Monday, March 31, 2014

Perfect Granola Bars

I have made a lot of granola bars over the years.  It seems like I am constantly trying to make "the perfect granola bar."  What is that to me?  I want the granola bar to hold together and not be a crumbly mess, to be perfectly-not-too sweet, to be chock full of tasty, healthy ingredients and to be easy to make.

I believe I have finally accomplished all of these things, and I am so excited to share the recipe with you!

These granola bars are so much better than what you can buy at the store.  They are pretty easy to make, and since you can substitute for your favorite dried fruit, nuts or other ingredients, you can make the recipe wholly your own.

Perfect Granola Bars

  • 4 cups granola cereal (I used my homemade granola, but you could also buy some)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons clear corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • optional ingredients: dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, toasted nuts, ect...

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, and grease lightly.

Combine honey, butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.  Bring to a gentle boil, and let boil one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.

Pour butter mixture in to bowl with granola cereal. Mix well. Let cool about five minutes then add desired optional ingredients.  Stir to combine. (If you added the chocolate chips, they will most likely melt a little. This is fine, they turn into glue that helps to hold the bars together).

Transfer oat mixture to the lined 9x13 pan and use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Make sure to press very hard, this will help the granola bars to stay together once they are cut. 

Bake for 20 minutes, and remove pan to cool completely (you could also put these in the refrigerator to hasten the cooling process).  If you would like, at this time you could throw some additional mini chocolate chips on top of the cooling granola bars. 

Once cool, remove granola from pan and peel away aluminum foil.  Cut into bars. Store bars in an airtight container for up to one week. For the softest bars, keep at room temperature. For 'harder bars,' store in the fridge.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Panko, Parsley and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

For dinner one night this week, I found some chicken breasts in the freezer.  I decided I wanted to bake the chicken breasts, and to combine them with some panko crumbs and Italian bread crumbs I have been meaning to use up.  I also had some fresh parsley that I had accidentally bought - the flat leaf parsley sure looks like fresh cilantro, doesn't it??? 

Anyways, I brined the chicken for several hours, quickly and easily coated the breasts with this topping, baked them for about 30 minutes - and dinner was done!

Charlie said he thought this was the best piece of chicken he had ever had.  Moist and juicy from the brining.  Crusty and flavorful from the coating.  This chicken was a hit with us - but let me know what you think!

Panko, Parsley and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • sprinkling Old Bay Seasoning
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • about 2 tablespoons Iron Chef Sesame and Ginger sauce (or something like it)

In a gallon bag, dissolve the salt, sugar and Old Bay seasoning in the water.  Add the chicken breasts.  Let sit in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours - you don't want them to be in longer because the breasts will get too salty.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the Panko crumbs, the bread crumbs, the fresh parsley and the Parmesan cheese in a bowl.  Pour about 1 tablespoon of the Sesame and Ginger sauce on each chicken breast, and rub it all over.  Bread chicken with the crumb mixture, gently patting each piece so the breading will stick better.  Place on a silpat or lightly greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle some of the extra crumbs on top of the chicken and pat in place. 

Bake chicken for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is firm, the breading is browned, and the chicken an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  Let rest for about 10 minutes before eating!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Use-What-You-Have-In-Your-Kitchen Ice Cream Parfait

What do you do when you want a fast, delicious, beautiful dessert?  As I was in this boat, I opened cupboard doors, the pantry doors, the refrigerator door, and the freezer door, trying to see what I had around.  I decided to make a kind of ice cream parfait in a wine glass.  It turned out beautiful and oh-so-tasty.

One of the things I really liked about this idea is that you can just make this with ingredients that you have on hand!  Plus, it was really quick and easy to put together. 

Use-What-You-Have-In-Your-Kitchen Ice Cream Parfait

  • a scoop or two of ice cream (I used vanilla)
  • fresh strawberries, sliced (you could probably use any fruit)
  • caramel topping (or chocolate, or fudge, or butterscotch .... you get the idea!)
  • toasted pecans (or any kind of nut)
  • whipped cream (if you want)
  • what else would you like?

