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Not bread, but like bread… it’s homemade SEITAN!

So much like bread that I had to throw it in here, instead of my regular blog where I put other supper-making types of things.

For Thursday night’s vegan meal, I was inspired by Penny (her real name?) of Penniless Parenting to make homemade seitan for a stir-fry.  I supplemented Penny’s directions with some instructions I found here.  There are lots of recipes for seitan online, but most call for Vital Wheat Gluten and I threw ours away (a big bag, too - what a waste!) last week because the mice seemed to enjoy it more than we had.  Penny’s and the other site were most helpful because they give directions for starting with actual wheat FLOUR.

Flour, as we all know, has two main components:  starch and gluten.  Making seitan involves separating these parts in the most utterly magical way.

You start with a VERY basic bread dough:  flour and water.  No particular quantity is required; I started with 1 kg of flour and enough water to make a pretty stiff dough.

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The Blooper Reel:  Then, I combined the ingredients to make a rough dough, squished it around a bit until it stuck together, then filled the bowl with water.  DISASTER!  Just as you’d expect, the ball began to dissolve into the water until there were just chunks of dough floating around.  Aaargh!  (did I mention I was fasting as I did this yesterday?  doubly frustrating!)

So I poured the whole mess into a sieve and started over – adding enough flour to make the ball into a cohesive whole once again.  Phew!  Disaster averted!

I kneaded it on the table for a while, probably 8-10 minutes, bringing the total “time since mixing” over 18 minutes; as a Jew, I know that’s the amount of time it takes for gluten to really “activate.”  I wouldn’t recommend doing anything to the ball before 18 minutes are up.

Here’s what it looked like after kneading – pretty smooth dough:

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NOW, I carefully (gingerly, fearfully) submerged it in water and began to knead.  Gently!

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Whaddya know?  It kind of stuck together.  At least, it didn’t fall apart too much, and I could actually start seeing the emerging structure of the gluten as the water turned milky.  The whiteness is caused by the wheat starch in the flour,  fleeing the developing gluten matrix.  Magical, right?

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After a few times of pouring out the kneading water and refilling the bowl, I decided to just knead the thing in the sieve under running water.  It took a while, but kept getting cleaner and cleaner:

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Here’s what I was left with after about 20 minutes.  No more starchy runoff, just a globby, blobby mass.

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I pressed this blob flat in the sieve to squeeze out excess water:

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Indeed, here was the promised “silly-putty” texture!  Weird.  Kind of like chewing gum, too.  Dense and very stretchy.  This is NOT a hole; this is my finger stretching the gluten, but it didn’t break.  It’s like the most over-kneaded bread dough you could ever hope (or dread) to see.  (The unattractive bumps on the blob are from the holes in the sieve.)

This is SEITAN:

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I tried seasoning at this point (salt, garlic, pepper, paprika), but couldn’t really work anything into the silly putty, so it all just kind of clung to the outside.

Now, I tore off “chicken-nugget” sized pieces of the seitan and pressed them out, longish and flattish.  It’s not very workable at this point, but I tried.

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Then I dropped the pieces into boiling broth…

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… and let them simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  (I lost track of time; did I mention I was fasting?  This was very late in the day.)

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When I fished out the pieces, they looked a bit like matzah balls: fluffy and full of water.

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Back to the sieve!

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Where I used this sophisticated weighting system to press out as much water as possible:

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… and finally, here’s what was left!  A plate of what we all agreed was a delicious tasting and miraculously-textured WHEAT MEAT.  A little spongy, but chewy and satisfying; fake chicken, fresher, moister and more delicious than you could ever buy in a store:

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(okay, Elisheva said if it WAS chicken, she’d send it back as it had a bit of an “underdone” squishy texture)

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As I said, this is for Thursday, so the seitan is now sitting in the fridge awaiting our vegan stir-fry.  Mmm… I’m looking forward to it!

In general, this is a VERY inexpensive meat substitute.  For this much fake chicken, you’d probably pay $8-10 in a store.  But the trade-off is prep time:  this took at least an hour of full-time, hands-on attention.  I might be able to get the time down a bit with experience, but it’s always going to be work.

