Y’all. Y’ALL. I’m starting VeganMoFo with an epically wonderful fail. It seems appropriate in this new era of raw, unvarnished blogging, right?!
Yesterday evening I decided to get a head start on today’s dinner by preparing some seitan — specifically, the chickwheat shreds from Avocados and Ales. Let it be known that I’ve made seitan plenty of times in the past, using recipes from plenty of different sources. Although I’ve never been able to get it quite as juicy and tender as the kind you buy at the store, it’s always been perfectly fine, and I’ve never had any of the difficulties or spectacular fails I’ve read from other folks who’ve attempted seitan. (Ah, hubris.) So I was excited to try this recipe, which uses a new-to-me method: a long, intense kneading period in a food processor or KitchenAid rather than a few quick kneads by hand. I loved the look of the resulting chicken-style shreds and planned to use them in a quick stir-fry tonight.
Well. I blended up all the wet ingredients before adding the vital wheat gluten. As I stirred it all together, I thought the texture seemed… off. The dough was much softer, smoother and more liquidy than seitans of yore, and I couldn’t detect any of the distinctive gluten strands that tend to form as soon as you add the wheat gluten. But I persevered, dumping the mass into my KitchenAid (fitted with the dough hook) and beginning to knead.
And knead. And knead. And knead.
Occasionally I stopped to check the dough, and I began to sense that something was amiss. There were a few stringy strands, sure, but nowhere near the amount I get even when kneading by hand. I’d reached the point where I had to make a decision: Either abandon the project or persevere — knowing that something was dreadfully, fundamentally wrong with my dough and that the results would likely not be as intended. I chose the latter. Maybe it would be edible, if not perfect. This is what I get for my hubris, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have been so smug about seitan-making!
After 20 minutes (the time recommended by commenters who had also used the KitchenAid method!) my poor mixer was hot and my sad dough was… awful. Basically soft, sticky taffy. I dumped it all out onto aluminum foil as recommended and tried to fold it up into a packet, only to look on in absolute horror as the taffy-seitan oozed right out of the crevices. Panicking, I tried lifting it up to rearrange it on the foil. My hands sunk deep into the ooze and the foil ripped, a big glob of dough (batter?!) still attached.
Eventually I managed to wrangle about half the dough onto a new piece of foil, which I quickly wrapped up and dropped into my steamer. (The recipe calls for an InstantPot, but commenters say it works fine in a stovetop steamer too.) By now I knew the texture was wrong, but perhaps it would become something edible in the steamer.
It did not.
Two hours later (well past my bedtime) I removed the swollen foil packet and set it to cool for a few minutes. When I cautiously peeled back the foil and poked at the blob within, I realized it hadn’t improved with steaming. It was soft and squishy and could absolutely, positively not withstand the post-steam shredding that makes the chickwheat recipe so tantalizing.
As I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, I had a sudden and horrible thought. I ran to the pantry and checked the flour shelf. Here’s what I saw.
On the left is a glass canister of white whole wheat flour. On the left is a bag — a very clearly, very obviously labeled bag — of vital wheat gluten.
Guess which one I used.
IN MY DEFENSE, I used to keep my vital wheat gluten in that jar, and Steven was the one who repurposed it for the white whole wheat flour a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have a tactile memory of putting flour in the jar. In my mind, it was still wheat gluten. Also, when I made the chickwheat, I measured the flour/wheat gluten by weight, so I just poured it in — I didn’t really look too closely at the consistency of the flour I used, or I would have noticed it didn’t have the very specific, silky texture of vital wheat gluten.
Frankly, I’m shocked it even remotely resembled seitan. There were definitely some strings forming when I kneaded it, likely because whole wheat flour has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. (And yes, I know one can make vital wheat gluten from flour.) I don’t know what I’ll do with the monstrosity, but I might try to flatten and fry it up into some kind of patty? Or dice it and fry it? We’ll see. Mostly I’m mad I used so much electricity kneading and steaming the dough, but hey, we have solar panels so at least I don’t have to be too guilty.
As for dinner, I made a quick fried rice, loosely following the method in Appetite for Reduction. I used green beans and garlic from my garden (woo!) along with a bell pepper from the farmers market and a shallot from the… grocery store. (I also used ginger paste, which it such a lifesaver when you don’t have fresh ginger!) It was good. It would’ve been better with some chickwheat shreds. Next time.
And with this illustrious beginning to MoFo, I’m off to the gym, a new habit for me. I lift weights! I have defined muscles! I wish I had the added protein from chickwheat shreds coursing through my veins so I could get even more ripped! NEXT TIME.
P.S. I see that today’s MoFo prompt asks participants to introduce themselves. You can check out my bio here — it’s still accurate!
P.P.S. In retrospect I know I should’ve taken more photos of my chickwheat process, but hey… I expected it to come out perfectly and I didn’t realize I’d need to document my failure. Oh well.