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28 April 2009

Bread with Cooked Amaranth

A couple of weeks ago I found some amaranth grain at the store; I've been wanting to try amaranth for a while now. I have heard that it is supposed to be pretty nutritious. I tried cooking some with 1:3 ratio of amaranth:water, and I ate it with soup. It was interesting, with a very distinct smell and taste. It reminds me of corn husk silks, with an almost bitter edge. By itself the flavor is too strong and I don't like it. So I've been using it to make bread!

Lately I've been feeling the need to make some good whole wheat bread, because it's hard to find here. All of the dark breads here taste funny. I have a hard time figuring out the types of flour here, and even if I buy something labeled "dark flour" there is no guarantee that it will make the kind of whole wheat bread that I want. So I decided to use amaranth in my bread instead of trying to figure out whole grain flours at the store. I had a couple of bags of good old American all-purpose and bread flour that my wonderful MIL hooked us up with, so I have not had to figure out regular flour so far.

I searched for bread recipes using amaranth, but could only find recipes that use amaranth flour, and since I don't have any way to grind the little grains into flour, I decided to use it whole and cooked. I figured that it would be similar to using cooked oatmeal or cornmeal or even rice in bread. I've done breads like that before, and they've turned out great.

The finished bread still has a little of that funky corn husk silk flavor, but it is much less prominent, and adds interest, instead of being repellent. If you have some plain yogurt on hand, you can use 4 tablespoons of it instead of the milk and lemon juice mixture. I made this recipe again, and used half of it as a pizza crust, which turned out quite well. After making it the second time, I've completely run out of my nice American flour. (I'll have to tell you about my experiences using the different flours here, and if they work at all.)

Bread with Cooked Amaranth
1/2 c. amaranth grain cooked in 1 c. water until water is absorbed
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. honey
1 c. water, divided
1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 1/2 tbsp. milk
3-3 1/2 c. bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. olive oil

Set cooked amaranth aside and let cool. In a large bowl, mix yeast and honey with 1/2 cup of the water, at a lukewarm temperature. Let sit till foamy. Mix the lemon juice with the milk in a small bowl, let sit for at least 5 minutes, it will thicken and curdle somewhat (full milk works best for this purpose). Add the remaining 1/2 cup water to the amaranth, and stir to loosen any clumps.
Add 1 cup flour and the amaranth to the yeast mixture. Stir until smooth. Add the milk plus lemon juice and the oil. Stir the salt into another cup of flour, then add that to the dough mixture, mix thoroughly. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until all the flour is absorbed. The dough should be soft and pretty sticky. Resist the temptation to add much more than 3 1/2 c. flour altogether.
Coat a large bowl with about 1 teaspoon oil, form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, turning to coat with oil. Cover and let rise until double. Gently pull the dough out and fold it over itself twice, deflating it somewhat. It should be a little bigger in volume than it was before rising, and much less sticky. Place in the bowl, turning to coat with any remaining oil, cover and let rise again. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and grease a baking sheet.
When the dough has doubled the second time, gently dump it out of the bowl, form a loaf and place it on the baking sheet. Try to not punch all of the air out as you form the loaf. I prefer to make a long torpedo-shaped loaf, but a large round would work also. Let the loaf rise till almost double, then cut 3 or 4 cut slashes in the top with a sharp knife, about 1/2 inch deep, holding the knife at a 45 degree angle. Bake for 40 minutes, till crust is dark golden. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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