Nevertheless, (depending on  how the stir-fry turns out) it’s probably something worth doing again.

And as I’ve said before, it’s simply magical that a basic flour-and-water mixture can turn into so many completely different things, depending on what you do with it, how long you let it sit, whether you submerge it, boil it, steam it, bake it?  Wow.

It’s SOOPER bakey day!!! :-o

Today’s fun fair at Laughlin Park was so utterly incredible, I almost cannot wait for the next one in July. 

(For more about the funfair itself, and not just the stuff I baked for it, check out my real blog here!)

Here is the menu / billboard Elisheva and I made.  We repurposed from an old school project of hers (you can see the ripped tissue paper around the edges where I (respectfully) tore off pictures of the Mir Yeshiva).poster

As I posted late last night, I ended up baking Strawberry Streusel Smash Muffins, Vegan Brownies (with Tofutti Cream Cheese frosting), Roasted-Potato Buns, plus Ted made his Triscuit Mini-Pizzas and I offered samples of our incredible Beer Bread to go with the Beer Bread Mix I was selling.

We ate the few leftover roasted-potato buns for supper.  The truth is, they were NOT fantastic.  Freezing dough is still a mystery to me.  Sometimes, it comes out perfect, and sometimes it just flops like a toad on the baking pan and never does rise well.

This was one of those times.  They were dense and tough and chewy.  But people who tried them were very kind and they did actually have a decent flavour; just not the fluffy artisan texture I was hoping for. 

Perhaps a kneaded dough might have kept its rising power better in this case?  I really don’t know.  Input welcome!

But anyway, it was a happy day all-round despite the weird buns.

At 50 cents each, the strawberry muffins sold like CRAZY!  But as a loss leader, they seemed to bring in lots of people and once they were gone, everybody was happy to spend 75 cents for the brownies (pretty small, but the Tofutti cream cheese is expensive, which I felt justified the extra cost).  And at 4/$1, the triscuit pizzas were also the hit of the day. 

I suspect people were looking for something savoury, so next time around, I may throw one more thing in… but definitely more muffins.  Towards the end, when it was 6 pm, people were also probably feeling more supperish and more willing to buy the bread mix and buns.  At the beginning, all they wanted was a snack, but pretty much everything was gone by the end:  perfect!

Here I am, happily tending shop.  This was near the end:  everything was almost all sold out.

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Here we were at the beginning (me and Elisheva), our table laden with kosher goodies.  Yum!

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Notice the crunchy babywearing mama (long blonde hair, bottom right) eyeing my vegan sign and whole-wheat buns?  Do I know my market, or what?  ;-)))

(Want to read more about the funfair, or attend the next one?  Visit my real blog here!)

Six-Word Saturday: 16 Tammuz, 5770

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out!

buns 001That’s a lot of potato buns.


(38, to be exact)

These are for the community fun fair tomorrow afternoon.  I mixed the dough last Thursday, before we left for Ottawa.  It’s been in the freezer all week, and I took it out yesterday afternoon to thaw.  It handled beautifully this evening:  very wet and sticky, but I managed to tame that with a bit of flour. 

I showed Ted a “rustic” bun and a regular round bun and he preferred the rustic model, so that’s what I went with, shaping them quickly by rolling baguettes and just slicing them with the bench scraper. 

Tomorrow, I plan to bake strawberry streusel muffins and vegan brownies.  And sell tomato plants.  And maybe, just maybe, if I get up the energy, pack up and sell beer bread mix (mix = all ingredients except the beer!). 

I figure I can measure out the ingredients batch by batch, then quickly whirl them in the food processor to save time.  Measure, whirl, bag.  I already made up an instruction sheet!


I’d love to bag the kit in paper lunch bags, but may have to go with plastic just in case of rain or other wetness.  Cloth would be utterly charming, but NO, I’m not doing cloth bags.

Now I’m excited!  I hope somebody shows up for this thing…

Six-Word Saturday: 8 Tammuz, 5770

Why the weird dates?  Click here to find out!

  Hats off to Chavi:  AMAZING challah!

