01 March 2011

Book Review: Veganize This! or It Ain't Pretty, But It's My Seitan

From Food

It's true, it's pretty spongy, brainy looking stuff, but it tastes fantastic, and the texture far exceeds anything you can buy in a store. Most of that seems a bit rubbery to me, but the seitan above is just chewy enough to make it seem "meaty." My friends at the library said it reminded them of bread, and another friend who enjoyed it the day after I made it said it reminded her of Injera, the Ethiopian sourdough bread, but only in texture. Since making the Beef-Style Seitan recipe in Veganize This!, I resolve never to buy seitan again. It's just too easy to make with this recipe not to do it myself.

That's what I've been doing a lot of in the past year -- making it myself. No more store-bought nut butters for me (although John prefers Arrowhead Mills' organic peanut butter), and no more whole grain sandwich bread which has not risen from my homemade (read: labored over) starter. And now, homemade seitan. I wish I had tried to do this sooner.

From Food

Be prepared for it to look and feel pretty much like brain (well, what I imagine brain looks and feels like). One very small drawback with Veganize This is that it doesn't have in-process photos, but that's a rarity and a lot to ask when publishing on a budget, so I'll forgive Jenn Shagrin. However, she does explain that this dough is a bit wetter than most seitan doughs, so I was prepared for a wet dough.

One thing to note -- be sure to plan other recipes using MimicCreme or the wide array of substitutes she suggests in the front of the book, because you only use a tablespoon of the stuff. I'm going to use my remaining MimicCreme to make a frozen dessert of some sort. I figure I can leave the ice cream maker attachment outside overnight since it's still pretty cold and I no longer have room in my freezer thanks to all the bread experiments.

From Food

The key to tasty seitan is the broth in which it simmers for an hour. Because the Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (well, all the bases) contains sweeteners I don't use (why sweeteners in bouillon, I will never understand), I used Rapunzel's vegetable bouillon. I recommend using the unsalted variety or one cube salted and one not.

The quality of the mushrooms is paramount to the success of the recipe. She recommended using dried shiitake mushrooms, but I used fresh organic ones from Whole Foods in Madison (I picked them up on my way home from my tour of Drew University's Special Collections and Archives).

From Food

One thing to note about the seitan -- when you drop it into the boiling broth, it will expand to about twice the size. Which is probably why Shagrin instructs her readers to flatten the dough to 1/4 in. thick. I didn't get mine to quite that size, but I was able to cut it very easily into bite-sized pieces afterward to enjoy with some broth and mushrooms. Today, I enjoyed the same over some mixed wild rices for lunch.

From Food

OK, I have tantalized you with my bready-looking, but delicious seitan long enough. Here's the recipe with my substitutions and her directions. The book review follows at the end.

Beef-Style Seitan
From the book Veganize This! by Jenn Shagrin. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group, Copyright (c) 2010.

Yield: 6 servings (although mine made about double that)


Beef Broth:

8 cups prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 2 cubes of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 8 cups of boiled water.)
6 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used 6 fresh ones, sliced 1/4 in. thick.)
2 tablespoons tamari (I used low-sodium tamari sauce.)
1 portobello mushroom cap, chopped (I sliced these, too.)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 bay leaves

Beef-Style Seitan Dough:

1 cup vital wheat gluten
1 cup prepared Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base (I used 1/3 cube of Rapunzel's vegetarian bouillon in 1 cup of boiled water.)
1 tablespoon MimicCreme


1. Prepare the broth: First place all the beef broth ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.
2. Prepare the seitan: While the broth's starting to heat up, make your seitan dough by combining and kneading the vital wheat gluten, No Beef broth, and MimicCreme until completely mixed.
3. Squeeze out the excess liquid and form the mixture into a ball.
4. On a cutting board, flatten out the ball and use a sharp knife, or kitchen shears, to cut, pie style, into six beef-shaped wedges.
5. Before putting it into the boiling broth, flatten each wedge by pressing it firmly between your hands to 1/3 to 1/4 in. thick, then drop them into the pot of boiling broth.
6. Cover the pot, lower the heat to a simmer, and let the seitan cook for about an hour, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Don't throw out the broth! Use a slotted spoon to remove each piece of seitan and place in a colander to drain.
8. Let the seitan and broth cool. Allow the seitan to marinate in the broth until ready to use, if time allows. Drain again before using.

Book Review

Veganize This! Reminds me of Vegan With a Vengeance in a few ways, but in many ways it is very much its own book. For example, Shagrin provides a stable of different kinds of homemade seitans (from the beef-style above to pork chops) and a wide variety of tofu-based not-meats, not-cheeses, not-seafoods, and more.

She gives very clear instructions (although I'm not quite sure what a beef-shaped wedge looks like) and most of her ingredients are easily found. I'm looking forward to experimenting further with the seitan I made, trying her recipe for Galbi (Korean Short Ribs). Importantly, Shagrin includes many gluten-free recipes, so those with gluten-free family members can dispense with the seitan and make some Vegan Chicken-Fried Tofu Steaks.

Overall, it's a fun read with many inspiring recipes that are not overly complicated to make. I'd recommend it for the vegan looking to try some new dishes and veganized foods.

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