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Baked Seitan ("wheat meat" not for the gluten-averse) - NOW with video  RSS feed

 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I know for some people this can be a controversial topic, but I'm a vegetarian who like a bit of fake meat. I used to buy premade seitan and sausages and burger patties and stuff from the store, but I've slowly learned to make all my own. It's much cheaper, and in most cases the raw ingredients keep better than the prepared food, so I can keep everything on hand and not run out, which is a major consideration when we're an hour from the store. Plus, you can tailor the flavor and texture to be just what you have in mind for the dish you're making.

One of my fake-meat staples, because it's so versatile and easy to whip up with limited time and effort, is baked seitan. The finished product is a reasonable stand in for chicken. I chop the baked pieces into bits to go in casseroles and fried rice and things like that. Well seasoned, it makes a great taco filling or nacho topping. I've even ground the resulting patties in a food processor, mixed the crumbles up with a binder and breaded them for homemade veg "chicken" nuggets. Aside from the appeal to vegetarians, this could also be a great long term storage emergency food, since all the ingredients are shelf stable, and it can be made with minimal equipment.

I don't follow a strict recipe, but it's something like this:

1 cup wheat gluten flour (This is not just flour! You need the gluten only. Also sold as vital wheat gluten)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
a heaping teaspoon each of paprika, salt, and granulated garlic
water
about 1/4 cup peanut butter
olive oil

-Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment.
-Mix up dry ingredients.
-Add water a small amount at a time until the dry ingredients are all moist and a little slimy, but there's no free water in the bowl. Knead a little to make sure there are no dry spots. If it feels very rubbery, work in a little more water.
-Add peanut butter and a glug of oil, probably 2-3 tablespoons to start. Work the oils into the dough with your hands. You're not trying to mix it in, exactly. As you work, the seitan will kind of break down into a stringier texture where the oils keep it from gluing itself back together. You want the whole ball to have a fairly uniform soft and shaggy consistency. If it's still really sticking together in a ball, add a bit more oil.
-Lay the dough out onto your prepared pan in irregular shapes. I like the edges best, so I usually do 4-6 separate chunks. Spread the shapes to a uniform thickness of about 1/2".
-Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until set throughout and brown and crispy around the edges. No part should be gooey or rubbery - if it is, you need to bake a little longer.

Here's a pan fresh from the oven:



And here's some after I broke it up and seasoned with some chili power, garlic, and cumin to go over polenta:



YUM!

 
John Weiland
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Thanks for this post and recipe, Roberta W. Just wanted to add one other way that we've been using seitan, mostly prepared by making mini-loaves (using Bob's Red Mill Vital Gluten and a recipe similar to your own) that are stove-top simmered in a concentrated vegetable stock. Once the seitan is done and cooled it is placed in a blender/Vitamix and ground to a consistency of ground beef. Remove to a bowl. Then a frozen block of extra firm tofu is thawed (either ahead of time, or in a microwave) and squeezed free of most of its liquid by your method of choice.....I put the block between two flat cheese graters and squeeze the 'sandwich' with my hands over the sink. The block is cut into ~10 strips, then also ground briefly in the blender to the same consistency as above. The ground tofu is added to the ground seitan and mixed and spiced/seasoned as desired. Can be used directly for what you wish, but we typically freeze small batches in the freezer for use later. We then commonly use these 'seitan crumbles' as a texturing agent in veggieburgers: A mixture of mashed beans, ground nuts (almonds or walnuts, etc), oat bran, seitan crumbles, a bit more vital gluten flour, and then whatever your fancy for flavorings, can go into the burger mix. After a while you get a 'feel' for the ratios of the ingredients to get the desired flavor and texture. Bean burgers can be a bit mushy at times and the seitan crumbles help bring back a bit of firmness.