Layer ingredients in a wine glass, bowl, or whatever you would like to use.  Enjoy immediately (or you could place the desserts in the freezer for a bit of time if you needed to make them early.  I wouldn't let them get too frozen though!).  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Easy Swirl Roses Tutorial

Hello!  It is time for that easy swirl rose tutorial I promised you a while back!

These roses are so easy to make (am I using the word "easy" too much?).  And the roses are so beautiful and romantic!  They can be used to decorate cupcakes, regular cakes, cookies - and whatever else you can think of. 

Ok, enough photo's already!  I think you get the idea.  

Let's get started!  I made just a basic cupcake to demonstrate how to make these roses.  Ideally your cupcakes should be a little less rounded than these; as you could probably see from the pictures when they are rounded it makes it harder to cover the entire top of the cupcake with this decorating technique. 

To pipe a rose, using a 1M Wilton tip in your frosting bag, hold the bag straight up from your cupcake.

Gently squeeze bag and move in a circular motion starting from the center and moving outward, around and around.

Finish by releasing pressure and gently bringing the tip kind of under your last loop.  I apologize for the confusing way of writing that; I can't think of an easier way to say it!  To try to put it simply: finish off the rose so it looks natural - no awkward points or anything. 

That is all you need to do to make a swirl rose on a cupcake!

If you are decorating a regular cake, pipe a rose onto the side of your cake, and continue to pipe roses all the way around cake.  I love to just sprinkle large and small roses here and there on a cake.  Experiment and have fun!  For the top of the cake, start by piping roses along the perimeter and move towards the center.  Fill in empty spots on the entire cake with dollops of stars, very easy to do!  Just gently squeeze and lift pastry bag.

You could also go with a very symmetrical look by just piping large roses in a circle around the cake, and filling in with little 'stars.'

Just as a demonstration, this is a cake I made last year using the swirl rose technique.  Not the greatest pictures, but hopefully you will get the idea.

That is it!  Swirl roses are so beautiful and easy to make.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, and I will try to help! 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Flavored Water - or Agua Fresca

I am so excited to share with you my newest thing - naturally flavored water!  It is so delicious and has an added bonus of really making me want to drink water - a must when you are expecting!

About a month ago, I started keeping a jar of water in the refrigerator with one or two lemon slices in it.  That progressed to experimenting with other fruits.  Next, I want to experiment with mixing fruits and herbs.

As I was photographing these flavored water's, Charlie came by and asked me, "Did you know this is how they flavor water in Mexico... it is called agua fresca."  I had no idea, but I was off on a wonderful research trail! 

I learned that in Mexico, fruits, cereals, flowers and seeds are blended with sugar and water to create delicious beverages.  I don't add sugar to my flavored waters, but I am very interested in using flowers, cereals and seeds in addition to fruits to make flavored water.  I will let you know as I experiment further.

Today, I'd like to share some of the fruit ideas that I've recently tried for flavoring water.  But, you don't have to do what I've done!  Honestly, you can combine most fruits and herbs according to your favorite flavors and what you have on hand in your fridge.

Flavored Waters

  1. Tangerine: 3 tangerine slices in 1 pint water
  2. Strawberry: 3 or 4 sliced strawberries in 1 pint water
  3. Lime: 1/2 lime, quartered in 1 pint water
  4. Strawberry Lemonade: 2 lemon slices with 3 strawberries in 1 pint water
  5. Lemon: 4 lemon slices in 1 pint water
The possibilities are endless!  In the future months, I am excited to share new flavors of water that I will experiment with.

How do you make your flavored water? 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Luscious French Toast

Since I recently made that loaf of pain de mie, I decided to try using it to make french toast.

The results were delicious!  The bread had great texture, and the french toast had a great crispy exterior and custard-like interior.

