Have you joined the MamaLand Empire?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Not bread, but like bread… it’s homemade SEITAN!

So much like bread that I had to throw it in here, instead of my regular blog where I put other supper-making types of things.

For Thursday night’s vegan meal, I was inspired by Penny (her real name?) of Penniless Parenting to make homemade seitan for a stir-fry.  I supplemented Penny’s directions with some instructions I found here.  There are lots of recipes for seitan online, but most call for Vital Wheat Gluten and I threw ours away (a big bag, too - what a waste!) last week because the mice seemed to enjoy it more than we had.  Penny’s and the other site were most helpful because they give directions for starting with actual wheat FLOUR.

Flour, as we all know, has two main components:  starch and gluten.  Making seitan involves separating these parts in the most utterly magical way.

You start with a VERY basic bread dough:  flour and water.  No particular quantity is required; I started with 1 kg of flour and enough water to make a pretty stiff dough.

glutes 002 

The Blooper Reel:  Then, I combined the ingredients to make a rough dough, squished it around a bit until it stuck together, then filled the bowl with water.  DISASTER!  Just as you’d expect, the ball began to dissolve into the water until there were just chunks of dough floating around.  Aaargh!  (did I mention I was fasting as I did this yesterday?  doubly frustrating!)

So I poured the whole mess into a sieve and started over – adding enough flour to make the ball into a cohesive whole once again.  Phew!  Disaster averted!

I kneaded it on the table for a while, probably 8-10 minutes, bringing the total “time since mixing” over 18 minutes; as a Jew, I know that’s the amount of time it takes for gluten to really “activate.”  I wouldn’t recommend doing anything to the ball before 18 minutes are up.

Here’s what it looked like after kneading – pretty smooth dough:

glutes 003 

NOW, I carefully (gingerly, fearfully) submerged it in water and began to knead.  Gently!

glutes 004

Whaddya know?  It kind of stuck together.  At least, it didn’t fall apart too much, and I could actually start seeing the emerging structure of the gluten as the water turned milky.  The whiteness is caused by the wheat starch in the flour,  fleeing the developing gluten matrix.  Magical, right?

 glutes 005 

After a few times of pouring out the kneading water and refilling the bowl, I decided to just knead the thing in the sieve under running water.  It took a while, but kept getting cleaner and cleaner:

glutes 006 

Here’s what I was left with after about 20 minutes.  No more starchy runoff, just a globby, blobby mass.

glutes 007 

I pressed this blob flat in the sieve to squeeze out excess water:

glutes 008 

Indeed, here was the promised “silly-putty” texture!  Weird.  Kind of like chewing gum, too.  Dense and very stretchy.  This is NOT a hole; this is my finger stretching the gluten, but it didn’t break.  It’s like the most over-kneaded bread dough you could ever hope (or dread) to see.  (The unattractive bumps on the blob are from the holes in the sieve.)

This is SEITAN:

glutes 009 

I tried seasoning at this point (salt, garlic, pepper, paprika), but couldn’t really work anything into the silly putty, so it all just kind of clung to the outside.

Now, I tore off “chicken-nugget” sized pieces of the seitan and pressed them out, longish and flattish.  It’s not very workable at this point, but I tried.

glutes 010 

Then I dropped the pieces into boiling broth…

glutes 011

… and let them simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  (I lost track of time; did I mention I was fasting?  This was very late in the day.)

 glutes 012 

When I fished out the pieces, they looked a bit like matzah balls: fluffy and full of water.

glutes 014 
Back to the sieve!

glutes 015 

Where I used this sophisticated weighting system to press out as much water as possible:

glutes 016 

… and finally, here’s what was left!  A plate of what we all agreed was a delicious tasting and miraculously-textured WHEAT MEAT.  A little spongy, but chewy and satisfying; fake chicken, fresher, moister and more delicious than you could ever buy in a store:

glutes 017

(okay, Elisheva said if it WAS chicken, she’d send it back as it had a bit of an “underdone” squishy texture)

 glutes 018

As I said, this is for Thursday, so the seitan is now sitting in the fridge awaiting our vegan stir-fry.  Mmm… I’m looking forward to it!

In general, this is a VERY inexpensive meat substitute.  For this much fake chicken, you’d probably pay $8-10 in a store.  But the trade-off is prep time:  this took at least an hour of full-time, hands-on attention.  I might be able to get the time down a bit with experience, but it’s always going to be work.

Nevertheless, (depending on  how the stir-fry turns out) it’s probably something worth doing again.

And as I’ve said before, it’s simply magical that a basic flour-and-water mixture can turn into so many completely different things, depending on what you do with it, how long you let it sit, whether you submerge it, boil it, steam it, bake it?  Wow.

3 comments:

  1. If it was spongy, the water was too hot. There can't be bubbles when you cook the seitan- its the bubbles that give it the fluffy texture. Try again, this time making sure that the fire under the broth is low enough so there are no bubbles in the water, because bubbles in the water is what makes it fluffy and mushy instead of dense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. :-)

    Anyway, it wasn't BAD. I will definitely make it again, taking your suggestion about the simmering to see what difference it makes to the texture.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete

Sorry folks, but I've had to enable comment moderation because of the extent of stoopid ASIAN spam arriving at this blog. I promise I'll get your comments up as soon as possible!