Archive for September 2nd, 2009

Project #221 – Woodland Apron

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Each year for our anniversary I try to make something that is on theme for the traditional type of gift for that year. Our first anniversary was paper, so I put together a photo album for him. This year is cotton, so I made him an apron out of cotton fabric. Clark likes to cook and get messy, but it’s hard to find an apron that fits him and doesn’t look to feminine.

I purchased the fabric for the apron back last fall in Tokyo. Clark only sort-of liked it until I pointed out that it included a hedgehog balancing an apple on its back. After that, he really liked it. Of course, bright, garish colors are also his style.

Project #220 – Homemade Noodles

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Here is something I will never, ever do again. I will never make handmade pasta during a dinner party where I am expected to feed 10 people again. Ever.

Pasta sounds like something that would be so easy to make. It’s just two ingredients: eggs and flour. The recipe I used called for three eggs for every two cups of flour. Mistake #1: deciding to make three batches of pasta, each out of a different kind of flour. We were going to make wheat flour pasta, semolina four pasta and bread flour pasta. If we had taken the, oh I don’t know, 12 hours to roll out all of the dough it would have made enough pasta to feed 60 people.

And really, making the dough is misleadingly simple. Just pour out the flour into a bowl and make a divot. Crack three eggs into the divot and scramble them without disturbing the flour. Then mix the eggs and flour together, finally kneading to form a stiff dough.

I was smart enough to make some of the dough in advance. Mistake #2: not making all of the dough in advance. I wanted to give my guests a chance to make their own pasta because it sounded fun. The pasta dough making wasn’t too bad for everyone, however, dough needs time to rest (~15-30 minutes) so there was a little while where I couldn’t work on the pasta at all.

Here is the heart of the problem. I stupidly thought that running the dough through the pasta press would be one simple step. Mistake #3: stupidly thinking that running the dough through the pasta press would be one simple step. Actually, it’s six steps. You have to feed the dough first through the sheet pasta press, starting with the widest setting. Then you feed the sheet through again and again, setting the press one degree narrower each time. After doing that five times only then can the pasta be run through the noodle cutter.

But how hard could that be? It’s just turning a crank, right? Well, first, you need two people, one to turn the crank and the other to feed in the dough. By the last run through the little ball of dough we started with has grown into a sheet more than a yard long. The good news: that sheet will be enough to feed one person. The bad news: it took almost 10 minutes to make. Multiply that by 10 people…and you start to see the problem.

To compound that some of the party guests took too much and a few people didn’t get any. Between Clark and myself we made about 7-8 dishes besides the pasta, so there was plenty to eat, but some people were still disappointed that they didn’t get to try the dish of the evening. I was far to worn out to continue cranking, so those people are just going to have to be satisfied with rain checks.

Despite the trouble, fresh pasta is really, really good. I’ll just make it far in advance next time.