I topped the french toast with whipped cream, fresh strawberries and homemade strawberry syrup.  

Luscious French Toast (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)


  • 12 slices country bread, brioche, challah or Pain de Mie
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 3 tablespoons honey, warmed in microwave 30 seconds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon butter 

toppings of choice

  • whipped cream
  • fresh fruit
  • syrup
  • powdered sugar
  • maple syrup

The night before making, slice the bread and lay out on a wire rack.  Leave on the counter overnight to dry.  You also have the option to mix up the custard the night before - this saves time in the morning.  If you choose to do so at night or in the morning, the directions are the same: in medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, honey, salt and the vanilla.

When you are ready to cook, pour custard mixture into a pie pan or other low-sided dish, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Dip bread into egg mixture, allow to soak for 30 seconds on each side, and then remove to a cooling rack that is sitting in a sheet pan, and allow to sit for 2 to 4 minutes.

Over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in on a pancake griddle, or in 10-inch nonstick saute pan.  I like to cook all the french toast together, so I use my pancake griddle.  If you use a skillet, you will have to cook just 2 or 3 slices of bread at a time into the pan.  However you choose to do it; cook each bread slice until golden brown, approximately 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Remove from pan and place on rack in oven for 5 or 6 minutes.  Serve immediately desired toppings.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Fudgy Brownies

Would you be interested in my go-to fudgy brownie recipe?  This recipe has become a favorite of family and friends alike.  I made these a few days ago (mainly) for my brothers, though Charlie and I appreciated some of them as well!

Please note, you have two sizing options: you could make this recipe in a cookie sheet (with 1 inch sides) for thin brownies, or you could make this recipe and put it in a 9x13 pan for extra thick, fudgy brownies.  I like to do both. This time I made them in a cookie sheet.

This recipe uses an interesting technique.  You bake the brownies for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven for 15 minutes to sit on the counter, then put back in the oven!  The result is a wonderfully fudgy, box-like-brownie, that is made from scratch.

Warning: these brownies are very, very fudgy.  If you are a cake-like brownie fan, you will not enjoy these brownies. 

Fudgy Brownies

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (100% cacao), chopped roughly
  •  1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Heat the oven to 325°F and make sure there is an oven rack in the middle position. Lightly grease or butter either a 10 by 15 inch cookie sheet, or a 9x13 pan. 

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar.  Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition, and whisk the mixture vigorously until it is smooth and cohesive. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Sprinkle the cocoa over the batter and stir with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and stir with the whisk in the same manner until the batter is smooth.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake the cookie sheet for 15 minutes, and the 9x13 pan for 25 minutes.  Now, here comes the strange part: remove the pan from the oven and let the brownies rest 15 minutes at room temperature.  After 15 minutes, return the brownies to the oven and continue to bake them until a wooden tooth pick comes out clean, about 25 minutes for the cookie sheet and about 40 minutes for the 9x13.

Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack.  Frost if desired - I like to frost them with chocolate fudge frosting (interested?  I will post the recipe!).  Cut the brownies into serving pieces.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pain de Mie

I am so excited about this new pan I just got!  It is called a Pullman Loaf Pan, and I found it on Amazon for $25 (normally $45).  The pan is an "commercial grade, heavy gauge loaf pan with cover; 13 x 4 x 4 inches."  The point of it is that it makes perfectly square loaves of bread - obviously making it ideal for baking squared bread loaves, such as the French loaf pain de mie, and brioche. 

I used the pain de mie recipe that accompanied the loaf pan, which is a King Arthur Flour recipe.  But what is pain de mie, you might ask?

Let us look to Wikepedia:

"Pain de mie is a type of sliced, packaged bread "Le pain" in French means "bread" or "loaf of bread", and "la mie" refers specifically to the soft part of bread, called the crumb. In English, pain de mie is most similar to pullman loaf or regular sandwich bread. This bread has sugar in it, which makes it sweeter than most French breads, though even with the sugar, pain de mie is still not as sweet as most American breads. This bread is usually used for making sandwiches or for toasting.  It can be baked in a sealed pan, which prevent crust from forming. If not baked in a sealed pan, the crust can be cut off (as done in factories before packaging). Pain de mie is sold in rounded or rectangular shapes."

