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And now, the key recipes for vegan meat substitutes…..
Gluten also called Seitan
My Current Method
When you want easy, choose this method. It took me a bit of trial and error but we now have seitan more often thanks to the ease of this method.
I consider this a technique rather than a recipe.
Use your stand mixer. The amount you make in each batch depends on the size and strength of your mixer. I have a Kitchen Aid Pro 600
It easily handles 4-6 pounds of gluten flour, plus the water needed. My previous Kitchen Aid was a smaller unit and 3 pounds its limit.
The Steps to Make Seitan with your stand mixer
- Prepare your mixer with the dough hook.
- Add one cup of water to your mixer bowl for each cup of gluten flour you intend to use.
- Now add one cup less of gluten flour to the water. (adding the water first ensures less of the flour sticks to the bowl) So, for 4 cups of gluten flour, use 4 cups of water and 3 cups of gluten flour at this point.
- Add any seasonings. I often make a beef-flavored product so use vegan beef-flavored seasoning.
- Start your mixer on the lowest speed and allow it to mix the flour into the water.
- Mix in the last cup of flour.
- Increase the speed to the 2nd speed and allow the mixer to knead the dough. Add water, if needed.
- Continue the kneading, adjusting the consistency by adding either a small amount of water or flour. The goal is a slightly sticky dough. When you press it with your finger, it should reform slightly.
- Stop when the dough reaches the right texture and has a little bounce back. Avoid over-kneading as gluten can become rubbery.
- At this point, I set a pot of water on the stove and allow the gluten to rest while the water comes to a boil.
- Carefully place the gluten (in one piece or break into several) into the water, cover, and reduce to a slow boil,
- Continue cooking for at least an hour. This helps form the gluten into a piece that can be cut into chunks, sliced into cutlets, or even ground into ground beef texture.
The mixing and kneading usually takes me about 15 minutes. Allowing for the rest time and boiling, you should plan at least two hours from start to being able to use in a recipe.
If you really want the best texture, I recommend putting it into a bowl, covering, and setting into the refrigerator overnight. You can also wrap it and freeze it for up to several months, if you choose.
The earlier method
Meat substitutes come in many forms and gluten is one form that can take many shapes. We love its versatility and real meaty texture.
Gluten can be made by simply mixing desired flavors with vital gluten with water. Although this will give a good product, we still prefer the longer method which we call by its alternative name, Seitan.
To create Seitan, begin with organic whole wheat flour.
Different brands contain varying protein levels. Experiment to see which provides the most volume of final product.
Mix water into the flour to make a sticky dough. It should be rather thick and will be difficult to work with, due to the sticky texture. Knead a few minutes. Your electric stand mixer will prove it’s worth now! However, if you don’t have one, don’t despair. Kneading by hand is quite effective.
Cover with a damp towel and let rest in a warm place for at least an hour.
Set up a wash area by the sink. We use two bowls and a catch pot. Fill the bowls with tepid water.
Hint: At this time, I also try to find a couple of volunteers (aka: children or teens) to assist with the next step.
Take a small amount of the rested dough and form it into a ball. Dip into one of your bowls and knead the ball under water. You will want to change your water when it becomes white. The white color is caused by the starch that you are extracting from the dough.
Be sure to rinse the bowl before refilling as the starch builds up quickly. It’s important that you need the gluten together, rather than pulling apart. Your goal is to create a lump of seitan.
Continue kneading under water, changing water as needed, until most of the starch is removed. At this point, your seitan will stretch a bit and resembles a stringy ball. It will stay together when dropped into a bowl.
Set your first aside and continue with the next. Repeat until all the gluten is washed.
At this point, I usually add water to the bowl of now washed gluten and knead it once again, to ensure most of the starch is removed.
The resulting product is raw gluten or seitan.
At this point, its versatility becomes clear. While many meat substitutes take various forms, gluten surpasses almost all other meat substitutes.
For most uses, I will now take a large pot filled with water and add the flavors I desire. Form seitan into sizes and relative shapes you desire and boil. Other methods include steam or dry bake. See individual recipes for the technique used for that recipe.
Purchase tofu or make your own, if you choose. (see video below). We wrap and freeze our blocks of tofu to get a chewier texture. Thaw, then squeeze out excess water. Your tofu is now ready to marinate, slice, cube or whatever the recipe calls for.
Tofu takes on the flavors of the foods you combine with it. While not as authentic as some meat substitutes, it works well in many recipes. In addition, the softer forms of tofu work well in dairy recipes.