Stories from the Lab: Pasta Dough – Factors Affecting Quality

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Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of my culinary science blog! Hopefully by now you know me, but if not, I’m a bachelor’s student in the culinary science program here at the CIA. This time around, I will be giving you an inside look at quality factors relating to pasta. I was excited about this particular project because I love pasta! It’s one of my ultimate favorite foods, no matter the size or shape. In this lab experiment, my classmates and I tested what techniques and ingredients produce the highest-quality version.

Each station team made three different samples: one control and two variations. Some of these variations included using 100% bread flour and resting only 30 minutes before rolling. My team’s two variations were 1) not resting before rolling the dough and 2) reducing 25% of the egg. The control, or the element that stays the same during the experiment, consisted of these ingredients:

Ingredients                                          Amounts

All Purpose Flour                                450g

Salt                                                        0.5g

Whole Beaten Egg                             240g

Water                                                    22g

To make the pasta, my team first combined the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Then we made a well in the center and placed the eggs and water there. Using a fork, we pulled the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, and stirred and molded until the dough formed a mass. We smoothed the dough mass into a ball and rested it for one hour. After the one hour of resting, we passed the dough through a pasta machine and cut it into three-centimeter-wide strips.

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Since one of my team’s variations was “not resting,” in that method we did not rest the dough for one hour like the other two. For the egg reduction variation, we used 180 grams instead of 240 grams. After the dough was pressed, we cooked the pasta in boiling salted water. The pastas took about 1½ minutes to 3 minutes each to cook.

After all three variation samples were made, my team and I did some major evaluating. To me, the control tasted the best, while the non-rested pasta dough tasted the best to another one of my group members. Out of all the pasta doughs, the control was the lightest in color and was the softest. The non-rested dough was the stiffest and chewiest. The 25% egg reduction was the toughest and was hard.

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As you can see, different ingredients and methods affect the quality of the pasta, and different ingredient amounts yield different aspects. The variations tried in this lab experiment may be useful in certain dishes, while the control would be useful in other cooking applications. Experimenting is the best way to see which result you desire the most.

Speaking of experiments, next up I’ll tell you about our exploration of that universally loved dessert staple—the cookie. See you soon!

By Majestic Lewis-Bryant

Majestic Lewis-Bryant