Yes, this challah – which I’m obnoxiously calling Chavi’s Perfect Balance Challah – not only raised eyebrows, it elicited a veritable squeal of delight from a certain fairly-bread-jaded teenage daughter.

breads 003With just the right mix of sweetness and richness and moistness and fluffiness, it is hard to find a cakey challah that meets her approval; she prefers a denser bread.

So that is high praise indeed.

I had it plain for lunch and it was not as terrible as some are.  I suspect I will never meet a challah that I am as fond of for Shabbos lunch as I am Friday night.

Though if anybody has a challah recipe that DOES improve with resting overnight, I’d be thrilled to learn about it.

Bucket o’ Bread

newchallahs 2010-06-18 011I volunteered to run a kosher bake table at next weekend’s neighbourhood fun fair, not realizing we will be away the whole week in Ottawa.

I was planning on keeping it simple anyway:  one type of bun, one type of muffin, one type of cookie, one type of bar.

Guess I’ll make it all next Saturday night, after Shabbos.  But just to get a jump on things, I made the (no-knead) dough for the buns last night.

This is my basic no-knead mashed-potato roasted-garlic bread that I’ve made a few times before.  Except last night I ran out of flour so I subbed 1/4 stone-ground whole wheat, the last of our lovely Pioneer Village flour.  Should come out just fine regardless.

Today, I portioned it into neat 1-lb blobs and froze the blobs individually, so that next Friday, I can take them out and thaw them in the fridge for baking next Saturday night or VERY early Sunday morning.

No clue what I’m going to do for cookies and bars.  For muffins, I’ll make our super-easy Berry Smash Muffins that we’ve had many times.  Naomi loves doing the streusel topping!

Chavi’s Challot

(Mostly) forgot to take pictures as I went along, but here are this week’s challahs (rapidly) taking shape.

Dough, rested in the fridge over night, come to room temp:

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Braided. Made a mess of my Maggie Glezer style 4-braid… as usual. Sigh.

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Seeded and BAKED!

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Mmmm… they look delish! I will try to update after Shabbos with a cross-section; can’t go cutting into them beforehand...

UPDATE: Well, it's 3 weeks later, but I did indeed remember to photo these last time. And I'm making them again this Shabbos!

New challah to end the ennui?

This week, at her suggestion, I visited Chavi’s wonderful bread and cake blog (too much butter – we love butter, but our Shabboses are mostly meat!) and chose her “Challot” challah for the sheer audacity of calling it CHALLAH without any special adjectives.

I will call it “Chavi’s Perfect Balance” challah.

I’m always a little leery of trying one person’s idea of challah, but her criteria seem to be the same as mine – not too eggy, though she also likes not too sweet. I think I don’t personally have an upper limit on the amount of sweetness I can take in a challah. :-)

Anyway, I mixed this up pretty much as shown on her blog. No pics because my eyes are closing; SO tired!

The only thing I did differently is, because she refers to an autolyse phase, I did a “proper” autolyse (I know; I’m a snob) by omitting 25% of the flour, the yeast and the salt. I left it for a good long time; maybe half an hour, before stirring in the rest of the ingredients and beginning the knead.

It was INDEED very soft, sticky dough, but came together nicely with a lot of flour helping it out.

I’ll take pics in the morning; I promise. B’li neder.

Six-Word Saturday: 1 Tammuz, 5770 (Rosh Chodesh)

Tomorrow night’s birthday pizza surprise:  KALE!

Yup… inspired by Sara, for my mother’s birthday celebration tomorrow night, I am kale 006making pizzas and topping ONE of them with fresh kale from the garden.  She has pointed out that this should probably not be my mother’s pizza, as she has an aversion to spinach and kale is likely similar.

My mother’s favourite pizza is what she calls “Hawaiian,” with pineapple and fake “veggie” pepperoni slices.  Guess I’ll go try to find me some of those tomorrow morning, and then rustle up a dough recipe that won’t turn to absolute mush like the last time we had pizza.  :-(

Roasted-Potato Bread, from Bread: A Baker’s Book

Thursday night:  pâte fermentée, mixed.


Friday morning:  risen nicely!