Isn't it beautiful?

So here I am with the pain de mie dough made, getting ready to put it into the Pullman pan. 

The dough is rolled and the edges crimped, and now it is time to rise.

I cover the pan with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm spot to rise until it is just below the top edge of the pan (don't put the lid on it yet).

Now, about 50 minutes later (though this number will vary depending on the conditions in your kitchen), I am ready to gently slide the lid in place.  I spray a little spray grease on the bottom side of the lid.

and gently slide it in place.  You can see it is just barely brushing the top of the loaf - try to work very carefully so you don't cause your dough to fall. 

Now, let the pain sit in a warm place again for about 10 minutes, while you preheat your oven.  During this time, you want your dough to continue to rise, so it fills the corners of the top of the pan.  After about 10 minutes, bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 minutes.  At this time, carefully remove the lid and bake an additional 20 minutes. 

Enjoy your square pain de mie!  Hint: it is great for sandwiches, toast, bread puddings, and makes incredible french toast. 

Pain de Mie 

(adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe; the original recipe made a loaf of bread that was a bit too dry, so I have adapted it to suit our tastes. )

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 3 tablespoons potato flour starch
  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Manual Method: In a large bowl, combine the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar. Add the dried milk, flours and yeast, stirring till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead it for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it's smooth and supple. Because of the relatively high fat content of this dough, it's a real pleasure to work with. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Mixer Method: Combine the ingredients as above, using a flat beater paddle or beaters, then switch to the dough hook(s) and knead for 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl or dough-rising bucket, cover the bowl or bucket, and allow the dough to rise till doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients into the pan of your machine, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. When the cycle is finished, remove the dough and proceed as follows.

Lightly grease a 13 x 4-inch pain de mie or pullman pan. Transfer the risen dough to a lightly greased work surface, shape it into a 13-inch log, and fit it into the pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise until it's just below the lip of the pan, 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the warmth of your kitchen (it may rise even more slowly in a cool kitchen; don't worry, this long rise will give it great flavor).

Remove the plastic, and carefully place the cover on the pan, let it rest an additional 10 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake the bread for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully remove the lid, and return the bread to the oven to bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until it tests done; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register 190°F. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely. Yield: 1 loaf.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

In honor of St. Patrick's Day on (yes, I know, last) Monday, I made a batch of Irish Soda Bread.  I love Irish Soda Bread, but I don't make it too often - really, only once a year.  After making this again, I realized I really should make it more often!

I am a bit nontraditional when I make my Irish Soda Bread - I like to add a mix of raisins, cranraisins, and (if I have them) golden raisins.  I also put less flour in my batter, and consequently bake the bread in a loaf pan.  It gives the bread a different shape, but I honestly think the tender crumb and beautiful appearance makes up for not having a free-standing loaf.

Try the recipe and let me know what you think!

After I add the wet and dry ingredients together, I mix the batter very, very gently - and just until incorporated. 

Then gently place in a greased loaf pan.  You could smooth the top of the batter at this point, but I like the interest the "craggy" top gives the bread.  Your choice!

The bread, just out of the oven.

Ready for a pat of butter - and maybe a wee bit of honey? 

Yum!  Happy Late St. Patrick's Day!

Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup mixed light and dark raisins, and cranraisins, soaked in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes and drained
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease a 9 by 5-inch bread pan.  In food processor bowl, place the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Pulse in the butter until combined.  Pour dry/butter mixture into a bowl.  (Alternatively, you could place the dry ingredients in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry blender). Stir in raisins.

Add the buttermilk, vanilla and egg to the flour mixture. Stir just until well moistened.  Place batter into prepared pan.

