Making Seitan For The First Time

This confession might strike you as weird, but I've never made seitan before. You read that right.

There's an excuse for that though, and it's a pretty weak one. I didn't know about seitan until about a few months ago. I thought that the wheaten mock meats I found in the Asian grocery store were just not made at home because of some complicated process. Boo to me!

As soon as I found out about seitan bacon, I knew I had to make it. Why on Earth would I not try my hand at making some fake bacon? Especially when my eggplant bacon experiment did not produce desired results. That said, I set about looking for vital wheat gluten. I wanted a good brand that was reliable, produced consistent results and wasn't so crazily expensive it defeated the purpose of making it in the first place when I could just buy a bag of fake chicken pieces. So I went on iHerb, grabbed a bag of Bob's Red Mill's Vital Wheat Gluten (not cheap!) and waited patiently (Me? Patient? HA!) for the parcel to arrive.

Anyhow, I'm super-duper excited slash nervous about trying my hand at seitan. I mean, so many others have tried and failed, some rather spectacularly according to their reports. Surely my patisserie education won't fail me now? I'm not exactly known for following a recipe down to the very last letter, but I damn well will do my best at acing this... "this quest... mission... thing".

So, first things first, time to gather the ingredients. I'm gonna be making a small batch because if I screw up, at least I haven't ruined the entire bag of gluten, and besides, I'm going to be the only one eating this. I will be using this recipe as a basis to make the seitain ribs, omitting the chilli powder and using peanut butter instead of the tahini (I was not going to buy a whole jar of tahini for my first try). The author of the recipe also posted an informative explanation on how to make seitan and the different cooking methods. I decided to go with the baking method as it looked to be the easiest and most fail-proof and I could satisfy my craving for sticky barbecue ribs.

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 tbs each of parsley and thyme  (Instead of 1.5 Tbs of chilli powder)
1/8 tsp paprika
1.5 tbs onion powder
1.5 tbs garlic powder
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup water
1/8 cup peanut butter (instead of tahini)
3/4 tbs salt-reduced soy sauce (I only have regular soy sauce so I'm using less soy sauce than specified in the recipe to make it less salty)
1 tsp liquid smoke

Method - Part 1
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and mix well.
3. In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
4. Knead the dough lightly until everything is combined and the dough feels elastic.
5. Grease a tray and add the dough to the dish, flattening and stretching it out to fit the dish. Cut the strips to the desired width and lengths.
6. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes (thinner ribs will cook faster) or until the ribs have a sturdy texture.

Dry ingredients waiting for some tasty moisture. 

Popped this baby out of the bowl for some kneading.

After a few minutes of kneading. Feels quite wet and not elastic at all.

Still wet, but has achieved elasticity after about 15 minutes of kneading.

Method - Part 2
1. Recut the strips and carefully loosen the seitan from the base of the tray.
2. Place cast iron grill pan on stove at medium-high heat. Grease with some olive oil once hot enough.
3. Coat the top of the seitan with barbecue marinade, lift each piece with a spatula and flip it sauce-side down onto the grill.
4. Generously coat the other side with more marinade.
5. Cook until sufficiently brown on the underside before flipping it over. Cook until it achieves the same level of brownness.
6. Remove from pan and serve.

Coating with some homemade barbecue marinade after baking in oven for 50 minutes. 

Just keep grillin', grillin', grillin'...

Um... one good thing can be said about this... uh... dish - the sauce was awesome. Other than that... sorry, but this was a flop, literally. I had to force myself to eat the entire plate because I didn't want it to go to waste. Basically the end product ended up being extremely gummy, not at all like the chewy yet firm texture of ribs. It felt like I was eating a plate of chewed-up chewing gum, and each piece was floppy and squishy (EW!) 

What went wrong? Was it the wet to dry ingredient ratio? Was it the 15 minute kneading session? Should I have cooked it for longer? I asked around, and it turned out that the recipe I based this on had the wet to dry ratio at 1:1 rather than 3:4, hence the wet dough and excessive kneading to achieve required elasticity. The product was still quite wet when I put it in the pan and it might have worked better if I baked it for much longer so that it evaporated more of the water content but it was at the risk of burning into a crisp by the time I took it out of the oven. 

Lesson learned: LESS LIQUID! 

Shall be attempting seitan bacon next. Fingers crossed that recipe produces a better result.


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