Randy's Vegetarian Cookbook

Wheat-Gluten Balls

1 pound gluten flour (about 3 3/4 cups )
1 1/2 cups (or a bit more) water
Makes 40 fried balls or 80 smaller baked ones.

Put the flour in a large bowl. Slowly add water and bring the flour together to make an unsticky ball of medium firmness. Knead for 10 to 12 minutes until the dough is smooth. Leave the dough in a bowl, covered, for 1 hour.

Knead the dough briefly again. Form a ball and put the dough back in the bowl. Now cover the ball of dough with cold water from the faucet and leave overnight.

Begin to wash the dough: Treat the dough like a piece of sponge and squeeze it under the water. Keep doing this until the water turns exceedingly milky from the starch. Throw this starchy water away and cover the dough with fresh cold water. You will be throwing away several batches of water as each turns milky until you are left with just gluten, at which point the water remains almost clear. Place this ball of gluten on a tilted board and let it drain for 15 minutes.

The wheat-gluten balls may be fried or baked.

For frying the balls

Set up a platter lined with paper towels. Pour oil into a wok for deep frying and heat over a lowish flame. You should aim for a temperature around 325F.

Break the dough into 1-inch balls, working each in your hand so it is as round as possible.

Drop four balls into the wok at a slight distance from each other. Baste the balls gently but constantly with the hot oil as you fry them. The frying should take at least 4 minutes. The balls should expand to at least twice their size and turn a reddish color on the outside. If they brown too fast, they will not expand properly. Adjust the heat if that happens.

Remove the balls with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on the platter. The balls will collapse as they cool.

For baking the balls

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a cookie sheet lightly with oil. Break the dough into 1/2-inch balls and lay as many as will fit on the cookie sheet, about 2-1/2 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are quite puffed up and lightly browned.

Storing and using the balls

When fried or baked gluten balls have cooled, they should be packed in plastic bags or containers and either refrigerated or frozen. They should last in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. To defrost frozen balls, just throw them into boiling water or stock and cook for a few minutes.

Baked balls are particularly suited to light stews and soups. Fried balls are better in heartier stews and in stir-fried dishes.

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