Thursday, April 30, 2009

Vital Wheat Gluten aka "wheat meat", bran and starch

Back in one of my first posts I have a recipe for "foldable" whole wheat bread. I mentioned Vital Wheat Gluten as a component of the bread - the one that lets the bread rise higher and lets it fold without crumbling. I'm just now getting around to giving you the recipe to make your own gluten, also known as wheat meat. By making your own, you also get bran and starch to use. Yes, this is the same bran as in what you buy in the stores. You can add some sugar to it and make a cereal out of it, if I look around, I can probably find a recipe for Grapenut Flakes.

Homemade Vital Wheat Gluten aka Wheat Meat


Flour: Whole wheat is best. You get brown gluten, bran and starch from it. AP white flour works and you get a larger yield of white gluten. BUT you don't get any bran with it AND you lose the vitamins that come with whole wheat. Other flours don't work - they don't have much gluten, which is why, for instance, you can't make bread that rises out of all barley or all rye.) Remember to leave out 1 cup of flour and mix the dough well. Then look at the dough. Does it NEED the extra flour. I live in a very humid area (Georgia). I usually need more flour than the recipe calls for. The flour has absorbed the humidity in my house, so it can't absorb the water in the recipe. HOWEVER, if I pop a #10 can of wheat that was canned out west and then immediately grind and use it, I don't always need all the flour a recipe calls for. Since it's easier to add flour than water in a dough. I err to the side of leaving out some of the flour. Then I can always add more flour. This is true for whatever type of baked good I'm making, not just for making gluten.

if it's safe to drink, it's safe to cook with.

Methods: There are several methods for making gluten. Mixing with a bread mixer, portable mixer, bread machine, by hand or by letting the water and wheat flour sit for several hours after mixing it together. I'll touch on all of these methods.

Bread Mixer: Tried this method years ago, works great. (Yields 2-5 cups raw gluten, depending on protein content of flour)
This is nice if you have a Bosch, Kitchenaid, etc. Can't use it if there is no electricity to power the machine.

11-14 cups flour
7 cups of water

Using dough hook, you can either put all the water in and then dump all the flour in the bowl at once, or add the flour in increments. Turn on, knead for 10 mins. When all of the flour has been added and is moistened, knead another 5 mins. Or knead for 15 total mins. Rest of instructions will follow.

Portable mixer: Tried this method years ago, worked great, BUT...since then, they have cut the power of portable (hand-held) mixers down. If you have a wimpy mixer, it's not going to work very well for you. There is a work-around that I haven't tried, but logic says should work. (Yields 2-3 cups raw gluten, depending on protein content of flour)
Saves you some work, but again, if power is out, you can't make it this way.

9 cups flour
6 cups water

Dump in bowl, turn on and mix at med. speed for 5 mins. Let the machine rest for a few minutes and then mix another10 mins. You may have to keep stopping and letting the machine rest. You don't want to burn up your mixer, so if it starts smelling hot. STOP and let it cool off! Rest of instructions will follow.

WORK AROUND for wimpy mixers: Put all the water and about 1/2 the flour in the bowl. Start mixing the flour and water together on medium speed. It should be fairly soupy at this point. Let the mixer work for a few minutes and then start adding in more of the flour. Keep adding flour until the mixer starts to slow down a bit. Kick the speed up to high. Do not add any more flour, just let the mixer run for about 5 mins or until it starts to "smell hot". Let the mixer rest for about 10 mins to cool off. Mix for another 5-10 mins by machine. You may have to let it rest some more. Then remove the beaters and start adding flour by hand. You want a bread dough consistency dough. Too wet and it's a sticky mess, to dry and it's too stiff to knead well. From the time you finish putting in the last of the flour, knead about another 5 mins. Rest of instructions will follow.

Bread machine:Trying this today as it's my invention. (Not sure of yield)
Again, the electricity is an issue. Also, my machine will allow 4 cups flour. Other machines have less capacity. CHECK YOUR OWNER'S MANUAL before trying this so you don't burn out the motor of your breadmaker! If you can't use 4 cups flour, then half the recipe and make more batches until you have the amount of gluten you want.

4 cups flour
2 cups water

Set machine on dough cycle. Let it knead until it goes to the first "rest" period in the cycle. This should be about 15 minutes. If it's not, then let it rest and knead again so you have about 15 mins total kneading time. (I would reset my machine to start, rather than waiting the 30 or so mins that the machine rests before starting to knead again. Rest of instructions to follow.

By Hand: Think I did try this some years ago, don't remember how it worked out. (Yield 1-2 cups raw gluten.)
This is time consuming and more work for you. You're basically kneading it like you would bread and for the same reasons - to activate the gluten. This is nice to know because if the power is out, you can still make gluten.

7 cups flour
3 cups water

Make a dough that is neither sticky nor too dry. You really are shooting for a bread dough consistency. So put all the water and 1/2 the flour into a bowl and then start adding more flour from there. You will need to flour the dough, your work surface and your hands to work the resulting dough.
Once the dough is a bread-dough consistency, you will either knead or pound the dough. You can use your fists, a rubber mallet or a rolling pin to pound the dough flat. (DO NOT use your good marble rolling pin on this one it WILL break!) Keep pounding the dough, turning it over from time to time and adding a bit more flour to your surface so it doesn't stick. It will take 15-20 mins to work the gluten, just like when you make bread. Rest of instructions to follow.

