Folding the dough and re-rolling to strengthen the gluten
We've been itching to try our hand at making homemade soba noodles ever since we came across that article about it in the LA Times. It took us a while to track down the buckwheat flour (more on that below), but we finally found some and headed straight for the kitchen!So, about the buckwheat flour. The article recommends the stone-milled buckwheat flour from Cold Mountain, but I couldn't find this brand at any of the markets (Asian, Japanese, or otherwise) that I visited. The flour also doesn't seem to be available online.
The article also specifically warns against using Bob's Red Mill brand of buckwheat flour, which is by far the easiest brand to find! I finally settled on the buckwheat flour you see above, purchased at my local Asian market.
I measured out all the ingredients by weight, and combined them in a plastic bag. The flour seemed to absorb the water adequately and start to form a dough, so I turned it out on my board and started kneading.
And I kneaded and kneaded and kneaded, but this dough just kept getting stiffer and more cement-like. I added some water, but this didn't seem to help. I also switched to a rolling pin, thinking that rolling and folding the dough a few times might strengthen the gluten and help it to smooth out.
Unfortunately, this story does not have a happy ending! My arms gave out long before the dough became workable. The dough definitely smoothed out, but every time I folded it, it cracked and crumbled. It was also so stiff that that the thinnest I could roll it was a quarter-inch thick.
I blame the flour. The article in the LA Times says the way the buckwheat is grown, harvested, and milled is crucial to making soba, and I'm guessing the flour I bought wasn't quite up to par. I really wish this article gave other suggestions for good brands of buckwheat flour or even how to identify good flour verses not-so-good flour.
Have any of you made soba at home? Any brands of flour to recommend or suggestions for what I could do differently?
Read the Article: Making Soba Noodles the Easy Way from the LA Times
Related: What's the Difference? Soba, Udon, and Rice Noodles
(Images: Emma Christensen)