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Soup

Making Hand-Pulled Noodles

219 posts in this topic

One more thing worth bearing in mind though: Leaving moist dough out at room temperature for this long may be concern from a food safety perspective. Or maybe not; I'm not sure how effective the salt and bicarbonate of soda are at preventing bacterial growth. In any case, if my understanding at this point is correct, it should be possible to cut down on the "curing" time of the dough by using flour with less gluten and/or making the noodles more alkaline.

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Try 31: Tried a "fast" batch with a whole tablespoon of lye water. No dice (what was I thinking?)

Try 32: Did a cold-rested batch last night just with Sainsbury's "taste the difference" 00-flour (11.5% protein), otherwise the same as my 30th attempt. I placed it outside the fridge for about an hour, but even so, the dough ended up a bit too elastic to be pulled. Adding a slight bit of water and a little more prolonged mixing and kneading sorted that out and once again I ended up with a nice stretchy dough (although the slightest bit more elastic than attempt 30). With the gluten development stage being fully refrigerated now, I have no more concerns from a food safety perspective.


Moving on to documenting my findings about pulling technique. With this dough being slightly more elastic, simply the fastest possible pull didn't do the trick, so I had to slow down a bit compared to my previous success. Apparently, the more elastic the dough, the more gentle the pull. Gently tugging seems to help a bit.

When doing a pull, you'll always want to bias your pull slightly to the thicker side of the noodles, if there is one, to help even them out. As before, dusting with flour helped prevent sticking, but it's still a bit tricky to keep the strands from twirling when bringing hands together to prepare for the next pull.


Edited by kleinebre (log)

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---With this dough being slightly more elastic, simply the fastest possible pull didn't do the trick,---

Too fast pulling may not be good because of "moment of inertia". The pulling force would be progressively weaker toward the center, giving you uneven strands.

I don't think food safety is of concern. Think sour dough.

dcarch

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Good point about the sour dough. Regarding the evenness of the strands, I'm pretty sure the starch in the flour plays a role there with the non-Newtonian fluid thing, helping the strands to stay pretty even by stressing them.

Had a good few hours on my pulling technique which also resulted in a different method of making the dough (and my fastest so far). I didn't use my mixer. I used plain flour and omitted the alkali altogether, so we're down to flour, water and salt now, taking us into 4000-year-old noodle recipe territory, back to a time when measurements were not precise and nobody knew chemistry. To quote mr. Ping:

"The secret ingredient is... Nothing"

Here's my "back to basics" method which I'd like to call:

==========
Kleinebre's Zen method for hand-pulled noodle dough (cue bamboo flute).

Mix flour and salt to taste (about 1%). Add water (5 flour:3 water by weight or 2:1 by volume) and gently mix. Don't knead. Play "how far can I stretch this" with the sticky dough. Gently pull it until it tears apart. Recombine length-wise, repeat several times until you get a feel for when the dough will tear. From then on reduce your pulling strength at that point

and fold and stretch again. You'll be able to stretch further and further. Whenever your dough starts feeling rubbery, rub it with water, then resume.

==========


Footnote: Water will evaporate from the dough. This will make the dough more elastic and less extensible. Adding water reverses this until you have the right balance. Once you start pulling many strands, water will evaporate quicker because the surface area of the dough is bigger. You'll need to add water more often then.

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Regarding pulling technique, there are a few videos that show bits of it nicely. There are minor variations in technique from one chef to another, and indeed different pulling styles, but I'll try to be faithful in my description below of Lan Zhou style:

- Roll dough into an even log. Dust your surface with flour and roll the log, moving two hands from the middle to the edges while stretching the log [video 2, 0:30-0:34]. You'll want a log slightly wider than shoulder width. (Optional: Once you have a nice even log, for flat noodles, flatten the log with the heel of your hand).

- With your left hand holding one side of the log between index and middle finger, palm facing up, stretch to full arms length. Bring both hands to centre position, place right-hand side of the noodle between middle finger and ring finger of the left hand. Twist the ends together. The dough will be hanging from either side of your left middle finger [video 1, 4:47-5:00]

- If any of the dough between your fingers has thinned out during the stretch, simply pull up the strands a bit and twist them together. This helps prevent strands snapping.