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Add roasted potato, flour, whole-wheat flour, water, more yeast, salt.  Also a bit of fresh rosemary (next time, I’d use more… the flavour was VERY faint):

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Knead well, until gluten is moderately developed (short of the shinier chewing-gum texture I’m learning is characteristic of highly-developed dough).  The finished dough (some crumbly finger-leftover-bits dropped on top):

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Fully-formed loaves, set to rise on parchment and cornmeal:

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Fully-risen loaves, floured, then slashed (much neater than trying it without the flour!):

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Crispy crust, hot and fresh… delicious!

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Would I make this bread again?  It WAS yummy, with a faint tang from the preferment and a bit of a rye taste, mysteriously, from the rosemary.

It was moist, but not extraordinarily so.  At Shabbos lunch, it may have tasted marginally fresher than a bread without all the extra moisture from the potato.  I was astonished that the potato itself totally vanished, even though I left the skin on and everything. 

Was it worth doing all the extra steps, when I already have a perfectly good no-knead recipe that seems to yield more or less the same results?

Since this seems to be the week for challenging the no-knead phenomenon, that’s a very good question.

I certainly don’t remember the potato disappearing quite so completely with the other recipe… which makes sense, now that I think about it, because in this case, I mashed and kneaded it into the dough, by hand, at great length.  If you like the idea of spotting bits of potato in your loaf, try the other recipe, that’s for sure, because you won’t here.

I think I will likely try this again, adding a whole roasted head of garlic to give it a bit of zing.  Ideally, I should make the two recipes head to head and have a taste test.

It probably depends what you’re looking for.  I seem to remember the no-knead version being much airier; this bread is very dense, a lot like rye.  And this one is probably more complex in flavour, given the process that goes into creating it.

But is it ALL THAT?

Perhaps I’ll try the no-knead one again this week and report back when we have taste-tested.  If it’s good enough, I think I’ll probably stick with it and skip all these steps next time.

Quest for the Perfect Challah: Suggestions…?

image Since this blog appears to have a few readers now., and by “a few” I mean the traditional usage of “THREE,” I’m just curious…

This week’s non-challah Shabbos is perhaps indicative of my general “challah ennui” (is it a googlewhack? no: 4340 hits), and I want a new recipe – a new challenge, maybe.

What’s your favourite challah? Does anyone want to bail us out by sending a challah recipe you absolutely LOVE?

What I like, in general: challah must be sweet. It must not have too much whole wheat, but some, or some spelt, is just fine. I do not love EGGS in challah, but most of our challahs lately have been made with eggs.

I am particularly looking for “next-day” challahs… ie, a loaf you are not afraid to bite into, perhaps slightly warmed on the blech but nevertheless officially “day-old” bread.

We are torn on the “density “ issue. Elisheva adores a thick, heavy loaf. I tend to prefer a bit on the fluffier side. I guess that means we’re open-minded.

If you’ve read this blog a bit, you know I’ve become picky about measurements and prefer to measure the REAL way – by weight. Anything else is guesswork. I will measure yeast, salt etc in tablespoons, and water/oil/honey in cups (though weights are fine for these, too), but dry like flour and sugar should be scaled. Metric or otherwise – my scale can handle anything!

So, nu? Hit me with your best challah recipe! I will try it and report back. If yours is a winner with the family, well… like I tell my kids, you’ll come away with the great satisfaction of a job well done.

p.s. Cake recipes welcome also. Preferably pareve. Preferably TONIGHT, in time to make for Shabbos tomorrow. :-)))

However… our no-no-knead Shabbos!

paste 004Perhaps in retaliation for the Globe & Mail article dissing no-knead breads,  and also because we’re having a weird-upside-down-food Shabbos (dairy at night, meat for lunch), I’m not making challah this week.  Instead, we’ll have the Roasted-Potato Bread from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread:  A Baker’s Book, which I took out from  the library again tonight.

(p.s. I just accidentally discovered a “proof” of an excerpt of the book online, so if you’d like to see the recipe in PDF form, you can find it on here – scroll down to Page 118)

This ought to make the Globe critic happy:  this recipe includes not only a pre-ferment, but a relatively unusual one in the form of a pâte fermentée, which is a far heavier consistency than any I have dealt with before.  It is a fairly thick, dry dough – a small batch that has to sit and rise for 12-16 hours.

