Hail Seitan!

For those who are interested, I'm back from my seitan workshop with some tips for you. It's actually much easier than I thought to make seitan, but first, here are some of the things I've done wrong in the past which had me convinced it was actually impossible to make the stuff at home:

1) In my first attempt, I used flour that was past its prime. Even though it had been living in the freezer, it was old and tired and had lost its ability to cohere. Use fresh flour.

2) Also in my first attempt, I did not knead the dough for very long before I tried to rinse it. The more you knead it, the more the gluten develops. The more the gluten develops, the more it stays together. Mine just essentially dissolved when it hit the water and was unrecoverable because I only kneaded for a couple of minutes. You need to knead for a minimum of 12, and preferably 15 minutes.

3) In addition to not kneading the dough sufficiently, I didn't let it rest before rinsing. Big mistake. Cover with an inch to spare with cold water and let it rest, covered and in the refrigerator, for at least an hour and a half and preferably overnight before the rinsing step.

4) Convinced that I just couldn't make the stuff with regular flour, I turned to vital wheat gluten. It was fast, it was easy, it held together great -- and turned out like rubber. It wasn't anything I did; that's just how vital wheat gluten rolls. If you like it, great; if not, you can add 1 part garbanzo flour to 4 parts VWG to improve the texture.

And now, what to do in order to do it right.

1) Start with a mix of flours, say 4 cups whole wheat and 4 cups all-purpose or similar lighter flour. If you use all whole wheat flour, it can taste very strongly of wheat, so you want to make sure your cooking liquid is also strongly flavored.

2) Using between 3 and 4 cups of warm water, add water little by little to the flour to create a dough. Stop adding water when the dough stops sticking so much to your hands.

3) On a floured surface, knead the everloving crap out of the dough for 12-15 minutes. You should wind up with a fairly smooth ball with fairly nicely prominent strings of gluten when stretched.

4) Put the dough ball into a container, cover with enough cold water to cover plus one inch, cover and place in fridge for an hour and a half at minimum. Overnight is better.

5) Now for the rinsing! Starting with warm water, rinse the dough, working it with your hands under water (either submerged or under a stream of water in the sink, working over a colander to catch the little bits that will fall off). This is another long procedure; it can take up to 30 minutes, possibly more, to get rid of all the starch. If you don't, you get what looks like gristle in your finished product. Squeeze the dough to get to every bit of the starch out. If you're working with the dough submerged in a bowl, you'll need to change the water a few times. Try alternating warm and cool water; warm will help loosen the starch, but it will also make the dough ball fall apart more easily. Cool water will help bring the dough ball back together if it does fall apart.

6) Your final rinse should be in cool water. Cut the dough ball, which will be about half the size it started as, in half.

7) When you are ready to simmer, put multiple cups of water or broth into a pan, add whatever flavorings float your boat (garlic, soy sauce, herbs, spices, juices, etc.), bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and add your dough halves. Cover and simmer for an hour for lighter texture, or an hour and a half for meatier, denser texture.

8) DO NOT BOIL THE SEITAN. Just simmer it.

9) When it's done, shut the heat off, allow to cool to room temp if not using right away, and then store in the cooking liquid. Will last a week in the fridge or a month in the freezer.

10) Can be sliced, chunked, grilled, broiled, shish kebabed, or ground up in a food processor, seasoned, and shaped into loaves, patties or sausage-shaped (and seasoned) dealies. We had it sliced and made into Reubens.

Edited because after all that talk about the importance of letting it rest, I forgot to put in the part about letting it rest.

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