A pasta machine is a wonderful piece of equipment for making gum paste flowers, ribbons, tissue paper and strips for design elements. It saves a great deal of time and is worth the investment if you are creating cakes with gum paste or fondant design elements. Obviously, you would not need a pasta machine if the majority of your decorating is done with buttercream or royal icing. A pasta machine is definitely not required for gum paste success but it is perfect for creating consistent thickness in the medium.
You have to keep in mind that the machine will not make your finished strip wider than about 6 inches (which is standard for most machines) so if you need a piece that is wider you must use a rolling pin with rings or perfection strips.
The technique for rolling gum paste and fondant through a pasta machine is relatively simple. If your machine is brand new follow the instructions that come with it to get started. You also might want to roll a few practice strips through the rollers because sometimes a little black residue will come off the rollers during the first few uses.
- Always warm up and knead your gum paste or fondant before running it through the machine. You should also color the product before rolling it through as well. Some beginners also think that you simply put a ball of paste through and it magically turns into a thin strip on the other side. This is not the case and you will find your rollers all jammed up if you try to do it this way. You must roll the product out first to about an eighth of an inch thick taking care to remain within the width of the machine mouth. Dust the gum paste or fondant with cornstarch on both sides and the edges so it will feed through smoothly. Icing sugar can also be used for this but it can make your product dry if too much is applied. Some people recommend dusting your rollers too but this step is usually not necessary and can wreck the machine. Do not ever use shortening to help run the fondant or gum paste through because it simply gums up the machine, attracts dirt and is greasy. If your machine does not let the sheet go through then thin it out a little but more with the rolling pin.
- Run the strip through on the thickest setting and catch the piece on the other side taking care not to crease it. If there are creases or it is not as smooth as you wish it to repeat the step on the same thickness.
- Turn the control to the next thinnest setting and run the piece through again. Repeat this process gradually thinning the strip down until you have the desired thickness. You might have to dust the gum paste again during this process but try not to use too much cornstarch. Use the gum paste for your design elements taking care to keep unused pieces covered so they don't dry out and become less pliable.
- Take the time after to clean your pasta machine after using it with gum paste or fondant. There are many different schools of thought about the best way to take care of this type of equipment. It depends on what type of machine you have whether you want to roll towels or rags through the rollers to clean it. A hand-cranked machine is easier to clean and you can control the way the towel goes through. An electric machine can grab the cloth and if it isn't thin enough your rollers can completely jam on the fabric. If pieces of gum paste or fondant are lodged in the machine you often must wait for them to dry before removing them with a small brush. Toothbrushes are great tools to remove the cornstarch from your machine and some users simply put the machine away without cleaning it if cornstarch is the only product left on the rollers. They just wipe the exterior surfaces with a damp cloth. Take the time to read the enclosed instructions to see what is recommended and use your best judgment. Obviously, a well cared for piece of equipment will be in use longer than machines that are gummed up with a product. If you invest in a pasta machine it is prudent to make sure you can use it when you need to do so.