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I am looking into making my own seitan, but every recipe/video I see is talking about 'vital-', 'whole-' or just 'wheat gluten'.

What exactly is the difference to normal typical flour?

And if it is flour, is there anything I should be looking for on the packaging?

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Gluten is the main protein component of wheat. You can use ordinary flour and process it into seitan yourself by washing the starch out of it, or you can buy gluten powder, which might be sold as "vital wheat gluten". This is flour that has been hydrated and had the starch removed. It saves time when making seitan.

To make seitan from flour, you need to make a dough, leave it overnight or for at least a few hours, then wash the starch out. Now you have seitan.

If you use pre-processed gluten, you only need to mix it with water, knead it a little, and shape it as you like.

  • "Vital" is a brand, isn't it? There is also gluten in spelt, so there is "spelt gluten" as opposed to "wheat gluten". – Nobody Jan 7 '18 at 21:18
  • @Nobody No, it's not a brand name, although it does sound like sales language! This is really the name for dried gluten flour. If you search you'll find it being sold by several companies. – Zanna Jan 7 '18 at 21:24
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As mentioned, flour is only about 12% gluten (for AP. more for bread flour.). If you follow the traditional method of making seitan, this would end you up with at most ~100g dry mass of seitan, and ~900g of wheat starch slurry covering your workspace and potentially clogging your drain. In addition to that, adding flavourings or textural modifiers right into the mixture is difficult since you will wash them right out again if they are water soluble.

While it might be economical if you can get flour at discount prices, do not underestimate the work involved and the subsequent cleaning effort. Also, going from scratch makes it possible to use spelt, but the technique is even more laborious and failure prone.

  • Informal addendum: Yes, I did it a few times. Yes, the mess easily made is astonishing. – rackandboneman Jan 8 '18 at 1:09

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