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Making Hand-Pulled Noodles

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Much thanks pointclick. You gave me some definite answers during a lot of contradicting information. I read your post before trying out the dough this morning so I knew it probably wasn't going to work now. But I still tried. Good to know that while salt and an alkaline help, they are not the key to the stretching of the dough.


The dough in the morning did stretch a lot better. But still broke before getting an arms width. This wasn't for the final stretching, but preliminairy stretching where you'd twirl it back together, to stretch it out and twirl it back in the opposite direction. To further help stretch the gluten in a single direction for the final stretching.


I do like the point if low protein flours make for more stretchty doughs, but that the high protein flour makes for far better tasting noodles. So all the extra effort will be rewarded in the end. However since I live in the Netherlands. I can't get the specific 15% protein flour you mentioned. If I would go through the effort of getting Hummer flour, I might as well get the flour they use for noodles in asia, which I actually might. I have wondered if just adding some whey protein powder would help with the stretching, but if extra gluten won't help just protein powder also won't, very good to know.


The entire point of being able to do this, for me. Is to be able to make noodles better than in stores and restaurants, just with my own hands. So perhaps a noodle machine won't be for me. But the point I'll take from it is that the dough needs far more initial kneading. I've heard people say it needs 20 to 30 minutes. But for my next attempt I'll try an hour and see if after another hour of rest even the 12% protein flour becomes more stretchy.



What I picked up though on actual noodle stretching technique is to tug in small spurts, to stretch a little and then letting off before stretching again. And also that during the final stretching to twist the hands a little. You probably already knew that pointclick, but just in case.


Edit: Knowing that a sulphite will help further relax the dough is also a good tip. I might try and get my hands on some sukpher dioxide or something else to help relax the dough eventually.

Edited by Daikath (log)

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Based on the law of Newtonian physics, it is impossible to pull noodles successfully. Unless you can achieve 100 % purity, 100% uniformity of dough diameter, which is not possible, the weakest link  in the thread of noodles will always fail much quicker and break immediately.  

However, it is interesting that the Chinese pulled noodles technique  has created a non-newtonian condition with dough/water mixture and the dough can  behave in a very strange way. Check out youtube about other non-Newtonian videos.


That is the key, I believe, to the whole puzzlement why you fail to pull noodles successfully after a hundred experiments.






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I have no idea if this is still interesting to people besides me. Still no success but I do think I gained an insigh into how water and flour works to becomes dough together, insights needed to help be able to pull off chinese hand pulled noodles. But since I'm a huge amateur, a big disclaimer applies. But this is my process of trying to make sense of videos found online, recipes and other online info on it. 

     If it becomes annoying though, let me know.


Okay, did another attempt. Still no usable dough though(hee hee), but different reactions and several theories. I changed my set up significantly, so different results which may give some insight into the process of  working flour and water to the point of stretchable noodles.


I took lukewarm water to work the flour with. But since it cooled down quickly with the room temperature flour I don't think it made a difference. I did however keep kneading the dough in a glass bowl. I think this made a big difference as to my usual cutting board. Since the cutting board has all kinds of knife marks, it has much more grip. I need to keep adding flour to keep it from sticking, altering the water to flour ratio. Having kept it in a glass bowl, there was less to stick ot. And eventually it stopped sticking, becoming more gum like itself. 


Since I kept kneading for a hour I did feel the dough become less sticky and more gum like. Especially contrasting with how sticky it was in the beginning. It becoming more rigid over time without having had a change in water or flour content. So it was the gluten reacting and changing then.


After having let it rest for a hour, it however became far less sticky. It really felt more like a gum consistency.. From the videos I saw there now was the second kneading stage by stretching it out once and then twirling it back to stretch it out and twirl ti back the opposite direction. They said it was to stretch out the gluten and allign it all into one direction.


