How to make Seitan

When I first became a vegetarian, long ago, in high school, someone gave me this gourmet vegetarian cookbook, which was, for the most part WAY too gourmet to be useful, but it had some good stuff, including how to make seitan, which I had eaten once or twice, but knew nothing about, much less how to make it.

So here's what you do:

Take some (wheat) flour - after all seitan is just gluten, so it's pretty much gotta be wheat. Mix the flour with a little water until you have a stretchy dough, like bread dough. Knead it around a little to help develop the gluten. Maybe let it sit a little while too (I'm impatient and usually skip that step).

Wheat flour is basically just starch and gluten, and to get seitan, what you're going to do is... ready for this? RINSE the starch from the gluten. It's the strangest thing.

You take your ball of stretchy dough and... just... rinse it under the faucet (on low), or in a bowl of water, changed frequently (I do both, rinse under a dribble of water over a bowl in the sink). Keep stretching and kneading the doughy mess, so that the little bits of gluten will find each other and cling, and won't be washed away. This will also continuously bring starch to the surface of the ball, to be rinsed away. You'll see that the water coming off the dough is white and milky, and if this settles anywhere, like your bowl, or in the bottom of the sink, you'll see the starch grains settling out. It's wacky.

Gradually you'll start to notice a change. The mass of dough will become stretchier, kind of spongy, and a little sticky, even under the water. Keep rinsing until all the starch is gone and the water runs clear. Be patient, this takes a while.

When you're done, you'll need to cook your mass of seitan. It won't really slice until it's cooked. The cookbook recommended boiling it in vegetable broth, slicing it and storing it in the broth for snacking. I usually find that it's not quite done when I want to slice it -- so I slice it anyway, then boil it some more to make sure it's done, and well flavored. Like tofu, seitan is pretty flavorless unless you season it, but unlike most tofu, it's got a great chewy texture which is nice for meat eaters (or former meat eaters), and novel for those who do not crave meat.

I've since bought boxes of pure gluten, but have found that if you just mix it with water and knead, the lump of seitan is incredibly dense, and doesn't soak up flavor that well. I think kneading it underwater for a bit would help develop that porous texture that helps make it more spongy.

Good luck!

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