Experiments with meat…

…substitutes, that is.
After the yumminess of my “veggie gluten patty” last week I decided to get creative. My friend Sarah told me of a method by which one can make one’s own gluten by washing flour. Intrigued, I did a little research and experimentation, which hasn’t been a complete failure.

Gluten is the insoluble protein in wheat. So in white flour you only have starch and gluten, because the bran has already been removed. All you have to do then is dissolve the starch and you will be left with gluten. I suggest starting with a small amount like two to three cups of flour to start with. Apparently breadmaker’s flour is best because it is higher in gluten, but standard flour worked fine. You add enough water to the flour to make it into a ball, and knead about 60 times. Then you cover it in water and let it stand (anywhere from two hours to overnight; I went with overnight). Next you knead the flour again, underwater. The water should turn white with all the starch coming off the flour! The Japanese save this starch and use it for other stuff like thickening; I chucked it down the sink. Basically after that it’s rinse and repeat until the water is clear and no more starch comes out of the rubbery ball of gluten you will be left with. There doesn’t really seem to exist any authority on water temperature. I used warm because my hands like it more. When you have your gluten you will probably want to play with it for a bit because it’s kind of like playdough! After that, let it rest for about half an hour. This is probably a good time to prepare the broth you will cook it in. The broth will flavour the gluten. You probably don’t want to go all-out with vegetable stock so I suggest the cheat’s method:
finely diced onion
1/4 cup soy sauce
and any or all of the following:
tomato paste
powdered vegetable stock

The Japanese use a combination of tamari, ginger and kombu (scaaary seaweed stuff) and the result is called seitan. Hence the “praise seitan” motto you hear me come out with from time to time.

You will want to roll out your gluten to about 1cm thickness (yes, it’s just like rubber so it’s hard) and cut it into small strips. Cook in barely simmering broth for about 45 minutes. Apparently if the broth is too hot the gluten will go spongy.

After that I fried the strips and they turned out quite yummy. There are apparently a lot of other things you can do with it, like grinding it up into mince and stuff, but I haven’t tried anything else yet. So, I urge everyone to go out and experiment with gluten! It is so fun that me and Marissa were fighting over who got to knead the flour! If anyone thinks of any cool ways of flavouring the gluten or cooking it, let me know.

Oh, there is also a much easier way, and that is to buy pure gluten flour from the supermarket. That way you can flavour it straight away as you do not have to wash it. This method potentially has more applications than the former, but is more expensive and doesn’t really sound as fun. If anyone tries it, let me know.

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