Post reshared from: https://mashable.com, Essentials Week spotlights unexpected items that make our daily lives just a little bit better.My shoulders are aching. I’m a little out of breath. I can feel a faint sweat breaking out on my forehead. I’m trying not to sigh loudly, as my partner’s on a work call a few feet away. I wonder why I was so determined to host a dinner party for six when restaurants have just reopened for the fully vaccinated, what would have been wrong with just roasting a damn chicken, if I’ve ever cooked anything that was actually good, and most of all, if the dough in my hands is ever going to stop looking like a dusty, cracked heel at the height of summer. It’s always worked before, but there’s always a first time for everything. And then, barely another loop of anxiety spiraling later, the sad alien paste-rock has come to life, all pliable and springy with a sheen like a skincare influencer’s cheekbones. I have made pasta dough. Everything will be OK.If you think that sounds exhausting, imagine the stress I experience trying to make bread — a carb-centric kitchen project with a laundry list of terrifying variables, from working with some terrifying fermented goop or powder that’s literally alive to the moisture in the air and the steaminess of your oven. Fresh pasta is just eggs and soft 00 flour and your hands, and a shiny machine so simple a five-year-old can operate it. When the pandemic-induced project-baking frenzy swept the locked-down masses, my long-standing terror of it wasn’t mitigated by boredom or the need to keep my mind off the news. I adore baked goods, and I’m decent at cookies, but I can’t stand the feeling of putting in all that effort and then depositing my hard work into an oven to be graded by those unforgiving professors, physics and chemistry. Baking is uncertainty. Baking is a waiting game. Baking is like spending an hour crafting a super-casual text to your crush and then staring at those three little dots to find out if you’re getting a delicious treat or a sad disappointment.Pasta, on the other hand.Making fresh pasta is like having a conversation in person. You can read the room, adjust your approach. You can be precise in your measurements, zeroing out a scale and scooping fractions of egg white out for ideal hydration, or wing it with the basic ratio of one egg to 100 grams of flour. (This beautiful formula, unlike so many baking recipes found online, scoffs at the lumpy, absurd asymmetries of the imperial system. But it’s about 3.5 ounces, if you must.) With pasta, I get the satisfaction of a project cook, with the easygoing vibe of, say, pancakes. Every step of the way offers you multiple chances to see if anything’s going wrong, and to fix it. You can’t really over-knead egg pasta dough to unforgiving toughness, the way you can with bread or even over-mixed muffin batter; if it doesn’t seem right yet, keep kneading. If it’s too dry, you can add a spritz of water. If it’s too sticky, you can dust it with more flour at any stage from the kneading phase to cutting it into tagliatelle. When you begin feeding your flattened dough through the rollers of a pasta machine, you always start at zero and move up one number at a time, no room for impatience. If you mess it up, tear a hole or smush up the edges like some kind of horrible industrial accident, you can just fold that baby over onto itself and start again. You’re not laminating croissants here.And at the end of it all, you have dinner that cooks in literally a minute, and you’ve put enough work in that nobody will judge you if you dress it with nothing but butter and a flurry of parmesan. But whether I do that, or go to the effort of making a quick pesto while my dough rests, or oven-roasted buttered tomato sauce, or a big pot of my family bolognese recipe for a full lasagna from scratch, even my shittiest, most ragged-looking pasta tastes nothing short of miraculous.I didn’t go into my pasta adventure this year a complete novice. My dad, the kind of cook who makes two old-fashioned English pork pies every Christmas and scents the house with stovetop chicken stock on Sundays, bought a pasta machine when I was about 11 and taught me and my sisters how to feed the little slabs into the machine’s sleek rollers. We’d take turns cranking them through over and over, catching the lengthening sheets slung across our forearms like fine silk, and hanging them over open cupboard doors to cure before cutting. I did the same with my stepdaughters earlier this year on a battered machine that had lost its handle, painstakingly turning the rollers with a pair of kitchen scissors jammed in the crank-hole and promising myself I would finally buy the shiny Marcato Atlas 150 I’d been eyeing for years.A pasta machine may be a unitasker, but it’s an old-fashioned one. There’s nothing like tightening a clamp on the kitchen bench and turning a handle to make the thing happen rather than flicking a switch — it makes me feel as accomplished as if I’d made butter in a churn between my knees. And as long as you resist the siren song of motorized units, you shouldn’t be shelling out more than about $80, even for the Ferrari of pasta makers.
The best bread machines for making your own fresh loaves at home
You don’t need the machine to get the full experience, though. Plan to roll it out by hand like an old Italian lady, and you can revel in how elemental it is. You dump two eggs into a shallow volcano of flour, whisk those yolks into a widening gyre of glossy, custardy goodness, and then spend 10 or so minutes mashing dry into wet and vice versa. Crushing fat globules around tiny grains, over and over again, brute-forcing a transformation on the molecular level with your bare hands, instead of the cold metal hook of a fancy stand mixer. (You can totally use a stand mixer, if you want. I’m not your nonna.) I have as much patience for meditation as I do for baking, but the mix of attention, physicality, and repetition that goes into kneading my pasta dough centers me. Most of all, I love that I can never quite pinpoint the moment when that ball of dough goes from Not Together to Together. Every time I make it, there’s a point at which it feels like it’s never going to happen — and then a few moments later I realize it’s starting to feel springy and alive and almost glowing up at me from the counter, reflecting light instead of absorbing it in the dull floury mass. It is, in microcosm, exactly the same as the feeling you have when you realize you are happier now than you were a few days or weeks or months ago, that contentment or joy has crept up on you and you desperately want to go and tell your old self that, yes, everything is going to be OK. And if it’s not, at least you have pasta.Even more essentialsI love my embarrassing lumbar support pillowThe wild world of VRChat is a joyful antidote to these dark timesTricking out your iOS group texts is worth the tiny bit of effortBose Open Earbuds are the best headphones for exercise and so much more Source: Read More