Bake for one hour. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, March 21, 2014

How to Make Fresh, Homemade Pasta

Ever since I read my first Amish cookbook when I was a young teenager, I have been fascinated with the idea of making my own pasta, and I've made several batches over the years that have been fairly - but not wildly - successful.

A couple of years ago, Charlie got me a beautiful pasta roller for Christmas.  The first batch I tried with the new pasta roller didn't turn out so well - but I figured if I practiced more the process would probably get easier.

When I made this latest batch of pasta a couple of days ago, it turned out beautifully - and the taste, flavor and texture was out of this world.  I am so excited to share what I've learned with you.

The wonderful thing about it is that pasta really is easy to make.  Unlike pastry, bread and other doughs, pasta dough isn't too fussy.  You can make good pasta with a rolling pin and a knife, though it is pretty handy to have a pasta roller.

The only ingredients you really need are flour and eggs.  I have tried making pasta with just all purpose flour, with whole wheat flour and with a mix of semolina and all purpose flours.  We seem to most enjoy the pasta made with the mix of semolina and AP flour - I thought it was easier to work with, and the cooked pasta has a great heartiness and texture.  

It wasn't hard to find the semolina flour; I just found it at a local grocery store in the baking aisle.  But you don't have to have the semolina flour - you can experiment with all purpose, whole wheat, spelt, durum, buckwheat or white wheat flour, ect... to find just the right pasta dough for you.

Lets get started!  You can make your pasta dough by hand on the table:

Or start with a stand mixer with a dough hook.  The basic object is to work the eggs into the flour and create a ball of dough.

The ball of dough before kneading - it is rough and lumpy looking.

Time to knead!  Knead for at least three minutes by hand;

until the dough forms a smooth ball.   If for some reason your dough feels a bit dry after you’ve been kneading it for a minute, wet your hands and add that small amount of water into it.  Or, if it is too wet, work in a tiny bit of flour. 

 A smooth ball of pasta dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter top for an hour.

 After the hour is up, remove the plastic wrap and flatten the dough into a disc. 

Using a knife or a dough cutter, cut the disc into 8 equal portions. 

Take one of the portions and flatten it into a rectangle-type shape (it doesn't have to be perfect).

Take that rectangularish piece of dough and run it through your pasta roller on the widest setting (on my pasta roller, it is setting #1).  Fold the dough in thirds, and run it through the roller, fold it into thirds, and repeat this process four or five times at this setting. 

Close the rollers a couple of clicks and continue running the piece of dough through the roller a couple of times (no folding now).  Close another click and repeat.

As you continue this process, you will see how the sheet of pasta gets longer and longer. 

This is about as long as I can handle without wrecking the sheet of pasta.  I also experimented by cutting this pasta sheet in half and rolling it through in half sections - it was a lot easier to handle.  Try it if you are having problems!  By the way, notice how you can see my fingers behind the dough at the top of the photo?  This is the perfect thickness: the dough isn't translucent but you can see outlines behind it.

A counter full of fresh pasta sheets.  I let them dry for 10 to 20 minutes before cutting them. 

To cut, you can either use a knife, or if you have a pasta roller with a cutter attachment, use that - it makes perfect pieces of pasta.  On the pasta roller, place handle in desired cutting attachment, and roll the pasta through.  This time I made fettuccine pasta. 

Lay the pasta out a wire rack.  Prepare pasta bringing a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is rapidly boiling, place the pasta into the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until al dente.

Drain pasta and toss with your favorite sauce, or serve as desired.

Though it isn't a great picture, I fixed up this pasta by: sauteing 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, three pieces of bacon, chopped, 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced, salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper flakes.  After the garlic was fragrant, I added the pasta and stirred it all together.  Top with fresh minced parsley (not pictured because I came up with the parsley idea after I took this photo) and enjoy!  It tasted delicious and was a great hit with Charlie, too

Fresh, Homemade Pasta

  • 7 ounces (or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
  • 7 ounces (or about 1 to 1 1/2 cups) semolina flour
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
Note: instead of the semolina flour, you could use 14 ounces all purpose flour, or half AP flour and half whole wheat, ect... my directions will be for AP and semolina flours.

