Amaranth sourdough bread
I enjoy using amaranth in breads. It has unique and pleasant flavor and is very much a Mexican (Central and South American) ingredient that goes back to Pre-Colombian times. It is an underappreciated ingredient that hasn’t been used to its full potential. To be honest I had to get used to its flavor which I can best describe as one slightly reminiscent of corn with grassy tones. But it quickly won me over as a delicious ingredient that I wanted to learn to use in my baking. Two previous posts of mine feature it as an ingredient in “Amaranth (not so flat) bread” and “Amaranth bread”.
Amaranth flour is really made from the seed of the plant. In Mexico the seed is the main ingredient in “alegrias”, a candy made typically with amaranth seeds, piloncillo(a type of unrefined sugar), raisins, and other ingredients like pumpkin seeds or pecans. That sounds like something I would like to try making.
This is a sourdough bread that uses only bread flour, water, natural yeast, salt, amaranth seeds, and amaranth flour. But this will be a basis for making other amaranth sourdough loaves incorporating additional flavors. I cut back on the fermentation and proofing time to make it a “lighter” sourdough. I wanted some of the tang but not the full flavor development of a full 4 hour or more fermentation period and 5 hour proof. I also didn’t want the wildly large holes in the crumb. I wanted the amaranth to come through fairly strong and not overpowered by the wheat. To do this I put in a higher percentage of levain. I figured that more yeast power would hurry up the fermentation and proofing stage, thus cutting short the chance for full flavor development. It seemed to work out very well in this particular batch. The past several weeks I’ve been experimenting with different percentages of ingredients and fermentation times to adapt to different breads I want to make. There is an incredible amount to learn about breadmaking! I’m only scratching the surface of it. You notice I mostly use metric measurements in my sourdough recipes. It really has helped me to be precise and to make detailed comparisons between batches. Sourdough bread making is not always a forgiving endeavor. Since there are a lot of variables to contend with, I have found that it pays to keep good notes.
2 tsp. starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)
150 grams water at 75 degrees
150 grams bread flour
All the levain
500 grams water at 80 degrees
1000 grams bread flour
100 grams amaranth flour
30 grams salt
30 grams water
1/2 cup amaranth seeds plus 1 cup water
Make the levain the night before you plan to make the bread. Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the bread flour and mix well until there is no dry flour left. Cover with plastic and leave out over night. My kitchen was at about 85 degrees F. The next morning check to see if it has sufficiently developed by dropping a spoonful into a small bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready. If the levain sinks to the bottom it needs more time. It usually takes about 10-12 hours depending on the ambient temperature. It also depends on the temperature of the water you used to make the levain. Colder water will take longer.
Before you get started on the bread, toast the amaranth seeds in a small pan until they become aromatic and light brown in color. A few may pop and look like miniature popcorn. Now add the 1 cup of water and bring to a low simmer. The amaranth should soften in about 15 minutes. The water should evaporate by then. If it dries before the seeds are ready, add more water as needed. Remove from the heat to cool when done.
To make the final dough, put the levain in a bowl large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients. Add the 500 grams of water and dissolve the levain. Next add the bread flour and amaranth flour and mix well with your hands until there is no dry flour left. At this stage, we are not kneading. Add more water by the tablespoon if you feel you need it. The dough should not be very wet nor dry for this bread. Cover the bowl with a wet towel or plastic wrap and let it sit for about 40 minutes.
After 40 or so minutes remove the towel. The dough will miraculously seemed like some kneading was done to it. It will be already slightly elastic in texture. Mix the 30 grams salt in the 30 grams water and dissolve as much as you can. It will not all be able to dissolve. Add it to the dough by squeezing it in with your hands. Don’t worry to get it perfect. Put the dough in your stand mixer bowl and knead for about 6 to 7 minutes. You can choose to knead by hand if you want. Mix until there is good gluten development. It will become smooth and elastic. The 40 minute rest (autolyse) drastically shortens the kneading period. My dough stills sticks to the bottom of the bowl when done. It should not be a dry dough. Remove it from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Fold in the prepared amaranth seeds until they are evenly distributed. Keep on lightly flouring the work area if needed but try to use as little flour as possible.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Make sure the top of the dough is also oiled. Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it is double in volume. It took this batch about 3 1/2 hours in an 85 degree environment.
When it is ready, remove from the bowl, and lightly degass it. I then divided the dough into 3 portions and formed 1 batard and 2 boules. I put them each on parchment paper so it will be an easy transfer to the baking stone. Very lightly flour or spray with oil then cover with plastic. The plastic tends to stick if the precaution is not taken. Place a baking stone in the oven if you are using one and pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. If you don’t have a baking stone, put them on a lightly oiled heavy duty baking tray and let them proof to about double in size. It took these 1 1/2 hours to complete.
When ready, lightly flour the dough and slash as desired. Put them in the pre-heated oven and then lower the oven to 425 degrees. I use a spray bottle with water to mimic the steam that is injected in professional ovens. I carefully spritz the oven 3 times within the first 10 to 12 minutes. The bread will be ready when the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 200 degrees, about 20 minutes. Be sure to rotate them halfway through to insure an even baking. I had to bake in 2 batches since my oven won’t accomodate the 3 loaves very well.
For those interested in the baker’s percentages (jargon for comparing the ratio of ingredients to the amount of flour), I would be glad to update the post.
I was very happy with the results. The amaranth is balanced with the tang and great flavor of the sourdough. The bread also has a very intoxicating aroma. I just need to work on the outer appearance of the bread to make them distinct from other kinds of loaves I make.
It’s amazing that all the leavening began with only 2 teaspoons of starter, which also had a big hand in the flavor development.