Saturday, April 10, 2010

Testing the limits of chicken-style okara seitan

This is kind of a technical post, but it may be of interest to some. I've been making chicken-style seitan for a while, but always steaming it as sausages. Do I really, really love sausages? Not particularly, I was just scared to cook the seitan any other way. Today, though, I decided to conquer my fear and experiment with a few different methods.

To start with, I modified my original Zoa's chicken-style okara seitan recipe slightly. I'm still attached to the almonds as an ingredient, but since I knew I would be boiling some of the seitan pieces, I didn't want to have to worry about texture issues with almonds, chickpea flour, and okara all together. I also simplified it a little bit, so you don't have to get out your blender or cook onions first. The caramelized onions add a fantastic buttery, creamy taste to the seitan sausages, but I didn't think "buttery" and "creamy" would last through boiling. The amount of canola oil was reduced for the same reason.

One tip: cool your okara well before adding it (or any liquid) to gluten flour. Warm liquids make the gluten congeal into "strings" which doesn't affect the taste, but will affect the texture, and not in a good way.

Zoa's chicken-style okara seitan (for boiling)

2 1/2 cups gluten flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups okara, well squeezed
1/3 cup tamari
1 1/2 cups cool water

Stir the gluten flour, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder together in a large bowl to blend. (Be careful when adding the chickpea flour that it doesn't clump; I add it through a sieve).

In a food processor (or in another bowl with a stout spoon or whisk) add the okara, tamari, the canola oil, and 1 cup of the water, and process/stir until smooth. Stir the okara mixture and the remaining water into the dry ingredients until a medium wet dough forms. Knead the dough for a minute or two so that the gluten begins to activate and it starts to push back.

Now you can slice, pull, or chop it into pieces. The pieces will expand somewhat in the cooking process, so you want them to be about 2/3 of the size of your hoped-for final product.

To boil the seitan, drop the pieces into boiling, not simmering, water, and, depending on the size of the pieces, boil them for between five and ten minutes, until the pieces have floated to the surface and are firm and uniformly pale. For small pieces like the ones shown below, this literally takes only five minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander.

To bake the seitan, preheat your oven to 350F. Place the pieces on a baking sheet either lightly oiled or lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake them ten minutes, then turn them over and bake another five.

First, baking. Previously, when I baked little seitan balls, the only ingredients were gluten flour and water, and I liked those, so I started out with quite a few. But, alas, I should have known! The tragedy of baked seitan (for me) is that it tends to come out bready, by which I mean soft and spongy, like bread. In the image above (it took me all afternoon to learn how to make this montage-thing, by the way; jealousy of other bloggers' mad Photoshop skillz is a great motivator!) you see (a) the raw seitan pieces on my silpat mat ready for the oven; (b) the pieces just out of the oven after baking; note that they were hardly any bigger, which surprised me because the gluten/water dough expands like cream puffs; (c) one of the puffs cut open to show its bready-ness; and (d) what I did with the rest of them; they'll have tasty new lives as burger crumbles.

Then I cut or pulled the dough into different shapes and boiled it. Boiling was much better! In the photos below you see three different styles. Seitan isn't the prettiest food product in the world, but I wanted to show it raw, then just out of the pot, and finally fried plain. First up, square chunks:

Now we're talking! The chunks were tender and had a wonderful taste, much like the original sausage-type seitan, only softer, less dense and filling. I was really pleased. Then I made little "scallops" by rolling some of the seitan into a log and slicing it thin:

Then I made my own Soy Curl shapes. These, and their little friends, "popcorn" seitan shown at the top of this post, were my favorites. Sometimes I get tired of my protein being sliced or chopped into geometric shapes and long for something fractal and irregular. This is it! Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the "popcorn" type raw, but it was much like this, only the pieces were a little smaller and rolled loosely into balls after being pulled off the larger piece:

You freeze this seitan the same way you would any other, after boiling, in containers with a little broth poured over it. It would be a waste of broth to use it to boil such flavourful seitan in, and I didn't want to freeze it in water, so I used a little of Bryanna's homemade vegan "chicken-style" broth powder mixed up with water. That stuff has a hundred handy uses, and this is one of them. However, any light vegetable broth or vegetarian broth powder would do, though if you're using a commercial brand, make sure it isn't too salty:


My next trick will have to be using okara in something other than seitan, since delicious as this seitan is, it's already taking over the fridge and freezer...

9 comments:

  1. This is all very interesting. Makes me wish I had some okara, but I don't. I used to get it at a tofu shop where they gave it away.

    BTW, if you drop baked seitan into boiling water for a few minutes, the texture completely changes from bready to chewy. You probably already know this.

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  2. I made my first okara-seitan meatballs this evenings. they were wonderful. I use this recipe ( http://www.messyvegetariancook.com/2010/04/07/italian-okara-meatless-meatballs/ ) wich is not so far from yours.

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  3. Andrea, I did not know that! I will have to try it. Too bad I pulverized all my baked ones before I could do it today. I am quite sure that if you wanted to try these recipes, you could do it successfully with extra-firm tofu or well-drained cooked beans (after all that's where RFD started).

    Fourmi, thanks for the link. It seems we are on the same quest. I'll follow your progress with interest. Your blog is beautiful!

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  4. I have issues cooking with okara, but I hate throwing it away and this looks really good. Thanks for all the details - it gives me some much needed confidence!

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  5. Thanks for posting this! I am getting a little tired of the seitan recipe I rely on, and your seitan looks lush.

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  6. Hey Zoa,
    Is the 1-1/2 cups of okara measured before or after it's squeezed dry?
    Thanks :)

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  7. Hi, Felicity:
    I squeeze mine as dry as I can get it, twisting it in a cloth until it sticks together in a ball. However, if you don't want to do this, you could experiment with using the "wet" okara and less water...

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  8. This is fantastic! I make soymilk all the time, but have never really found a good use for the okara. What is the yield for this recipe? Would you say about one pound of finished seitan? Thank you!

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  9. Hi, Jeannie:

    Yes, I'd say it's about a pound. Let me know how you like it! I've made this many times now and, frankly, it's my favorite kind of seitan ;-)

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