Good for You, Good to Eat – Amaranth Pancakes

When I was a child, my mom went through an extended health food phase – wheat germ in the peanut butter, whole-grain everything, and no refined sugar in the house.  I’m sorry to say I came through the experience with my fondness for sweets still very much intact, but perhaps due to that early exposure I’ve also always loved hearty grain flavors.  This pancake fits right into that category, with a generous portion of fiber from wheat bran, oatmeal, and nuts, a nutritional boost from amaranth seeds, and raisins for a kiss of sweetness.

What, doesn't everyone use hardware store clamps in the pantry?

In case you are unfamiliar with amaranth, it has a long and intriguing history as a source of food, tribute, and religious offering among the native peoples of Mexico and South America, and nowadays it is especially popular as the main ingredient in dulce de alegría, which is basically like a popcorn ball-type confection made from puffed amaranth and a piloncillo and honey syrup (by the way, dulce de alegría means “happiness candy” – isn’t that a promising name?).  I find amaranth in the “bio” section with all of the other healthy stuff at Globus, a large German supermarket.  In the U.S. I’ve seen it in health food stores and regular grocery stores distributed by companies such as Bob’s Red Mill, and it is probably available for a good price in a Mexican store if there is one in your neighborhood (these little places are also the best place to buy low cost dried chiles, herbs, spices, and beans and often fresh produce as well).

The pancake recipe is adapted from one contributed by a Cocina al Natural reader named Bertha Ramos.  I’ve kept the recipe basically the same except it needed more milk to get the right consistency (and I also cut the quantities in half, yielding six medium-sized pancakes).  The original recipe calls for equal amounts of almonds and “nueces” or nuts, which can refer to pecans or walnuts.  I used all pecans instead of a combination, and last time I substituted ground hazelnuts – that was my favorite version, with a flavor that reminded me of Nutella but without the chocolate.  These hot cakes are delicious with a simple fruit topping or warm maple syrup, and if you want to dress them up, stir together a little honey and softened cream cheese to spoon on top.

As for technique, my blender is actually more like a food processor than a regular blender.  It didn’t really do a very good job of grinding the amaranth seeds because there was too much space between the blade and the sides of the container, but with a little experimentation I found that my little electric coffee grinder was perfect for the task (I ground the amaranth separately and then added it to the blender container).  I think a regular blender would work just fine, and it seems to do the trick in the Cocina al Natural video.

Hearty Amaranth Pancakes
Adapted from a recipe by Bertha Ramos

  • ½ cup amaranth seeds
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup wheat bran
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup nuts of your choice (I compared a third of a cup of pecan bits by weight and it equaled 50 grams, which translated to ½ cup pre-ground hazelnuts)
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 1¼ cups milk
  • Butter for cooking
  • Fruit, syrup, or other toppings as desired

Place seeds, oats, bran, raisins, and nuts in a blender in the order listed, stirring around a little to separate the raisins.  Blend until the mixture is all ground up and looks like coarse meal, then stir the baking powder into the mixture in the blender.

Add the egg and a cup of milk and blend a little longer to mix it into a batter.  It should be thin enough to pour, so blend in additional milk if needed.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet until a few drops of water will sizzle and dance around on it.  Drop a small little dab of butter in each spot where you’ll pour a pancake, spread it around with the pancake turner and quickly pour the batter.  I used about ¼ cup of batter to make medium-sized pancakes; you could make them smaller if desired, but I think it would be hard to turn them successfully if they were much larger.

Let the pancakes cook a few minutes until they get dry around the edges and look brown underneath.  They are a little fragile at the turning stage, but slide your pancake turner all the way under each one with a single quick motion and then give a fast flip and all will be well.  Cook until the other side is golden brown.  I usually put a metal pie pan on another burner at the lowest setting to keep finished pancakes warm while I am cooking the rest of the batch.

I somehow let National Pancake Week escape my notice this year (in fact, what really happened to all of February and March and how can we already be chugging through April at such a fast clip?).  Anyway, these pancakes will turn any day of the year into a date worth celebrating, so go get some amaranth and have a good healthy breakfast!


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