When I started working on this post I was just going to do a Vegan Philly Cheese-steak recipe. But then I started experimenting with the seitan, trying to improve on my other slow cooker recipe. And I think I came up with something pretty good. This recipe combines the convenience of the slow cooker (no foil, no steaming, no baking) with the versatility of making two different types of seitan at once. So you can make a batch on the weekend to use in sandwiches, pastas, tacos, soups, or pizzas all week long. First I'll walk through this easy basic seitan recipe, then show you a couple things I did with it during the week.
For the Stock:
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 diced onion
4 smashed cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 inch piece kombu
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
For the Seitan:
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated
1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (cheap-o store brands are often vegan)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
First, combine all the ingredients for the stock in a slow cooker, cover and turn on High to preheat while you prep the seitan.
In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (wheat gluten through black pepper). In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together the wet ingredients.
Make a little crater in the dry ingredients, add the wet and stir until a dough starts to form. Dump the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for several minutes.
At this point you have a choice about the final shape and texture of your seitan. You can break the seitan into several chunks and cook them free form or you can roll them into logs. I recommend making two logs, since they're better for slicing. To maximize the versatility of the final seitan and make two different styles at once, wrap one log in cheesecloth and leave the second one naked.
Whatever shape you go with, place the seitan in the slow cooker with the preheated stock. There should be enough liquid to cover the seitan, but it's ok if it pokes out a little. Depending on the size of your slow cooker, you might need to add a little more water if the seitan isn't mostly submerged. Cover and let it do its thing for 4 or 5 hours. Check and see if it's firm enough, then let it cook for another hour or two if needed (slow cookers vary greatly, I think mine runs a bit hot). Remove seitan from cooking stock and let cool before slicing and removing cheesecloth.
The picture above illustrates the difference in texture and shape between the two logs. The log in front was cooked sans cheesecloth. It has a much softer, chewier texture than the log in the back (with cheesecloth). Because the dough wasn't restricted by the cloth while cooking, it expanded quite a bit more and absorbed a lot more broth, making it both juicier and more flavorful. It was so tasty I had to stop myself from eating it all straight up before I made 'em into sandwiches!
The wrapped version has its own merits as well. Since it was constricted during cooking, it has a much firmer texture, almost like pepperoni. It is very sliceable- I tested both logs on a mandolin, and the cheesecloth log held up beautifully and sliced translucently thin.
The wrapped log also works really well in the food processor; I roughly chopped it into chunks and processed it with some herbs and truffle oil to cook up a quick and easy bolognese sauce.
So, I really recommend making the double log version, with just one wrapped in cheesecloth. I had a lot of fun thinking up different ways to use the seitan, and having a choice in texture was really great depending on what I was making. With these two logs I made:
2 large Philly cheese-steak sandwiches,
3 or 4 large bowls of pho with thinly sliced seitan on top,
4 generous plates of spaghetti with "meat" sauce and vegan Parmesan,
and ate the rest of it straight! Next time I think I will make some "chorizo" for burritos and use the rest in pot pies or maybe a shepherd's pie. Some sort of savory pie. Hey, if you make it let me know what you do with it!