Gluten "sponges" from scratch
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
This last week, my students from Food Crisis class did a final food preparation lab. This lab explored vegetarian and vegan alternatives to the meat-centered diet that we have been discussing all term, and we made two Chinese recipes: a Shanghainese vegan recipe made with braised gluten and a simple battered tofu recipe.
Late Thursday night, however, I discovered that the Chinese market was out of dried gluten. Rather than admit defeat, I hopped onto the Chinese internet and found a recipe for making the dried gluten sponges from scratch. After experimenting with a few recipes, I have found one that I like. (The one that I drew the most inspiration was this one, from Xiachufang).
Vital wheat gluten (I use Anthony's): 200 grams
Pastry flour: 50 grams plus 2 teaspoons
Yeast: 1.5 teaspoon
Sugar: 1/2 teaspoon
Water: 330-350 mL, lukewarm about 110-115 degrees F
Oil for brushing
Food scale (preferred)
A mixer (optional)
A big pot or steamer
Activate the yeast by adding it to a big mixing bowl with the sugar and 2 teaspoons of the pastry flour. Add the warm water, stir and let sit for ten minutes. Check to see that the yeast has "blossomed" (you'll know if you see a foam top). If it doesn't, start over again, or check the expiration date on your yeast package.
Mix the gluten and remaining pastry flour together, then add to the yeast water solution. Stir with chopsticks or mixer attachment until it becomes a spongy mass.
Brush a pot with oil, then add the spongy mass and cover (with saran wrap or an airtight cover). Let it rest in a warm place until it triples in size, between 1.5-2 hours.
Prepare steamer. I usually put the gluten in a well-oiled bread pan, which I place into a big pot and add water. Steam for 35 minutes on medium. Do not open the lid; after the steaming is complete, allow the gluten to sit covered for 10 more minutes before uncovering. This prevents the gluten from collapsing.
Remove gluten from pot or steamer and allow to cool completely. Use a knife to remove the gluten from the bread pan. If you are not using the gluten immediately, you can refrigerate for a day or two, or freeze it.