cooking

JOURNEY TO THE PERFECT HOMEMADE SEITAN

Kristen and I absolutely love cooking together. We’re always on the lookout for new recipes. We especially love discovering unique processes to make delicious meals. So, when I saw this video on how to make a vegan chicken substitute with only flour and water, I couldn’t wait to give it a try!

Growing up on a very meat-based diet, I had never even heard of seitan, and I’d only had the occasional tofu stir fry when there was nothing else available at my college dorm’s dining hall. To me, seitan was basically tofu’s lesser known cousin. To be honest, I kind of assumed that seitan’s lack of popularity was because it was difficult or expensive to make.

Kristen also had no idea that seitan was so easy to make, but, having experimented vegan and vegetarian diets throughout high school and college, she was much more familiar with its culinary applications! She was stoked to give this experiment a try.

The next time we were together, we followed the instructions in the video, mixed up some flour and water, and holy crap it actually worked! It was that simple! I felt like I had just learned I could make milk in my kitchen. Totally magical.

Unfortunately, it kind of went downhill from there. We totally drowned our little seitan blob in boiling soy sauce, and the result was a stupidly salty and nearly inedible nugget—though the texture was super promising! It was somewhat stringy with a nice chewiness to it, it made a way better meat substitute than tofu.

To be honest, we still kind of suck at making seitan, and we’re not going to subject you to any of our recipes until we’ve experimented more. However, we have pretty much nailed the process of making the raw seitan, so maybe you can try to develop your own recipes while we work out the kinks in ours!

Here is the flour washing process that works best for us:

Our Seitan Process

Ingredients:
Flour – Seitan is basically pure wheat gluten, protein that is found in wheat flour. It gets its stringy, chewy texture from long chains of this protein that form during the washing process. So when choosing your flour, the more gluten/protein the better. Bread flour is packed with protein, and it generally has a higher seitan yield, but all purpose flour that most people have on hand works fine as well. We’ve had success with both.
That’s it. I guess water is an ingredient too? We like to do this at our sink, because you’ll wind up running a lot of water through your seitan.

Supplies:
2 mixing bowls

Step 1: Prepping your flour
Measure out the amount of flour that you want into a mixing bowl. We find that 1.5-2 cups of flour yields about one chicken breast worth of seitan after washing.

Next, slowly start to add water to your flour while stirring. You want to get to a moist dough consistency. Think like a freshly opened can of Pillsbury biscuits.

Once you hit the right consistency, stir the dough until any dry clumps have been worked out.

With all clumps mixed in, cover the bowl in plastic wrap and let the dough sit for 45 minutes-1 hour to let the water fully absorb into the dough. This is also where those protein chains will start to form.

Step 2: Washing your dough
We always do this next step with two people. One person is going to be the kneader, and the other will be the washer/bowl holder.

After you’re done letting your dough sit, have the kneader start to knead and stretch the dough in the bowl with their hands. Remember, you’re trying to slowly build up chains of protein, so be careful not to stretch it or squeeze it to the point where you feel like you’re breaking it apart.

Next, have the washer place the bowl under a faucet in the sink. Slowly turn the cold water on for about 5 seconds while the kneader quickly shifts the dough back and forth between their hands. In this early phase, the protein chains aren’t very long or strong, and you can accidentally wash your dough away! Go easy on the water, and knead quickly to avoid losing your dough. A cloudy pool of water should form in your bowl.

Keep kneading the dough after the water is off. We find it is best for the kneader to try to lift all of the dough up out of the water, pass it back and forth from hand to hand for a while, and then quickly dip it into the pool of water in the bowl before pulling it out and repeating.

After about twenty seconds of this kneading and dipping, move the ball of dough into your other mixing bowl. Have your washer run some more water over the dough, and have the kneader continue juggling and dipping it. Don’t throw away the white water from this first wash! That’s the starch, and it can also be used for some sweet recipes (we’ll be posting a few soon). Another half a minute later, switch to the other bowl, rinse it, and knead and dip it. Your dough ball should start feeling firmer and squishier, like it rebounds a little bit when you squeeze it. You should be less and less worried about washing it away. Now the kneader can start to squeeze the dough a bit between passes to get out the excess water.

We usually do this four or five times, and by then the water coming from our dough ball is mostly clear, and the dough is much firmer than how it started out. Now, set your ball of dough into an empty bowl, and you have made your first batch of seitan!

Step 3: Cooking your seitan
Again, you’re kind of on your own here for now. Apparently you can do anything with seitan. We’ve steamed it, fried it, baked it, and boiled it, and we’ll have more recipes for you once we get our techniques down. For now, have some fun experimenting!

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