Technical suggestions for a perfect product
When asked what the best properties for long-rising time flour are, millers often give different answers:
W that may differ by one hundred points, different water and protein absorption. The same can be said when defining the properties of biscuit or grissini flours.
Everyone agrees only on fresh pasta flour and the properties that it must have to obtain a perfect product. Experts give some definitions below.
«Fresh pasta indicates that pasta is produced with soft wheat flour, water and eggs. It is appreciated by the consumer for its quality, the authenticity of its ingredients and its simplicity. Pasta must have a homogeneous and shining colour with no dark points. The reduced thickness of dough must enhance the filling and favour both its palatability and melt in mouth property upon chewing».
«Flour represents the critical factor. Flour must combine together whiteness, homogeneous granulometry and the capacity of absorbing the kneading process liquids and eggs. Besides, flour must help make the dough elastic – in order to obtain different types of pasta – and highly waterproof in order not to soften because of water contained in the filling. Moreover, flour must ensure quick and perfect cooking of the product».
«Dough must prevent the shape from breaking apart or explode when the filling spills out into the cooking water; it must prevent the cooking water from “reaching” the filling, since this might mitigate the flavours of the ingredients».
«Fresh pasta flour must have a homogeneous calibration with no spots, be extremely white, so that pasta will not turn grey upon kneading and working. Good pasta must be porous, so that sauce can wrap and “impregnate” it».
These definitions are similar, which means that millers are well aware of the properties that raw materials for fresh pasta must have. However, only few mills succeed in properly (and continuously) producing this type of flour. Let us try to understand why.
It is necessary to have extremely white flours: the ash content of 0.40 on dry matter basis is the limit that shall not be exceeded. Therefore, milling diagrams are required in order to foresee the right number of semolina machines, as grinding generators of a high number of milling head passes.
R1 and C1 passes shall not contain bran particles. The wheat cleaning system must work perfectly: brushes, adjuster and calibrators shall remove any particle of dust, since the dough colour might turn grey, whatever the ash content is.
This means a perfect balance among the amount of wheat to be cleaned, the number of cleaning machines, sieving surfaces and the suction air that is filtered by a filtering and properly sized surface.
Very small wheat grains shall be removed to avoid “dotted” flours as well as “decayed” caryopsis which would cause black spots on the granular product, once they have been ground.
Moreover, it must be added that a “forced” cleaning process brought “to the limit” could produce quality flours that would, however, not be suitable for fresh pasta. It is necessary to have some technical knowledge about the hardness of grain blends that are ground to produce dough flour, knowing all too well that soft and hard mixtures produce different flours and that the best flours will hardly be produced by grinding grains with different hardness.
Finally, the quality and the quantity of flour proteins obtained by extraction must be taken into account: not only fresh pasta must remain yellow, but it must also be “rough” and hold the seasoning, without “blowing up” while boiling. For this reason, an appropriate flour calibration and an adequate protein content are required.
Flour and its important enzyme activity: falling numbers shall never be lower than 300 seconds, since pasta and gnocchi may run the risk of splitting apart. However, too high falling numbers could make the dough too “delicate”, if one considers the low values of damaged starch when flour passes through the milling head.
For all these reasons, fresh pasta flour can be made only in those milling systems that are perfectly sized and managed.