Monday, May 16, 2011

Chocolate Pasta: Take 1

Here's the problem with making chocolate pasta. It looks disgusting. Squid ink pasta, which I've seen on TV, is a really cool looking black pasta. That's what I thought chocolate pasta could look like. Unfortunately, chocolate is more brown than black, so almost every picture I'm going to put in this post will probably look...well, gross. But I promise it tasted good.

Why chocolate pasta? Last week, I completed my second-to-last semester of my Master's program. To kick off my temporary freedom, I thought I'd try my hand at chocolate pasta, a recipe that looked really awesome and totally bizarre. I can't remember when or how I came across the recipe, but once I read it, I knew it had to be done. The only question was a matter of time. Making the pasta isn't a labor intensive process, but when the heck was I going to eat an entire plate of chocolate pasta? Thankfully, a bunch of friends were coming to over to my place on Sunday for dinner, so it was the perfect time to try it out and get some feedback.

My friends planned to arrive around 7:15, so I began the process around 5:30 to allow time for rolling and cutting. The recipe uses a food processor to mix everything together, but mine only has a 2-cup capacity, and I was concerned about the processor overflowing. I decided to make the pasta in two batches, doing half the recipe in the processor at a time. I began by putting the flour, egg, cocoa, and powdered sugar into the processor. Then, I measured out the 30 grams of chocolate and put it in the microwave. 30 grams of chocolate is a lot smaller than I expected it to be. I melted the chocolate most of the way, stirred it around a bit, then spooned it into the processor. I closed the lid, pushed the button, and waited for the magic.

Except...nothing happened. I kept pressing the button, but nothing in the bowl moved. I heard a whirring sound each time, which led to further confusion. Finally, I realized I had completely forgotten to put the blade in the processor. This presented a bit of a dilemma. Should I: 1) try to squish the blade through everything and hope I don't make a huge mess; or 2) dump everything out of the bowl, put the blade inside, then put the ingredients back in. If you've read any of my posts to date, you can probably guess I went with option 1.

While the now-functional food processor did splash some egg around the inside of the lid, after a few seconds, the inside of the bowl went from this:

To this:

Hey, I warned you it would look gross.

Next, I had to knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth. Here's where my lack of thorough melting came back to haunt me. As I was pressing down on the dough, I felt bumps that were scratching my hands a bit. I picked out one of the bumps and discovered it was a piece of a chocolate chip that hadn't melted. I removed as many of those pieces as I could from the dough as I was nervous that whole pieces of chocolate chips in boiling water might cause the pasta to seize or something. Yeah, so it's not the most rational worry, but it still couldn't be a good thing.

After kneading for some time, my dough looked much smoother, though no less disgusting.

I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while I made the second batch of the dough. The recipe doesn't require any resting, but since it was going to be a while until I rolled out the dough and cut it, I figured sticking it in the fridge couldn't hurt. In retrospect, leaving it on the counter would probably have been better, but I don't think it really made a difference in the end.

I cleaned out the food processor and started to combine the ingredients again, this time making sure that the blade was in place before I started pouring things into the bowl. Also, this time around, I made sure to add a few extra grams of chocolate before melting it to account for the bit that stuck to the microwaveable bowl and I couldn't scrape off. This time, when I ran the food processor, the end result was much smoother and easier to work with, and even seemed a bit shinier. I kneaded it as before, this time without any annoying chocolate chip pieces. I wrapped it up, then went to kill some time for a while before rolling out the pasta.

Now, here's where some insanity kicks in. I don't have a pasta roller, but I do have a rolling pin. I thought to myself, "Hey, I could roll this out by hand, right? It's just like rolling out cookie dough, but thinner." So I tore off a piece of parchment paper, floured it lightly, then dumped the first batch of dough onto the paper. I rolled it out a bit, then folded it over onto itself, then repeated the process a few times. Then I started rolling out the dough in earnest, but the parchment paper kept bunching up. Then, the dough kept sticking to my rolling pin. Finally, I had the bright idea to roll out the dough between two pieces of wax paper, which worked reasonably well. I put all of my weight onto the rolling pin as I rolled, trying to get the pasta to a thickness similar to fettucini. There was a lot of straining and grunting as I tried to press the dough down. At one point, it started to feel a lot like a strenuous workout, which sounds really lame, but hey: don't judge me. Much.