Granted though they did all use a bigger piece of dough, but when they twirled it back, it stuck to itself (and even the vieo hosts arms when it touched that, it wasn't sticking to my fingers anymore either). So I would have to press it down to force it to become one piece of dough and not see a big fold. When stretching this is important, because you need one piece of dough, since a thousand seperate strands break far easier than one.


I am wondering why that is, it could be because I would need a bigger water to flour ratio. But could also be because  I wroked the gluten too hard. I will do a new attempt tomorrow, but without the alkeline affecting the gluten, do it in a glass bowl so I wont have to add flour to keep it from sticking and I'll stop at 20 minutes kneading, and at 20 minutes rest. To see if it is still sticky after having rested., if having left the gluten alone for longer would be more effective and that working the gluten more is more usefull at the second kneading stage. Where you would allign it in a specific direction(otherwise, maybe more water).


Dcarch. I did think about non newtonian physics and dough. The classic example of non newtonian physics I can think of are mythbusters walking over custard. The liquid suddenly turning solid so they walk over it, if they are quick. The reason that works was because the sudden impact would press the water out of the other custard ingredients. So briefly, you are left with a solid. With enough force any liquid would become a non newtonian liquid, crash on water hard enough and it'll act like concrete. I think that this is why they bang the dough as they stretch it. the banging impacts making it act more like a non newtonian liquid.

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Another video, where you see the dough is still more gummy after having rested. Also good to see another beginner making mistakes, so you can tell it's more technique rather then dough. Technique requires folding the dough and stretching it out in one direction first, then twirling when it has softened up to further stretch the gluten into a direction before the final stretch into super thin noodles.



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Part 3 of the same video is very helpful:  


It shows that with a good dough even a novice can pull really thin and even noodles (much better than I did).


I suspect that they add alkaline water to make the dough less sticky.  In my attempts when the dough was in a pullable state it was so sticky than it couldn't be operated on.  Yesterday I added some alkaline water and it did reduce the stickiness which made the dough more pullable.

Edited by pointclick (log)
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I did another attempt. not adding alkaline and following the recipe exactly. But this time just kneading in a glass bowl, not adding extra dusting flour.


At first everything seemed fine, but after having let it rest to begin the second stage of kneading it felt firmer then what I saw in videos.


Since in some videos I saw them adding some water during the second stage I tried to do that to make it stickier. Everything did hold together better while sticky and was able to stretch better, because i was pulling on the entire thing and not seperate strand which haven't come together yet.

I did wonder since I'm working with a smaller piece of practise though I couldn't pull it an arm's width during the second stage because there wasn't enough dough to handle. So I would knead it longer in a more traditional way before folding it back. But after 20 minutes I can't say I felt it becoming more stretchy.


Since in some videos I saw the experienced noodle pullers told beginners to do it faster I went and pulled it faster. It helped some. But not enough.



Next attempt will be to add more water to the flour initially. I did rule it out before, but that was before I saw the dough hardening whilst kneading it in a glass bowl. See If having worked the gluten more will make it more of the consistency during the second kneading phase I saw in videos.



After that I don't know what I'm doing wrong lol. I'll have to wait until I see someone give me more information.

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Also pointclick, when kneading duyring the second kneading stage. I see them working with very sticky dough (it even kept sticking onto the arm of a novice when it acidentally touched). Only when finally  making the noodles they cover the dough in flour to keep it from sticking.

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I did another test where I changed the water to flour ratio.


First I worked off the recipe from tinyurbankitchen wich states a ratio of 100g of water to 167g of flour. I changed it to 100g of water to 150g of flour.


That was too wet. but the dough was a lot more streachable than before. For now I'm guessing this was my problem now, the dough wasn't wet enough. It was a lot stretchier now. But was so sticky it was not workable. I had to knead it with a spoon beforehand and stuck so much to my hands the second time  I really got nowhere. Though in a movie I saw during the second stage he still needed a spatulat to get it unstock from the kneading surface. not sure what the right propotrion is yet. I might go back to 100g to 150g later. Maybe covering your hands in water with a little bit of vegetable oil was the trick of working with this dough (also smearing the kneading surface with that to prevent it from sticking to that).


