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Food & Wine Ground >> Pasta Dough Chemistry


4/3/11 1:01 PM
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pierrot lunaire
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Edited: 04/03/11 1:02 PM
Member Since: 12/11/05
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I am no Louis Pasteur so I needa bit of help.What roles do each of the ingredients in a pasta dough play? Pizza dough or even bread dough oriented answers are ok too

Milk, flour, eggs, oil, water, milk

What happens when they are added in too little or too much quantity? How can they be manipulated to change the quality of a finished product?
4/4/11 1:57 PM
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crescentwrench
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Edited: 04/04/11 2:00 PM
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**Inhales**

 Well, the most basic is Flour + water.  And Flour + Water + agitation from kneading or stirring = gluten.  The main focus being the glu part.  It's a protein that's released when water hits flour and is responsible for the stretchiness of pizza dough and the toughness of bread and pie crusts.  Don't know about pasta, never really make it myself but I bet it makes it gummy.  So depending on your application you control gluten and thus toughness by manipulating those three things.  For tender pie crusts you don't want much water at all and want to work it as little as possible.  If you want a stretchy chewy pizza crust you can be a little more generous with the water and then work the piss out of the dough.  Different flours also have different gluten formation.  Bread flour has more proteins and thus makes more gluten for your buck.  Cake flour is softer, less protein, so it won't form as much gluten when treated the same.  AP flour is in the middle.  So choice of flour affects the product, don't ignore that information.  

Oils and fats come in by coating the flour particles so that water can't reach them, thus preventing formation of gluten. So if you want to make a tender pie crust you cut the fat into the flour before adding water and add just enough water to make the dough workable.  And oils make things yummy because fat tastes good.  Different fats do different things.  Lard and oil is all fat but butter has water and proteins in it that will affect the outcome in various ways so you have to take that into account.  You can replace oils for oils in a 1:1 ratio but you can't swap oils for butter without factoring in the water content.  Oils are also responsible for the "moist" mouth feel in cakes and pastries.  If you think a cake is deliciously moist, it's usually deliciously oily.  

 (not for pasta) You can make the dough a little easier to work with by replacing about half the water in the recipe with vodka, which itself is about half alcohol.  Alcohol provides the lubrication to work the dough, but doesn't form gluten.  And it evaporates at a lower temperature making the end product more tender and flaky.  

Eggs provide proteins for structure so that everything doesn't fall apart when baked or boiled etc.  They are the scaffolding that catches all the flour particles and holds them in place.  Those proteins also provide flavor and browning.  Milk provides liquid as well as some proteins for structure and flavor and browning like eggs.  

**exhales**

You were accurate with the Pasteur reference, baking and pasta making isn't cooking, it's chemistry.  With other things you can mess with all the ingredients, more spices, more stock less stock, cutting out or adding things, make little personal touches.  But if you make a dough or a batter you have to be exact with ingredients and their proportions or you throw the whole ratio off and wind up with something that doesn't rise or tastes like a dried cow turd.  The advice for tweaking a pasta or bread recipe is, don't.  The ingredients have been measured so that they all interact precisely and other than tiny adjustments for things like altitude and humidity you will only make a shittier end product.  
 
4/5/11 11:36 AM
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pierrot lunaire
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Thank you crescentwrech. That was very helpful.

NEDCMK1: I have seen milk in pasta dough recipes from a french cook. It may also be done in Val d'Aosta in northern Italy. Not sure.
5/3/11 1:36 AM
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skrump
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Damn Crescent, nicely done.
2/24/12 10:17 AM
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reelfoot
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