No-Knead: Not tried this yet. (Yield unknown)
No fuss, no muss, no worries if power goes off method.

7 cups flour
3 cups water
more water to cover dough

Mix flour and water into a dough. Cover with cold water and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Pour off water and mix until smooth.

Rest of instructions:
First, test dough to make sure that it's been kneaded enough. To do that simply take a small ball of dough (marble-size is good), flatten it out and then stretch the center of the ball out. If it just tears, it's not kneaded enough and you need to knead it some more. If it stretches and thins out, and you can start to be able to see through it before it finally tears, then it's ready to use. (Same as for kneading bread!)

Now that you have a lump of dough that has been well kneaded, your ready to wash it. You want to wash the dough to extract most of the bran and all the starch from the remaining gluten. We can save the bran and the starch for other purposes. That will be another post as will what to DO with all this goodness you're making.

Washing the gluten:
You need:
Clean pot, dishpan, large bowl, etc to set the colander inside of so you can catch the bran and starch. It needs to be large enough to hold the colander inside it and allow you to cover dough with water.

In the olden days of the 1960's and 70's, when we didn't think about "wasting" water, people just washed the gluten under running water. I reckon ya still can, but it will waste a lot of water. So I'm going to tell you how to do it with less water.

Put the colander in your chosen vessel. Then taking as much of the gluten as you can easily work with, put it into the colander. Cover the dough with warm (not HOT) water. Work the dough with an in and out movement so that you loosen the bran and starch. Keep working the dough in the same water until it toughens up and becomes the consistency of bubble gum. Repeat until all the dough has been rinsed. (Remove the worked dough from the colander before you put in the next piece.) When all of the dough has been washed, set the pan of bran/starch water aside.

Next, hold pieces of dough under a small stream of water and rinse until water is clear and dough is elastic and rubbery. You won't get out all of the bran. That's fine, don't bother trying.

Now you have gluten to make into flour or wheat meat. You have bran to use in recipes calling for bran and starch to thicken and add nutrition to foods, plus to use for pets, household cleaners, etc.

If the gluten doesn't collect or falls apart to the point of going through the colander, you have one of a couple of potential problems.
1.) Your wheat may have been soft wheat for pastries; or a "biscuit" flour like White Lily. You have to use hard red or hard white wheat. The gluten is the protein in the flour. Lower protein, lower gluten. All Purpose (AP) flour works too - if you know your brands. Anything that is touted as making biscuits tender is a pastry flour, not a hard wheat flour. The best way to get tender biscuits, muffins, pastries, etc. is to not over-handle the dough. But since too many people today have not learned how to cook from the older generation, they end up having a "heavy" hand. To fix that the baking supply industry has given us "biscuit" flour. That way, when people over-mix their dough, they don't activate the gluten as easily as in regular flour. The only problem is, most people don't realize that certain brands are using a pastry flour blend instead of regular flour. Then they have all kinds of trouble with any of the bread-stuffs that NEED to be kneaded. Low protein, low gluten = low rising of the dough. The sad thing is, they think it's their fault not the fault of the type/brand of flour they're using. So either grind your own wheat from known wheat types or read the bag of flour. You want to look at the protein content. High protein is about 11 to 18%. (Do I really need to tell you how I learned THIS fact. sigh) Bread flour will work, but it's more expensive. You may as well use bread flour to begin with and save yourself an hour or so of work.
2.) The pounding procedure was not hard enough or long enough. Both will cause the gluten to be underdeveloped. Do the window test to make sure it's been pounded long/hard enough.
3) The dough was not stiff enough (this happens when you use the mixer method or hand method.) You don't want a sticky dough. Add some more flour
4.) The dough was too stiff. This can happen when you mix by hand. You can add water into a formed dough, but it's a pain in the tush to do so. You have to really work it to get the water to incorporate. The best strategy is to not put in too much flour to begin with. You need just enough flour to make a dough that isn't sticky. No more. And if you're doing this by hand, make sure to take it out of the bowl when it's still a little sticky. The flour on your hands and kneading/pounding surface will incorporate into the dough.
5.) It was not kneaded enough. (Do the window test, even with machine kneaded dough!)

If you can, pound or knead the dough longer and test it again. Keep kneading/pounding until it stretches instead of rips. If you've already put the whole thing in water and it's falling apart, then let the mixture rest 4-8 hours and then try washing it again.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what to do with the gluten, bran and starch.


Lib said...

HI Darlene,
Just wanted to say hi and home things are going well for you!
Have a great wk.end!

Be Prepared said...

I have just tried this for the first time and was wondering how you separate out the starch and bran. I left mine in a large glass jar and it's separated but where do I go from there?

Be Prepared said...

I have just tried making gluten for the first time and was wondering how you separate the starch and bran. I put the starch and bran in a large glass jar and it's separated. Where do I go from there?

Darlene said...

I don't know if I ever answered you by email or on site. My life went nuts and I'm not even out the other side, yet.

Pour off the starch and then pour the bran into a jelly roll pan (the actual name of the "cookie sheet" with a lip on it. Put it in the oven to dry. Oven temp about 250. Watch it. Or you could put it in a dehydrator on the same kind of sheet you'd use to dry fruit leather.

Anonymous said...

Very informative, thanks for posting it! Yours was the best site I found for making Vital Wheat Gluten

Thanks again