- Now, approaching the hanging strands with your right hand from UNDER your left hand, place the middle finger of your right hand between the strands. Target the centre of the folded strands to ensure even thickness of the strands. Pull out with your middle finger, right hand palm facing up (Some noodle chefs just use their index finger instead).

- After the pull, bring your hands together and hang the right-hand end over the middle finger of your left hand. (You'll notice the right-hand side of the strands has squeezed together slightly due to the pulling). Repeat to achieve the desired thickness, dragging the strands through flour on your working surface as needed. Any time you notice the dough hanging between your fingers thins out, simply lift up and twist together.

- When you're about to make your last pull, hang the right-hand side of the noodles not over your left middle finger, but over your left index finger. Then, to make the final pull, instead of just using your middle finger, use your full right hand [video 3, 1:27-1:30]. This helps prevent the noodles on the right-hand end from fusing.

Video 4 included as it shows a pretty nice overall summary of the technique from about 1:34 on.

1. How to make hand pulled noodle,

2. Hand pulled noodles,

3. Noodle pulling - Gordon Ramsay

4. Hand pulled noodle demonstration -


Edited by kleinebre (log)

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I have just tried the kleinebre method as above. I used 10.3% and 12.1% protein flour in a 50:50 blend with cold water in a 5 part flour to 3 part water ratio. I added a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. The dough was gently mixed and left to stand for 12 hours in a bowl covered with plastic film wrap.

Unfortunately the resultant dough was very short. After a lengthy period of kneading it was still very short. When pulled even very gently, the dough ripped. Furthermore, the dough had a very unappetising 'enzyme' aroma.

I will try again and keep you posted.

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ok, have just completed my second attempt. I have dough all over me, the kitchen worktop, the walls and the floor.

I kept to same recipe as above except that I made a larger batch and used my bread machine on the dough setting to knead the dough. A dough rest of one hour was incorporated into the dough setting. Temperature of the bread machine whilst proving was unknown but I would guess 20+ degrees or more.

I was able to work the dough this time and started to pull some noodles. However the dough remained short and ripped very easily. Therefore, no usable noodles were made.

I noticed that commercial noodles have potassium carbonate in them and some also contain sodium carbonate. I am not sure though that I wish to add a lot of chemicals to the dough. However, I may try a different approach. On the basis that the Chinese have been making wheat noodles for 2000+ years, I will try batch three using Spelt. An older form of wheat may have different properties more suitable for making noodles.


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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Wow, attempt three has been a massive success.

I used wholemeal spelt flour (older type of wheat flour) with warm water (temperature not measured) in a ratio of 5 parts flour to 3 parts water. I added half a teaspoon of salt and kneaded in the bread machine on the dough setting. It had 20min kneading followed by one hour proving (20+ degrees).

The dough came out very wet and sticky. However, I noticed immediately that it had elasticity. Within a short time of working the dough, I could pull the dough in the same manner as per the videos i.e. it could roll to shoulder length and then pull (in a quick movement) to arms length. Since the dough was wet, it's plasticity was not very good. However, there is room for improvement and I might need to adjust the dough / water proportions or water temperature or proving temperature. Once flour was added, the dough gained plasticity but lost some elasticity.

A definite success though and not bad for my third attempt. The flour btw was 13.3 % protein and was purchased at Sainsbury's. Approximately half of the batch was put aside and covered with plastic film for an eight hour rest.

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If you have got this far down this thread - well done. You must be craving hand pulled noodles! I should though re-cap a few points.

  • I live in the UK and 'cake flour' is not permitted here (or anywhere in Europe). The recipes online for noodles use cake flour.
  • The Chinese use a noodle agent. I wish to make natural noodles without the chemical additives (especial those which would normally be used to clean the drain).
  • The dough needs to have elasticity so that it will pull and plasticity so that it will retain it's shape. This is achieved by gluten in the dough which is formed from proteins contained in the flour.
  • The low protein 'cake' flour develops gluten because (as I understand it) of bleaching altering the chemistry of the flour (enabling the proteins that form gluten to more readily do so - thereby allowing a low protein flour to form gluten levels normally only achievable using high protein flour.
  • Low protein flours can also develop higher levels of protein if the gluten is developed using the 'Chorley' method.
My next steps will be to improve the spelt flour noodles and to make up some batches of dough with plain flour using the Chorley method. Hopefully this will result is some edible noodles.
Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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Correction to the above post:

The last bullet point should have read "low protein flour can also develop higher levels of gluten if the gluten is developed using the Chorley method".