Eventually, I ended up with a lengthy sheet of dough that was about as thin as I was going to get. I'd put a picture here, but it looks like all my images are blurry, so you'll have to imagine it. It's just like rolled out chocolate cookie dough. I set a pot of water to boil while I began cutting the dough. I pulled out a knife and cut strips of the dough on the wax paper, peeled them off, and put them on a nearby piece of parchment paper. As I peeled the strips of pasta away, they left behind some pieces of dough, an unfortunate side effect of the wax paper. Halfway through, I gave up on the wax paper, and peeled the whole thing off to finish the cutting on the parchment paper. This way, I would have an easier time peeling the individual pieces. When all the cutting was done, here's what the pasta looked like:

Once the water started to boil, I dropped in the pasta and set the timer for three minutes. The water quickly turned a disturbing shade of brown, but that's what you get when you dump cocoa in water. The timer went off, I removed the pasta with a spoon, and put it into a colander to drain. I then went about repeating the entire process with the second batch of dough, this time transferring the rolled out dough to the parchment paper before cutting it, so I could get all the "sticking to the surface" mess out of the way at the start. 10 minutes later, I had a complete batch of chocolate pasta, which I lightly dusted with some powdered sugar.

I served the plate of pasta to friends of mine and asked for some feedback. The general consensus was that the chocolate flavor was subtle, and that it tasted more like pasta with some chocolate in there somewhere vs. intensely flavored chocolate. I tried some myself, and I was forced to agree. I had envisioned chocolate pasta as this really rich chocolate dessert dish that also functioned as pasta. The way it stands right now, it doesn't really function that way. I'm not sure it functions as a main course either, since the chocolate flavor is strong enough that I think it would clash with some of the more traditional pasta sauces.

I asked my friends for some ideas on how to make the chocolate flavor more pronounced or how to make the dish as a whole be better. One suggested adding salt to the water (nowhere during this entire process did I use any salt). Another suggested putting some coffee in there somewhere, either in the original dough or the water. One popular idea was adding a raspberry sauce, hoping the tartness of the raspberries would both accentuate the subtle sweetness in the pasta and overall blend well. I liked that idea the most and will probably try it the next time I make this pasta. I'm also open to other ideas; leave them in the comments below.

Overall, what was my takeaway? Mainly, eating this chocolate pasta as a standalone isn't so great. It needs something really pull it together. But at the end of the day, I was satisfied with what I produced. I just hope the next time it'll be even better.

Oh, and rolling out pasta by hand? It can be painful. But totally worth it.
Chocolate Pasta (adapted from a recipe on "Instructables" which can be found here: Chocolate Pasta)

Remember that the chocolate flavor of this pasta is mild.
  • 1 cup of Plain Flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 60g (2oz) Dark Chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp Icing (Powdered) sugar
1) Add all the ingredients into your food processor and process until mixture forms into a ball.

2) Turn onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes until smooth.

3) Split the dough in half and work with half at a time. Flatten pasta out with hands slightly and roll on widest setting in pasta machine. Fold over, and repeat, occasionally changing the rolling width. As it gets closer to the thickness you want, you can drop the folding over step. (If you don't have a pasta machine, you can roll this out with a rolling pin.)

4) Once the pasta reaches the desired width, cut the pasta into whatever shapes you want. (I made something like fettucini, but the original recipe used spaghetti. Then again, I was using a knife and the original writer had pasta cutters and a roller)

5) Bring a pot of water to a boil, then drop the pasta into the water. Cook for about three minutes, though the cooking time may vary with the thickness of your pasta. Remove the pasta from the water and drain.

6) Serve as is, or dusted with powdered sugar. You could also add a sauce to it, but I didn't make one and I don't have one to offer yet.

1 comment:

  1. This is the website for the farmers' market here that sells chocolate pasta, and they have recipes. All of them are dessert. One is a kugel =)