Overall, it's been kind of a fun challenge, having grown up in a meat-'n-potatoes family, to reduce breadstuffs in the meals, use seitan as both a protein source and wheat-bread substitute, and combine it with different vegetables and soup/sauce bases to come up with interesting vegan dishes, some of which can replace traditional staple meals. When making a standard spaghetti and 'meat'-ball meal, I reduce the gluten and may shift to chia seed protein as a binder......as a way to complement that fact that the noodles are wheat-based. And then again, can always use a non-wheat noodle....clearly the variations here are almost endless.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Great hints!
Where do you score your gluten? I use it in baking, but whole foods doesn't have it anymore.
Local grocery, Kroger,has it at an absurd price.
My sister uses smoked paprika, palm oil, soy or Braggs and fried onions, to bring the meatiness to the foi meats.
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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I buy it as part of our bulk grocery order from Azure Standard. They have organic at $40 for 5 lbs and conventional at $12 for 5 lbs. Which I buy varies depending on how I'm feeling about our health vs. our budget at the time...
 
Kevin Searcy
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Location: ST Albert AB Canada
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Do some research about palm oil. You may want to make a different choice.
 
r ranson
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I read about a way of making this by washing wheat flour. Anyone tried this method? Seems like a lot of work, but might be useful for those of us who grow our own grain so we don't have to buy glutinous flour.
 
Burra Maluca
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R Ranson wrote:I read about a way of making this by washing wheat flour. Anyone tried this method? Seems like a lot of work, but might be useful for those of us who grow our own grain so we don't have to buy glutinous flour.


I tried it. It took a lot of time, a lot of water, my hands got very cold, and it seemed terribly wasteful. For me, it was a good experiment as although I seem to be able to tolerate the gluten, I can't tolerate the carbs in the whole flour. But watching all that starch going down the drain felt very, very wrong to me.

 
William Bronson
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Kevin Searcy wrote:Do some research about palm oil. You may want to make a different choice.


I hear yah. Destruction of the rain forest. As a meat substitute, I am not sure if conventionally grown meat or conventionally grown palm oil is more damaging to the enviroment.
Palm oil and wheat gluten are also both processed foods, so the health benifits over eating beans,rice and nutbutter are probably minimal.
Me, I am not wedded to any way of eating, I just want to eat and keep the lights on. I cook from scratch because I am cheap,and I like yummy food.
 
Mike Holmes
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I had to try when I saw this recipe. It was delicious, but mine came out like bread. When I chopped it up it looked more like cruitons than seitan. Any idea what went wrong?..
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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That's a new one... you did use gluten right? Not regular flour?
 
Mike Holmes
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Yes I used vital wheat gluten..
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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Alright! So... when you say it was more like croutons, I take that to mean there was a bubbly, spongy texture inside. For that to happen, something would have to be expanding or off gassing during cooking. Assuming you didn't go rogue and throw in some baking powder or something, I have two more ideas:

The yeast: It needs to be nutritional yeast, which is an inactive product. Live yeast, like for bread or brewing, is a different beast. If you tried to use active yeast instead of nutritional, it might have activated when you moistened it and created bubbles that would have expanded in the oven to make a more porous texture.

The peanut butter: Maybe I should have specified that it should be the all natural just-peanuts kind. If you used a sugary peanut butter, the sugar might have sizzled in the oven, leaving cavities.

If neither of these is it either, I might make my partner record me making a batch so I can post it and we can see where techniques are diverging.
 
Mike Holmes
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Hmm. I'm not sure what it was because I used everything as per the recipe. The peanut butter was homemade with just the nuts, I did have a hard time getting it to mix with the stringy dough though. I'll have to wait and see your technique. thanks for the recipe and the extra help..
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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At long last, a video demo. Hopefully this will solve your problem, Mike.

 
Mike Holmes
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Awesome! Thanks, I'll be trying it again soon.
 