First of all, decide if you are going to make the dough entirely by hand or if you will use a stand mixer to bring together the dough initially.

If using a stand mixer, mix together the AP flour and semolina flour in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a dough hook, stir on low speed until the dough is well mixed.  I ran the mixer on medium speed for a couple of minutes, or until all of the dough came together into a ball. 

If you are making the dough entirely by hand, on your counter top, place the flours in a mound shape, make a well in the center, and crack the eggs into the well.  Use your fingers to gradually draw the dry ingredients into the center, mixing them with the eggs.  Use a bowl scraper or dough scraper to help you draw it all together.  The dough will be hard to mix at first, but keep working with it and eventually it will come together and be relatively smooth.

Now, for both stand mixer and by hand directions; here they both come together into one set of directions.

Place your ball of dough on the counter.  Knead the dough with the heel of your hand for at least three minutes until the dough is very smooth. The dough should not feel sticky.  If it sticks to your fingers, knead in a small amount of flour, just enough so your fingers come away clean when you pull them away.  The dough should also not feel too dry; if it feels bit dry after you’ve been kneading it for a minute, wet your hands and add that small amount of water into it.  After the dough is kneaded into a smooth ball, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.  A handy thing to know is that you can keep the dough for several hours at room temperature if need be - but don't make it the night before or it will turn an icky gray color, even if refrigerated.

Now, it is time to roll out the pasta!  On a lightly floured surface, cut the dough into eight pieces.  Cover these pieces of dough with plastic wrap or a towel.  Working one piece at a time, fashion each piece into a rectangular shape, then pass it through your pasta machine on the widest setting (usually #1).  Fold the dough in thirds (do this by folding one side of the piece of dough toward the middle, then fold the other side over that to form three layers).  Press lightly on the top of the piece of dough to seal it.

Feed the dough through the roller, starting with one of the open sides.  Repeat the folding and rolling through the roller technique on the widest setting for four or five times.

Now it is time to start rolling the dough thinner.  Without folding now, continue passing the pasta through the machine, turning the dial of the rollers down a couple of notches with each pass (dust them very lightly with flour or semolina if the dough is sticking) until you’ve reached the desired thickness. As I said earlier, if the sheet of pasta gets too long, you can cut it in half with a knife or a dough scraper.

To roll out the pasta dough by hand, use a floured surface and a rolling pin and roll out to desired thickness.  This is tough, but keep with it!  The dough will eventually get thinner. 

Then, if you wish to make fettuccine or spaghetti, use the pasta cutter attachment to cut the sheets into the desired thickness (my pasta roller came with a fettuccine and spaghetti cutter attachment, there are a host of others available to purchase as well), or cut the pasta by hand on the counter top with a long sharp knife to whatever size strands or shapes you want. A trick I learned about cutting the pasta dough by hand is to roll the sheet of pasta into a tight tube, and cut it that way (think of rolling and making cinnamon rolls - this will give you pretty perfect strands of pasta). 

Once rolled and cut, fresh pasta can be laid it on a semolina- or flour-dusted baking sheet or linen kitchen towel, until ready to boil. Or drape it over something, such as a wire rack or pasta drying rack until ready to use.

Prepare pasta bringing a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is rapidly boiling, place the pasta into the water and cook for 3-5 minutes or until al dente.

The great thing about fresh homemade pasta is that you can experiment to your heart's delight. How about a flavored pasta dough?  Maybe some chopped fresh herbs, or fresh minced garlic, or freshly ground black pepper, or different flours, or some cooked spinach, or.....hmmm, what else?

What will you do with your fresh homemade pasta? And what will you top it with??


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