.
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