John Weiland
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Excellent....Thanks, Roberta! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a....er.....at least 10,000. As an aside, could you tell me something about your baking surface? Is it synthetic and do you feel it to be inert enough not to leach anything from the matrix during baking/heating? I've always been a bit suspect even of parchment paper, perhaps unnecessarily so?...

Looking forward to trying this recipe and approach....the peanut butter combined with paprika and garlic has me intrigued.
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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The baking surface is called a Silpat. It's food-grade silicone reinforced with fiberglass. It's supposed to be stable up to about 500 degrees.

I find it preferable to teflon or aluminum foil, which are the two most likely alternative surfaces I might use for the same applications, but I don't know if it's perfect.
 
Dave Bennett
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William Bronson wrote:
Kevin Searcy wrote:Do some research about palm oil. You may want to make a different choice.


I hear yah. Destruction of the rain forest. As a meat substitute, I am not sure if conventionally grown meat or conventionally grown palm oil is more damaging to the enviroment.
Palm oil and wheat gluten are also both processed foods, so the health benifits over eating beans,rice and nutbutter are probably minimal.
Me, I am not wedded to any way of eating, I just want to eat and keep the lights on. I cook from scratch because I am cheap,and I like yummy food.

If you take the time to search for it only use Virgin Palm Oil (Red Oil) wild crafted from Africa. Oil Palm Trees are indigenous to Africa. If your Red Oil is produced anywhere other than Africa it is likely from an Oil Palm Plantation. Wild Crafted African Red Oil is quite costly but it supports the villages "in the Bush." Oil Palms are not cultivated in Africa they grow wild.
 
Osian Wilson
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Roberta, that is a magnificent recipe! Just tried it out, using "The Heat Is On" peanut butter we found on a discount shelf a while back, and even if we weren't vegetarian, The Colonel would have no more power over us. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to much further experimentation
 
John Weiland
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@Osian W: ".....even if we weren't vegetarian, The Colonel would have no more power over us."

That's exactly what we were thinking....this recipe rocks! I've done it now in both a solar oven and conventional oven and it turns out great. With today's batch, I substituted chickpea powder (+ water and lemon juice) for the peanut butter and loaded the mix with greek spices. Looking forward to trying this new batch out as a sort of gyro/shwarma substitute.

[Guilty admission.....first date with wife was in a Utah wilderness area with a bucket of KFC. Yeah, we weren't exactly packing to scale the heights of Kilimanjaro.... ]
 
Roberta Wilkinson
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Yay! I'm so glad you guys are having success and enjoying it.
 
Osian Wilson
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I like the sound of the chickpea/lemon variant, John. How did it go?
 
John Weiland
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Re: Chickpea/lemon variant.

It was pretty good. As we noshed, I considered that during a 'do-over' I might actually try tahini instead of chickpea flour.....the tahini might be a better substitute for the peanut butter in Roberta's original recipe. But the flavor was quite nice and with a (nut-based) yogurt-cucumber-garlic sauce, a good meal. Since the seitan is gluten, we've been looking into making non-wheat tortillas (could use corn) and pitas as a complement. Anyone ever try using tapioca flour or another flour for this purpose?
 
John Weiland
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Just wanted to follow-up on complementing gluten-based protein sources with an alternate to wheat-based breads. With curiosity about making an alternate to flour tortillas, something we eat more than any other form of bread, I tried the recipe off the bag for tortillas made from cassava flour. It was easier than I thought and very "modular"--you can readily scale the recipe for the number of tortillas that you want and test to get the desired thickness and size for your purposes. The product is described as being a bit different than 'tapioca starch', but I will leave that up to others as I don't know enough about the refinement process on this food item: http://www.ottosnaturals.com/faq/

With new tortillas in hand, I went through a modification of Roberta W's seitan procedure above that substituted sunflower butter for the peanut butter and employed a heavy dose of pepper-cumin Mexican cuisine type flavorings. This turned out to be a good combination and may be adaptable for other possible dishes that use tortilla/pita/naan type breads.
 
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