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Hi,

I see you've progressed since I prepared this reply (egullet crashed yesterday):

==========
Yes, messy hobby isn't it Chelseabun ;)

Based on what I've found over time, my main suggestions would be -

- if your dough is too rubbery/elastic/bouncy, increase the moisture content of the dough a bit. If your dough is already very sticky, you may want to rub with a bit of oil instead. If you have a kitchen machine that can handle dough, you'll want to use it at this point to get your dough back to an even consistency.
- For now, you're in the early stages. Because of this, I'd suggest to always make two half-batches! This will allow you to compare what matters and what doesn't, as well as how big a deal each change is. It will also allow you to verify my claims below ;)
- Align the gluten: stretch and fold. stretch and fold. I must sound like mr. Miyagi (wax on, wax off) - I found this to be a BIG DEAL. Except for the times when/if you use a kitchen machine, always work on aligning the gluten when handling the dough.
- Rest the dough for a while after kneading. I found this, too, to be a BIG DEAL.

By now I've done many (a dozen or so) batches starting just from water and cheap plain flour, no chemicals added - not even salt. I'm generally resting/curing the dough for several hours nowadays, as opposed to getting straight into kneading and twirling. I've found that this several hour curing/resting/autolyze stage allow making noodles without any additional equipment at all and not requiring an obsessive amount of kneading, whilst without that autolyze stage, it would be Very Hard Work. Regarding salt vs no salt - I find it a small difference, in fact I've found my dough stretched slightly less when salted. However, I haven't fully researched the differences between adding salt to the dough early vs late in the process, nor if there is an optimum amount. For now I'd suggest, when in doubt, leave it out.

At this point, I'd in fact recommend the same for bicarbonate of soda for similar reasons: I've found adding potassium carbonate or sodium carbonate to the dough in the beginning makes for an essentially useless dough. Interestingly, I've seen a rub with a few drops of lye water near the end of the process (after having done a good bit of twirling etc) make an impressive difference.

You've noticed commercial noodles do have potassium carbonate in them. Still, they're more likely to be extruded than hand-pulled. Potassium carbonate does gives the dough a yellowish hue, which makes them look more like egg-noodles... but without the cost of eggs. (Ashes are a prime source of potassium carbonate. As you can imagine, potassium carbonate is literally dirt cheap. This also explains the "mugwort ash" thing).

Did anyone read the BBC article where they found a 4000 year old bowl of noodles? Apparently pulled, apparently made of two kinds of millet. I'd have chalked it up as a mistranslation of "spelt" but they even named the types of millet (fox millet and another). Doesn't make sense to me though... millet doesn't contain gluten. Colour me confused.
=====

So much for yesterday's reply. The bit I didn't fully understand was you mentioning the dough being "short". If by that you mean grainy, that's mostly solved by repeatedly stretching and folding.

Adding to that: Interesting to hear about your attempt with spelt. Haven't tried that myself at any point. Being in the UK as well, I had the same issue with the US "cake flour" thing - flour bleached the same way simply isn't for sale here in the UK. Apparently it's possible to approximate USA cake flour though. Google for "Kate flour", it's essentially a heat treatment and nothing else. I haven't tried making "kate flour" myself, as all traditional recipes I read pointed to higher-gluten flours. Regarding additive-free noodles, well you've just read the above.

Congratulations on your early success! Now to consistently repeat it... best of luck!

You mentioned you gave half of the batch an 8 hour rest but the other half was just proved for an hour - how did that compare for you, or did you recombine both batches?


Edited by kleinebre (log)
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@Chelseabun - Reading through your description above again, 12 hours proving might have been overdoing it slightly. I did a batch today but arrived home later than planned. The dough certainly took a turn for the worse. It took a lot more effort than usual to persuade the dough to stretch, and even then it didn't stretch very evenly. I'm tempted to try the spelt flour as well now. And egg noodles, for that matter.

