Creating a seitan recipe is a dangerous process, if by “dangerous” I mean fascinating and aggravating at the same time. Whether it’s seitan cutlets, seitan bacon, or seitan wings, there are a few simple steps that determine what ends up in our active roster. Here’s how it generally goes:
1. Determine a need: Sometimes these needs come from our own minds, but our customers let us know, too. For instance, our friend Amie at the Vegan Van told us in no uncertain terms that we must carry a chorizo-style log.
2. Create a “parent components list”: Don’t confuse this with a recipe yet. What we do at this stage is decide what on earth ought to go into a given recipe. For chorizo, this meant a robust heat profile, preferably with multiple chili pepper flavors, a deep red color, some vinegar backbone, and an emphasis on traditional Mexican/Spanish/Portuguese spices. Oh, and GARLIC. We also had to bear in mind that chorizo seitan needed to be a bit less dense than our other styles.
3. Research “parent recipes”: We’re not reinventing the wheel – we’re just putting some 20-inch riiiiiiiiims on it. Their are plenty of chefs out there posting their own versions of recipes, so we take to the web and look them up, trying out a few promising versions and looking for what makes each one really sing. Should we use whole coriander or coriander powder? Do most recipes use red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar? How do we balance texture with ease of cooking? These are all topics that hop through our brains during this stage.
4. Deep testing: Once we’ve determined what items (spices, flours, liquids) will constitute our “core recipe”, we test it – ruthlessly. This is the aggravating stage. Every test batch that we make represents lost profit potential, and some of these versions are decidedly disgusting. One of our first attempts at chorizo was overwhelmingly vinegary and literally stiff with chili powder. It was inedible. We take notes and try again, altering what might seem like minute amounts of certain spices. The difference between 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper is vast. Take a spoonful if you don’t believe us.
5. Yield tests and profitability: We’ve come a long way since the days when our logs were all shaped differently. We now use a standard weight for all logs, and we know how much raw material will yield X number of logs. For a given recipe in development, we have to determine what our raw costs are vs. how much we can conceivably charge the hungry public. On top of that, we’ve got to bear in mind that one “batch” of chorizo may produce four logs, while a batch of Sicilian or Chickenesque may only produce one or two logs. If all of these numbers line up, we’re on our way to a new product!
6. Human trials and alterations: Although our friends and membership-holders get special access to the deep testing phase, we still have to run this stuff past the general public. By this time, we’ve got the recipe, costs/yields, and weights dialed in, so if we do have to make more small changes we can quickly deploy them. If a majority of our testers find a style to be too spicy/smoky/floppy/stiff/dry/gummy/sweet/whatever, we can alter our recipe without much fuss.
7. Branding and wiping away a tear as our little baby goes off on its own: So much of what we do at Denver Seitan is tied up in how we talk and present our wheat meat. We’re big on solid, unitary branding, so how we name our seitan and design its packaging stamp (stay tuned) is a huge part of the process. The chorizo recipe that we’ve been following went through a few name and identity iterations, but we settled on “Sureizo”, since it’s still pretty close. If a customer wants to dig deeper, we can say that, “We’re sure that this is vegan.” See how damn clever we are?
And that’s the process, folks. Sureizo is a less-dense, easier-to-crumble, delicious log. Three different kinds of chili pepper provide a complex and long-lasting heat, and fresh garlic suffuses the whole hot mess. We dig it, and we hope that you will, too.