Sunday, September 27, 2009

Experimentation Sunday: Homemade Seitan

I usually have to explain to people what seitan is. I've had it in restaurants, particularly at Horizons, Melt, and even at Ted's Montana Grill, where they serve a seitan veggie "burger" for those who don't want their famous bison. I've bought it from the grocery store (my both my local chains carry it, even though it's a bit cheaper at Whole Foods). I knew it was wheat protein -- it says so on the package-- and I knew it was good, but that's about it.

So to answer the question, I turned to the web. One of the first results, from, is about how to make seitan. Wait -- make seitan? I had to give it a try. I followed these instructions point-by-point. I'm so excited that I haven't eaten any yet; I couldn't wait to share. Alex, however, ate a piece with no flavoring and said it's great.

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 3/4 cup water or broth
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 6 cups broth for cooking
  • 3-4 slices onion (optional)
  • 2-3 slices ginger (optional)

I was pretty impressed that I found two kinds of wheat gluten in my grocery store. Later, I found out from my mom, that it's a common ingredient (a small amount at a time) in bread dough.

Uncooked seitan. Really, I never would have guessed.

Combine gluten flour and dry spices. Separately mix soy sauce and 3/4 cup broth.

Combine dry and liquid ingredients. You’ll want to use your hands, as the flour will start absorbing the liquid right away.

In my batches, though, the mix was plenty wet. You can see on my cutting board. The recipe on About warns not to use an electric mixer. The gluten has a rubbery, elastic consistency. You can knead it out and it will pull back in. It was really, really easy to mix by hand.

Knead the mix 10-15 times, then let it sit 5 minutes. Knead a few more times and cut into smaller chunks and stretch each piece out.

The recipe says the seitan will expand during cooking, so it’s best to start with thin cutlets. Mine didn’t expand a lot, so I’ll have to experiment with that. Also, don't worry about holes if you thin the seitan too much; indeed, none of the holes were present after cooking!

Add the seitan to broth in a large pot and bring to a slow simmer. They'll sink at first, then they'll float when they're done. Cover pot and cook for an hour or more.

It's done when the pieces firm up and float.

Mine were almost boiling over, even though I used a large stockpot and lots of broth. Next time, if I double the recipe, I might consider turning the burner off earlier (like the no-boil spaghetti) or dividing the seitan in half. There are tips in the the recipe I used about adding spices, onions, soy sauce, or fish and chicken flavoring, but I prefer to flavor my seitan with sauce. Yes, we love our sauce!

Probably should have kept a closer eye on this...

I cooled both my batches on the counter and put one in the fridge and one in the freezer. We'll be marinating and grilling seitan tonight -- I'll be sure to show you how it turns out!

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