Dough is a complex thing. It may be viscose, elastic, pastic. For clarity, in the posts I've written, these are the terms and meanings as I intended:

Elasticity: It may bounce back to its original shape;
Plastic: It may keep the shape it's shaped into; and
Viscose: It may "flow" from one shape to another.

Extensible: How far the dough can be pulled before breaking.

For making noodles I've found it important for the dough to have good plasticity and viscosity to permit it to be pulled (i.e. to make it extensible) - whereas too high elasticity ("bouncing back") seems to cause the dough to rip itself into pieces. At the same time, it is the elasticity of the dough that keeps it hanging together.

I do realise that in some other sources, the word "elasticity" is sometime being used to mean extensibility, sometimes to signify the "chewiness" or "al dente-ness" of the resulting noodles. In any case, I hope the above definitions will help clarify some of my former posts here.


Edited by kleinebre (log)
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Hi

I have read your posts with interest. I am very impressed with your work on this.

Don't worry about my first attempt to replicate your batch not working. It wasn't done very scientifically my end so doesn't really count - it was just a first go. I will be ordering up some equipment later (thermometer in particular) and will go again with it. I need to buy a new dough hook for my Kenwood chef and get out my food processor.

If you want to, look up 'Chorley' process online you will work out what I am doing with the food processor. I am going to order some powdered gluten to experiment with as well. I read up on 'Kate flour' but from experience with bread want to take the Chorley method.

Food scientists appear to have been working on methods of using cheap flour (i.e. low protein) in bread making (that usually requires expensive imported high protein flour) for many years. The cake flour method modifies the properties of the flour itself and the Chorley method is a different method of producing the gluten itself.

Don't worry about our different terminology for describing the dough. I know what you mean and you know what I mean so no probs.

Yesterday's eight hour batch turned out to be five hours (time restraints). Again it was not scientifically done but no difference was discernible.

The Spelt came from Sainsbury's probably next to the flour you have already been buying. I also purchase spelt from my local windmill (yes I do have one of those nearby) but I believe it might be a blend (I use it for my bread machine because it makes a wonderful brown loaf when mixed with strong white flour). For now I am staying with Sainsbury's flour products so that anything I make can be reproduced by others.

I read the BBC article too. Not sure what to make of it. I'll keep an open mind. On the subject of media, if you check out BBC I Player quickly the latest Chinese food made easy episode covers noodles (available until 11:59 on 9th June 2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00cv4gq/Chinese_Food_Made_Easy_Noodles_Dim_Sum_and_Dumplings/

Yes, egg noodles is on my menu too but I am working on plain noodles first. Once I have a useable base recipe for noodles, I also plan to add a touch of turmeric to the dough at the outset so as to get it a very slight colour (more appetising)


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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Ok, done a fourth batch. It is pretty much there now. The dough is nice and stretchy and I am getting close to the point where I can start making noodles from it. My technique isn't all that yet but everything is looking promising.



I looked up Chinese flour using Google translate. The flour I looked at said it had benzoyl peroxide 'applied'. So there you go, it looks like the Chinese use bleached flour as well.


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I saw a video online earlier where they used 1/3 'all purpose' flour to 2/3 semolina. Have not tried it but there is no reason that will not work - semolina I think is very high in gluten.

I will be doing batch five later. I will add approximately 20% of last nights dough into it as a sort of primer.

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Batch five was very good. It was stretchy and I was able to make my first attempt at pulling noodles.

batch 5.jpg

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boston windmill.jpg

This is my usual flour supplier. The flour is untreated unbleached organic stoneground flour.

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Batch five was very good. It was stretchy and I was able to make my first attempt at pulling noodles.

Looks very promising.

dcarch

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Many thanks.

Cake flour or any bleached flour is not permitted in the UK so i am working on making noodles using only unbleached flour (all purpose flour).

I am currently making approx. half pound batches using high protein flour, water and salt and formed into dough using my food processor. There is no recipe as there are too many variables and so i am monitoring it as it blends, adding more flour or water as required.

I hope you liked the photo of my local windmill. I added it to show how natural flour can be and that it may not be necessary to use highly processed flours and harsh chemicals to make noodles.


Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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I am still not able to pull noodles. I am not using oil, flour or water at the moment as i am looking to improve my technique first. I have embeded this video i made earlier kneading batch six. Let me know what you think please.

http://youtu.be/xRtB0gGgOvY

<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xRtB0gGgOvY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Edited by Chelseabun (log)

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I am still not able to pull noodles. I am not using oil, flour or water at the moment as i am looking to improve my technique first. I have embeded this video i made earlier kneading batch six. Let me know what you think please.

http://youtu.be/xRtB0gGgOvY

https://<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xRtB0gGgOvY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Interesting video. Thank you for your efforts so far.

Here is what I think possibly may be some of the important factors:

1. I am wondering if the pull action must be very quick. Possibly this may be some kind of "Non-Newtonian" property of the dough.

2. The initial folding and twisting must be done many many many times. This may not have much to do with glutton development, It allows the evening out of any defects in the dough therefore minimizing the "Weakest link in the Chain" problem.

dcarch

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At the end of yesterdays batch six, i tried an experiment by adding water to the dough to see how much water i could get into the batch. The result was surprising. Although it was very sticky, it was also very, very stretchy. We are talking 20 + folds without it tearing. Please see link to video http://youtu.be/Pd5Q2uzvqow

I then wrapped it in plastic film and rested until today. The dough was no longer very wet and was workable with surprising results. http://youtu.be/ndlMpTZfCYw

DSC_0530 ii.jpg

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I am giving myself a break from 'noodling'. The kitchen looks like a bakery and there is dried dough all over the house.

:-)

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I have just made up some dough using bleached general purpose flour. Its the first time I have ever used bleached flour and I was not sure what to expect. My biggest observation is that it smelt correct. it had the same smell that you get from packets of Ramen noodles. The colour was good too. However, it also remained uneven and blotchy no matter how much I kneaded it. Interesting, but this time unsuccessful.

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      For the last several years Cindy's* job has been to look after me. She takes care of my residence papers, my health insurance, my travel, my housing and associated repairs. She makes sure that I am supplied with sufficient cold beer at official banquets. And she does it all with terrific efficiency and great humour.
       
      This weekend she held her wedding banquet.
       
      Unlike in the west, this isn't held immediately after the marriage is formalised. In fact, she was legally married months ago. But the banquet is the symbolic, public declaration and not the soul-less civil servant stamping of papers that the legal part entails.
      So tonight, along with a few hundred other people, I rolled up to a local hotel at the appointed time. In my pocket was my 'hong bao' or red envelope in which I had deposited a suitable cash gift. That is the Chinese wedding gift protocol. You don't get 12 pop-up toasters here.
       
      I handed it over, then settled down, at a table with colleagues, to a 17 or 18 course dinner.
       
      Before we started, I spotted this red bedecked jar. Shaking, poking and sniffing revealed nothing.
       
       
      A few minutes later, a waitress turned up and opened and emptied the jar into a serving dish. Spicy pickled vegetables. Very vinegary, very hot, and very addictive. Allegedly pickled on the premises, this was just to amuse us as we waited for the real stuff to arrive.
       
       
      Then the serious stuff arrived. When I said 17 courses, I really meant 17 dishes. Chinese cuisine doesn't really do courses. Every thing is served at roughly the same time. But we had:
       
      Quail soup which I neglected to photograph.
       
      Roast duck
       
      Braised turtle
       
      Sticky rice with beef (the beef is lurking underneath)
       
      Steamed chicken
       
      Spicy, crispy shell-on prawns.
       
      Steamed pork belly slices with sliced taro
       
      Spicy squid
       
      Noodles
       
      Chinese Charcuterie (including ducks jaws (left) and duck hearts (right))
       
      Mixed vegetables
       
      Fish
       
      Cakes
       
      Fertility soup! This allegedly increases your fertility and ensures the first born (in China, only born) is a son. Why they are serving to me is anyone's guess. It would make more sense for the happy couple to drink the lot.
       
      Greenery
       
      Jiaozi
       
      There was a final serving of quartered oranges, but I guess you have seen pictures of oranges before.
       
      The happy couple. I wish them well.
       
      *Cindy is the English name she has adopted. Her Chinese name is more than usually difficult to pronounce. Many Chinese friends consider it a real tongue-twister.
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