My next attempt though I'll try to get a ratio of 100g of water to 160g of flour and see how workable and stretchy that dough is after having rested.

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@DaikathYes, when the dough is so sticky, dusting with flour doesn't help at all.  However, I think 100g water to 150g flour is too much.  In my case 50% water ratio would make it sticky enough when pressed with a noodle machine.


I think now I know what is the purpose of alkaline water.  In one of my attempts, a few drops of alkaline water made the 50% water ratio dough much less sticky to the degree that it became completely operable and could be pulled evenly -- the most successful I've ever tried.  

Edited by pointclick (log)
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Tried 100g water to 160g of the 12% protein wheat flower. Promising  after having let it rest how much it stuck to the glass bowl, but during the secondary kneading stage i couldnt stretch it evenly. I could stretch it more thajn before, so that is good. But by the time I noticed the dough becoming less sticky, it stil didnt stretch evenly.


The way I see properly dough stretch in videos, it isnt that hard to get it to stretch evenly, but i had tio press down too hard to get it to stretch, so it was thinner at the ends, so when i put it back together it's uneven since the ends are thinner. I tried getting it to stretch with a lighter tough, but it didn;t take. Banging it on the counter below did help somewhat, but not enough.


Will try 100g of water to 155g of flour next time. See if the dough becomes both workable and stretchy enough before the gluten stops it from being sticky. I also find it very interesting @pointclick, your idea of an alkaline making the sticky dough with more water workable without sacreficing stretchyness. If that ratio still doesn't work, will try 100g water to 150g flour again but see how the alkaline effects the workability of the dough.

Edited by Daikath (log)
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Had a major breakthrough trying out a dough with 100g of water and 155g of 12% protein wheat flour.


I was able to stretch it out and twirl it back together after having let it rest. But it did end up being too hard to handle. 


I did another attempt but with an alkaline in the water, I then kneaded it for 30 minutes and let it rest for a hour. It was a lot more workable. I could stretch it out quick at first and then twirled it back. But after having  stretched and twirled it for a while I felt it tense up, I had to bounce them up and down slowly in order to stretch the dough without breaking.


Then the twist in it helps bringing it back together in the end even as it becomes less sticky (at least with this dough consistency).


But by the time the gluten were all worked and you could tell the dough was done, by becoming less and less sticky. It still wasn't stretchy enough to pull noodles.


Will try another attempt with 100g of alkaline water and 150 grams of 12% wheat flour. Kneading it for 15 minutes and then letting it rest for a hour and see how that dough behaves.


Another good video I found was this one. I think the dough looks wetter than my dough at 155g of flour. So this is also why I think it needs more water in the mixture. But it also talks about the dough needing to rest for 6 hours... Much higher than other resting times I've seen. But they also don't mention an alkaline.




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Just as another attempt at dough is resting. I might have a very big clue to proper noodles figured out.  At 2:30 he mentions kneading it in a single direction during the first kneading stage... Whereas I thought you only needed to align is in the second kneading stage. (he also mentions cake flour,, btu then says glutinous.. and then shows a noodle flower.. Im asuumign that is more like breadflour then). Aftert doing that it is a lot more strecthy even without a second stretching and twirling kneading stage. (He does mentions an alkaline)



I see that confirmed with this video. At the two minutes mark, you also see him kneading the dough in one direction.(though you don't see a lot of it)



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I found this video which covered the entire process from beginning to end in 15 minutes: 


I guess kneading direction doesn't matter.  Just knead like a noodle pressing machine.  And he applied PengHui water twice in the video.

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There is no single technique which works though. Since I don't see them resting the dough, while others rest till 6 hours... But I haven't seen such a complete video yet, usually it's the second kneading stage right before they pul but not the complete process. Very nice find.

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