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I've been trying to make seitan at home more often and have a great slow cooker version that has won me over, but no matter how hard I try, every time I bake it it comes out awful.

For instance, I followed this recipe and this recipe and both times it came out dry, tough, chewy- pretty much inedible. The stuffing, from the first, was good, stayed moist and was eaten up quickly, but the seitan got thrown out.

I followed the recipes exactly and cannot figure out what I did wrong (other than my broth/water not being warm enough, perhaps?), or why every time I've tried this doesn't work. Suggestions?

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Is your goal to make seitan or baked seitan in particular? Steaming seitan makes a much softer texture. I used to bake it but would cover it in broth entirely, and it took so much longer than steaming. I think the 2 recipes you posted are supposed to have a tougher texture, although I love those 2 blogs I haven't tried either of those recipes. – lemontwist Jan 18 '13 at 21:56
    
@lemontwist Ultimately I just want recipes like those to work. I've heard of it being delicious (and yes, a bit "tough" but not inedible). All the recipes on those two blogs are great- except these. I must be expecting too much? – colejkeene Jan 18 '13 at 23:28
    
There was actually a comment on VYY that the seitan was coming out poorly for others. I wish I had a good answer for you, I love making seitan but always just steam it first and pan fry or bake afterward to get a different texture. – lemontwist Jan 19 '13 at 1:06
up vote 5 down vote accepted

For what it's worth, I read once that you should briefly soak seitan in a bowl, covered in boiled water, to soften it up before using it. I have tried this, and it really does make a difference in the final texture. I typically cut it into cubes, soak it for about 10-15 minutes, then drain it and proceeded as normal for the recipe.

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So you would soak it and then bake it? – lemontwist Jan 18 '13 at 22:32
    
@franko, as lemontwist said, would you bake it after? – colejkeene Jan 19 '13 at 18:06
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seitan is just too lean, I reckon, for anything longer than brief uncovered baking. roasting in fat is more like it. I would steam/boil the heck outa seitan first to max desired tenderness then and only then final bake off – Pat Sommer Jan 20 '13 at 4:50
    
@ lemontwist & nicoleeats: I would guess so. The recipes I've used seitan for were all sautees and stir-fried ones, with sauces, and it's worked fine. I would assume oven-baked would work. @ Pat Sommer's recommendation makes sense to me. – franko Jan 21 '13 at 14:56

Most recipes for seitan cook it too hot in the beginning (over-leavening it before it can set, getting it too light/"brains-ish") and too short (leaving the gluten rubbery). Try 140°C, 3 hours, wrapped in THICK tinfoil (several layers. Tightly or loosely makes a textural difference, because you are controlling how much it can expand).

Also, brands of gluten powder differ a bit in how firmly/toughly they set.

Also, be careful when frying baked seitan - neglecting it for even a minute and letting a spot of surface burn or completely dry out makes that spot hard as concrete.

Also, try mixing in some other protein-rich flours - 10% by weight chickpea (gram) flour is a starting point, maca will also work great (but costs a fortune)...

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Three things:

  1. Knead it very little
  2. Bake at a low temperature (325F for 90 minutes works for me)
  3. Add an ingredient that interferes with gluten formation (e.g. tomato paste)

I follow this recipe, with a few modifications.

I knead much less than recommended - just enough to bring the dough together, basically. The first time I made it I kneaded for a few minutes, and the seitan came out tough and chewy, just like you describe. Think about it: when we make bread, we want some chewiness, but flour is only 10% gluten so we have to knead a lot, and encourage most of the gluten to develop. Vital wheat gluten flour is 75% gluten, so we don't want all the gluten to develop or the seitan will be super rubbery, unless it's given a high water content by boiling.

I've also had seitan turn pretty rubbery (though not as bad as the over-kneaded stuff) when I accidentally set the oven too high. Even though I shortened the cooking time, the damage was done.

The recipe calls for tomato paste (and ketchup, but I add extra tomato paste instead). I've learned that changing the quantity of tomato paste dramatically affects the texture of the seitan. Skimping even a little will produce chewier seitan.

I've also tried adding an oniony flavor to seitan by caramelizing onions, pureeing them, and substituting the puree for some of the water in the seitan. To my surprise, the seitan turned out very soft and squishy, even though the wet:dry ratio was the same as ever. My theory is that tomato paste and pureed onions both contain something that interferes with gluten development. I've switched to using chopped pieces of caramelized onion rather than puree, since that doesn't interfere with the gluten as much, and it gives the seitan a nice sausage-like texture.

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Here is what I do. By the way I do all the cooking in my house. My wife and sons (aged ten and sixteen), and I are all vegan. I prefer baking my seitan.

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. Mix in a bowl for 2 minutes:
    • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
    • 1 tsp onion
    • 1 tsp steak seasoning
    • a quarter cup of nutritional yeast flakes.
  3. In a separate cup:
    • 3/4 cup of beef broth
    • 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
  4. Pour in and mix slowly by hand.
  5. I knead it until it is tough, usually 7-8 minutes.
  6. Now cut it into 4 equal pieces. Let it rest.
  7. Flavor up some broth, cold do not heat. I crush up a beef bouillon into two cups of water and flavor it to taste.
  8. Put the seitan chunks into a small pot that has a cover or metal top. Pour in the broth over the seitan. Pick up the pieces to make sure the broth gets under it. The broth should come up half way but not cover the seitan.
  9. With the lid on the pot put it in the oven for 45 minutes covered.
  10. Take it out and flip the seitan in the broth. DO NOT COVER.
  11. Put the uncovered pot back in the oven for 30 minutes.
  12. Let it cool cut it and enjoy.

I use this to make breakfast sausages by adding Italian seasoning to the slices and sauteing it. I will make lunch meat by just sauteing the slices with no additional flavoring just a little olive oil in a pan. I make spareribs by sauteing in barbecue sauce. My sons love seitan. For me the trick is in kneading it until it is tough and well mixed and to saute it after baking. Taste just like pork, or beef. Follow the steps above and make fish and chicken just season it and you are on your way. I will never eat an animal again.

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Beef bouillion cube for a vegan recipe? – SAJ14SAJ Feb 4 '13 at 18:05
    
check out this link: kinda bland but it is a good vegan start. you must add your own seasonings. vitacost.com/…{keyword}&gclid=CMu6-JW6nbUCFUQw4AodDjEATg – Elysyan Feb 4 '13 at 20:07
    
@Elysyan Based on this recipe, though you put it in the oven, you're still making it in a broth- I'm wondering about not broth bathing as in the recipes linked in the original post. – colejkeene Feb 5 '13 at 15:39
    
Yes, it is still in a broth. So if you do not want the broth take the loath and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake it for an hour. The key is in the kneading and seasoning. If you have the right balance the flavors will be trapped inside of the foil. This too will blow your mind. The best part to me about baking the seitan is the meat like texture and the flavoring. Caution do not over flavor because under these conditions the seitan will just absorb whatever is around it. I hope this helps. – Elysyan Feb 5 '13 at 20:37

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