Saturday, November 15, 2014

Spelt Pasta

I have friends and family that, for various health reasons, avoid eating wheat. No one in this group has Celiac disease, but all try to avoid gluten with different levels of vigor. Some found that they reasonably tolerate spelt, a subspecies of common wheat, even though spelt contains gluten. So in order to share a plate of homemade pasta with these loved ones, I began experimenting with white spelt flour that I ordered from Keith Giusto’s Central Milling (here). I found that this flour makes excellent fresh pasta.

I started my inquiry by making spelt spaghetti for 2 extruded from my torchio pasta press. I used a standing mixer fitted with a paddle to create a dough made of 150 grams of white spelt flour, 72 grams of an egg mixture consisting of a large whole egg and a large egg yolk, and a pinch of salt. The spelt flour seemed to need less liquid to achieve the texture that I look for in an extruded dough for a torchio. I formed the dough into a log and wrapped it in plastic to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. After popping the dough into the torchio, I set the piston and turned the handle. I needed a significant amount of force to extrude the pasta, but the finished spelt spaghetti looked beautiful and felt dry, dense and heavy. I read that spelt pasta cooks more quickly than conventional wheat pasta, but this wasn’t my experience in this instance. I added the pasta to 2.5 liters of salted, boiling water and cooked the noodles for 3 minutes after the water returned to a boil. After draining, I finished the pasta by cooking it in a sauce for 2 minutes or so. Even then, the pasta had a very firm bite and fine flavor that surpassed the store-bought spelt pasta that I sampled.

I next made spelt fettuccini using my Imperia R220 pasta machine. I followed the same dough recipe as above, except that I added 75 instead of 72 grams of my egg mixture. Again, the dough worked great—dry but not too much so—but it was on the hard side; I had to use a rolling pin to flatten the dough before feeding the dough through the first few settings of my Imperia. I rolled the pasta out to the R220’s number 2 setting, which makes a 1mm thick sheet. The finished fettuccini noodle, like the spaghetti, had a firm bite and excellent flavor.

I tried one last experiment with the spelt flour: I increased the amount of the egg mixture to 80 grams and made another batch of fettuccini. The dough felt softer, but not sticky. The pasta easily traveled through the R220. The finished noodle tasted fine, but I missed the firm bite of the noodle made with 75 grams of my egg mixture.

Overall, I highly recommend Central Milling’s Organic White Spelt Flour for making fresh pasta. The next step in my spelt experiments: create a whole-grain spelt/white spelt flour blend. Stay tuned.