It would have been better if I’d been able to start it at 10 pm, as I’d planned.  However, I didn’t really get it mixed until 11.  So sometime around noonish tomorrow, I will be mixing the final dough.  I’ll try to remember to take a picture of the pâte before I mix it in.  And the other stages.

Bread:  A Baker’s Book is potchkedik* bread at its finest!

* no definition for potchkedik, but here’s a recipe for Not-Too-Much Potchke Fancy Cake.  Can’t vouch for the recipe; in fact, it looks terrible… and potchkedik besides.

Bread Article in the Globe & Mail

 whatevers 001 The Globe and Mail published an article on Tuesday more or less panning the amazing no-knead breads popularized by Jim Lahey and by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois in their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day books (which, if you read here often, if my easy-bread bible, though I sadly don’t yet own it).

You can read the full article here, but basically, some home baker who is midway through one baking class and is likely just a friend of the writer tried one recipe from Artisan Bread in Five, and hated the bread. 

whatevers 022Her reaction?  “It’s a step up from if you were going to buy Wonder Bread.”


She found the loaves very dense – the opposite of what I’ve experience with my no-knead breads, which tend to be gorgeously holey and light – and calls the no-knead phenomenon “more a marketing gimmick than a better way to do things.”

Sheesh again.

Legitimately, however, she criticizes Hertzberg and Francois for not including weight measurements.  It’s true.  That’s a real failing of the book, and it makes me sad every time I see the recipes.  I know why they did it:  Americans fear anything European, and measuring baking formulas the proper way is just too much for them to take in.  As a Canadian, I feel I can handle it, and measure everything in grams in my happy-birthday scale (thanks to my baker sister Sara who no doubt has a heart attack every time she attempts anything in my shambles of a home kitchen).

Nevertheless, the Artisan Bread in Five website does fill in the gap, offering many suggestions for measuring ingredients properly by weight.

Legitimately ALSO, the no-knead bread critic points out the joy of kneading bread.  Me, too.  I love kneading bread!  Just that sometimes, I love not having to.  Isn’t it all about having choices?

Anyhow… here’s what I wrote in response to the article in the comments section on the Globe and Mail website:

We love bread! I have crafted all kinds of bread - started with poolish, sourdough, challah, slow-rise, quick-rise, long-knead and - more importantly - no-knead.
I have followed the no-knead recipes in Hertzberg's book (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day) to the letter and they produce GORGEOUS bread.
It is a strike against the authors that they failed to include weight-based measurements and stuck to the horrid US "standard" of measuring cups and spoons. They do fill in directions on their website on how to create breads more precisely using grams and ounce measurements, and I always use a digital scale. (I use 135g of Canadian all-purpose flour for every cup they call for in their recipes; I also use bread flour if I want a slightly "stronger" dough)
Baker Jim Wills mentions that bread will inevitably deteriorate in the fridge. This is not necessarily the case, though I have never used a no-knead recipe after more than seven days in the fridge. Ten days might be pushing it, but certainly a day or two - or more - can age the dough and give it more of a "sourdough" tang that every single guest at my table has really enjoyed.
Finally, if the bread is too sloppy, which is a charge of no-knead baking, its gluten can be strengthened, not by kneading, but by tipping it out onto a well-floured surface and giving it a few gentle folds with a bench scraper before letting it rest once again. Far less work - for delicious bread!
No-knead baking is not my ONLY home-baking technique, but I can say it is a very good option. I am excited to have discovered it, and blogged many of my discoveries at my bread blog:

p.s.  True confessions:  the photo above is indeed of a bread rising in my no-knead bread bucket, but it is NOT a no-knead bread.  I made it last Friday morning and it rose crazy-big because the weather was so warm and damp.  Amazing!

What? This blog has COMMENTS???

I just looked at an old post and noticed comments beneath it.  For my regular blog, comments are emailed to me for approval, and I assumed the settings were the same on this blog.  Ha ha ha.  Silly me!

Apparently, people have been posting stuff in the comments section here all along!

Anyway, if you have, I apologize, and I look forward to perusing your comments over the next few days… blurgh.  Sorry!

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