How to sheet ramen noodle dough properly
After mixing, 1st resting, rough forming, combining, and 2nd resting, we’ve come all the way here, nurturing and developing gluten structure of noodle dough, we finally have a pretty good gluten structure in our dough. So, from this point on, all we have to do is to thin the dough to a proper thickness for the size that’s good for your noodles.
But, we at Noodle Master Labs do thinning process in a particular way. So, let’s talk about how this is done on a ramen noodle machine.
What we need to watch out for in this process of thinning is again gluten structure. We cannot ruin it after all these efforts not damage it. But, we have to thin dough sheet by applying pressure on it by passing it through rollers. So, how do we do it?
After 2nd resting process, we need to carefully adjust roller gap to gradually thin the dough to a proper thickness.
Like in combining process, we again apply the rule of 70%, thinning dough sheet to about 70% of the original thickness. As far as operational speed is concerned, we want to do the smallest number of thinning as possible, but thinning dough at once may damage the gluten structure and cause noodle texture to be impaired. If we want to save the quality of noodle (not the time), applying 70% rule is ideal. (thinning at 70% of the original thickness at each round of thinning)
Another thing we need to point out when properly thinning dough sheet is this. Though we set a roller gap to thin dough sheet, the actual thickness of dough sheet may not always be the same as the roller gap. Because dough has elasticity, and it is normal to be thicker than the thickness you set as it will repel. So, after each time of thinning, we should measure the thickness with a caliper to check the discrepancy between roller gap and actual thickness of dough.
This table explains an example of a thinning process when making 1.5 mm squared noodles that are medium water content (31-38% to the weight of flour).
The estimated thickness is the sum of the previous difference plus the current roller gap. Because it is an estimated size, it does not necessarily mean that it turns out to be the actual size. These differences change, depending on various conditions such as flour types and water content.
As illustrated in this example, we often see the differences between set roller gaps and the actual size of dough sheet. So, we should measure the actual thickness as thinning of dough goes.
Then, we cut dough sheet into noodle strands next, but the type of noodle machine we use normally in ramen making is roll-type machine, which thins dough sheet before the dough enters a slitter cutter. So, in this example, we need to set a slitter cutter (determines a width of noodles) before thinning and cutting dough sheet.
Because it may be hard to estimate the actual thickness of dough, we again set the roller gap to a thickness that we expect to thin dough to the final thickness we want to thin and cut dough sheet.
After noodles come out, we need to measure the thickness to see if it is the thickness we want for our noodles. If it is thicker or thinner, we need to adjust the roller gap (narrower or wider) a bit to get the right thickness on noodles.
When measuring a noodle strand, we need to measure the thickness, not the width (width is determined by the cutter size).
And, I want to share the proper roller gaps in thinning operation for different types of ramen noodles (different hydration ratios) in this table. We share something similar in the other article for rough-forming and combining process, but these are proper roller gaps after dough sheets have gone through the combining process.
And, when it comes to thinning dough that’s medium to high in water content (31-45% hydration to the weight of flour), we need to talk about dusting, which is necessary to keep sheets of dough from sticking together. As dough sheet becomes thinner, it gets hard to peel off dough sheets stuck together. The higher the water content is, the easier it is to stick together, and the lower the moisture content, the less likely it is. For this reason, we do dusting during thinning and cutting processes so that dough sheets or noodles do not stick.
The flour we use for dusting is specialty starch that’s processed for dusting purpose. In Japan, there’s specialty starch mainly made of sago palm, but it is difficult to get a supply of it overseas. Some of our customers use corn starch and others, but because dusting powder may affect dough in a bad way or make boiling water to become dirty fast when cooking noodles, we need to pick a good dusting powder with these in mind.
After thinning dough sheet properly, we can finally cut dough sheets to have noodles. We’ll talk about cutting, sizes/shapes (thickness x width), etc. of noodles in another article.
Meanwhile, please feel free to contact me for any questions.
Ramen Chef/Instructor Jason
Over a decade, he’s worked as a ramen shop owner, chef, consultant and over the past few years, he’s been teaching ramen and udon at Yamato Ramen School in Singapore. He shares his expertise on noodle making and operational aspects of noodle restaurants.