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Amaranth (not so flat) bread

November 11, 2012

“When a baby boy was born, a sheild and bow and arrows of amaranth dough were made for him to encourage him in manly pursuits.”   So wrote Sophie D. Coe in  “America’s First Cuisines”,  a marvel of a book about  food and its history in pre-Columbian America.  Anyone interested in reading detailed descriptions about the pre-Hispanic food of the Aztecs, Maya, and Inca  would find this scholarly book very readable and informative.

This experiment was intended to be a flatbread but ended up with a shape more reminiscent of the Mexican sweet bread,  concha, not quite flat and not quite a boule shape. I was satisfied with the flavor and texture. The amaranth comes through not too strong, making for a versatile bread that pairs well with traditional Mexican, Tex-Mex, or “southwest” flavors.  It also makes a good sandwich bread or toast. More of the amaranth flour can be substituted for bread flour if a stonger flavor is desired.   My use of yeast, flour, and olive oil disqualifies it from being anything even remotely pre-Colombian, but I wonder if  amaranth was ever experimented with when bread was introduced to the ancient Mexicans.


3 c. bread flour

1/4 c. whole wheat flour

3/4 c. amaranth flour (lightly toasted in a skillet)

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons olive oil

about 1 1/2 cups water


1. Mix the flours, yeast, and salt together in your mixing bowl. Stir in the honey and then the olive oil until well incorporated.

2. Add about a cup or more of  water and mix with a spatula or large spoon until it forms a somewhat cohesive dough.  You can also use your mixer using the paddle attachment.  Now switch to the dough hook of your mixer and knead for about 6-7 minutes all the while adding more water as needed to make a slightly tacky dough.  The dough will feel smooth and elastic when it is ready  with good gluten development.

3. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a round form.  Put a little olive oil in another bowl large enough for the dough to rise, making sure to lightly oil the surface the dough to prevent it from forming a dry crust. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise to double in size.  It took mine about 1 hour though it will depend on the temperature of your kitchen or proofing area.

4. When the dough is ready, remove it from the bowl, place it on your work surface, and lightly degas it by flattening it down a little.  Divide the dough into however many portions you want. You can make one big loaf or several of  the same or different sizes.  Form the portions into a ball to let rest about 5-7 minutes.  Now tweak the shape of the balls into nice rounds and flatten them with your hand into 1/2 ” to 3/4″ thick disks. You may also use a rolling pin to help you out on the shaping. I found the rolling pin a big plus in getting nice uniform shapes. Place them on  parchment paper lined baking sheets.

5. Loosely cover the portions with plastic wrap and let proof until almost double in height, about 40-50 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a baking stone in place if you are using one.

6. When the dough has risen, you may lightly dust the dough with flour and slash it with your lame (baker’s razor) or sharp knife. Place the dough in your pre-heated oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees.  If you have a method of steaming the oven, do so. I use a water spritzer to moisten the hot air 3 times in the first 10 minutes. It’s a good technique to use as it helps get a good oven spring from the dough.

7.  Bake about 30 to 40 minutes.  If using a thermometer, the  internal temperature of the bread should read 200 degrees.   Set the bread on a wire rack to cool down to room temperature.  Bread is still cooking even after it’s pulled out of the oven.

“We cannot explain why amaranth seeds had immense ritual significance for the Aztecs. True, some of the species have red seeds and would tint any dough made with them red.  It was also the year’s first crop, ripening before the maize harvest.  For whatever reason many Aztec ceremonies involved making an image of the god with ground amaranth, or maize and amaranth, made into a dough with honey or blood.  The image was then worshiped, broken up, and eaten by the worshipers, a practice which the Spaniards regarded as a blasphemous parody of communion.  Even private domestic ceremonies required amaranth.”    Sophie D. Coe

Amaranth "flatbread"

It could have been flatter.

It makes for a good sandwich bun.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2012 4:22 pm

    Orale’ Gerard! Great post! I liked reading the historical references and the photos were perfect! Eee…home dried tomatoes con penos on mozza, que dulce. The bread had great scores. I could see ancient Mexica designs for the scoring, they loved to put designs on circles. I’ll send you some designs. Maybe speak more to your experience cooking and eating. Man, you need to get a cookbook agent.

  2. November 12, 2012 10:41 pm

    You’re absolutely right, there is potential for different shaping and scoring of the bread. Thanks Roberto!

  3. Rachel permalink
    November 16, 2012 9:40 pm

    That’s some good looking sandwich, Gerard!


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