If we’d followed standard ramen noodle making method and done 1st resting process, we should now have really good dough, which is waiting to go through the next process. We are now ready to start making it into form of noodles.
In standard processes of ramen noodle making, dough goes through certain processes to turn into sheets of dough after mixing. Mixing when done right produces dough that is still crumbles of dough. To make them into noodles, we first feed the dough into a set of rollers to rough sheet of dough. The process is called, “rough forming”. The dough is still fragile at this point. To make firm noodles, we need to apply a process, called “combining” to the dough.
First, the dough sheet is separated into 2 rolls of sheets, which are fed into the rollers simultaneously to be combined into a single sheet of dough. By combining 2 sheets of dough, the gluten structure of dough is strengthened and developed evenly.
Roller gap (clearance between 2 rollers) when doing rough forming varies, depending on water ratio of dough.
As dough of low water ratio noodle is small grain, the roller gap is set narrowly (about 1.0mm), but because dough of high water content noodle is large grain, the roller gap should be widened to about 2.0. By applying pressure appropriate for the type of dough (water ratio), it turns into clean good sheet of dough. After rough forming, dough is not yet firm as gluten structure hasn’t been developed. The gluten texture can not be developed even if it is sheeted through rollers by narrowing the roller gap gradually. So, we need to do combining process on dough after rough forming.
How this is done on a noodle machine is by separating dough sheet after rough forming into 2 separate sheets and winding them onto rolling pins. Feeding these sheets into the rollers at the same time applies good pressure on the dough where gluten structure is forged.
This combining process is usually done 1-2 times to ensure good development of gluten structure. Doing combining process less time does not develop gluten structure, but excessive combining damages gluten structure.
A tip for good combining process is setting proper roller gaps for each round of combining.
Narrowing the roller gap too much gives excessive load on dough, and it damages the gluten structure. A guideline for proper roller gap setting is about 70% of the original thickness.
This table below shows proper roller gap setting for dough after rough forming and combining at different water ratios. (unit of measurement in millimeter) Looking at the table, you can see that the roller gap is gradually widened as the dough goes through rough forming to combining processes.
If we follow the rule of gradually thinning dough to protect gluten structure (at 70% of the original thickness), why are we widening the roller gaps here? Isn’t feeding dough to wider roller gap doing anything to it?
Let me explain this with low water content noodle as an example. In 1st combining, we are putting 2 separate sheets of dough that has gone through rough forming at 1.0mm of roller gap. In other words, because we need to thin two sheets of 1.0mm of dough at the same time, the thickness of dough actually passing through the rollers is 2.0mm. As 70% of 2.0 mm is 1.4mm, the roll gap setting should be 1.5mm (rounded up for the sake of simplicity). In 2nd combining, we do the same calculation. Because we thin 2 sheets of dough which was thinned to 1.5mm at the same time, the thickness of dough actually passed through the rollers is 3.0mm. Applying 70% rule, the roll gap setting should be 2.0mm (3.0 x .7 = 2.1, which is rounded down for the sake of simplicity). Thus, the figures in the table above.
In actual processes of rough forming and combining done on a noodle machine:
- Rough forming
Feed dough (after mixing) to a set of rollers set at a thickness proper for water ratio of noodle to make rough sheet of dough. Feed dough into the rollers evenly continuously.
When sheet of dough comes out, wind it onto a rolling pin to make roll of dough sheet.
- 1st combining
Separate dough sheet and wind it onto another rolling pin to make 2 rolls of dough sheets (of about the same amount of dough). Feed an end of dough sheets to rollers. See the pictures.
- 2nd combining
Repeat the same as done in 1st combining.
After 2nd combining process, for better texture and flavor, 2nd resting process should be applied. We discuss it in another article.
If you have any questions about what’s talked about in this article, please feel free to contact me.