Photo by Lynne Calamia While quinoa is more popular (and a complete, gluten-free protein), I’m far more enamored with quinoa’s pseudocereal cousin amaranth. Though not quite complete in the protein department, it’s an ancient superfood nonetheless delivering more phytochemicals and micronutrients than I have the time, space or will to list. And get this: it pops like tiny popcorn. I decided of course that anything that healthy must go into a cookie. Now I’m utterly addicted and I’d say about 97 percent of my dietary protein comes from these cookies. This recipe is based on an early version in EveryDayCook, but it's been heavily modified because honestly, they could have been better and now they are.
ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour 25 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 3 hours
Yield: 36 cookies
Candied Orange Software
- 1 navel orange
- 1 1/3 cups water, divided
- 1 cup granulated sugar
Amaranth Wafer Software
- 1/2 cup whole amaranth
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons amaranth flour
- 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (60 to 65°F)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup chopped Candied Orange Peel (above)
Candied Orange Peel Procedure
Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper. Place a wire rack in the pan over the parchment. Stash next to the cooktop.
Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the orange, leaving behind as much pith as possible. Save the orange for a snack. Transfer to a small saucepan with 1 cup (235 milliliters) of the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the peels are just turning tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, then return the peels to the saucepan.
Add the remaining 1/3 cup (75 grams) water, along with the sugar. Return to medium-high heat and bring to a rapid simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the syrup reduces and crystalizes and the foam turns very cloudy, 15 to 20 minutes. You should be able to see sugar crystals forming on both the orange peels and the bottom and sides of the pot.
Use tongs to transfer the peels to the prepared rack. Let cool completely, 15 to 20 minutes, before finely chopping and reserving for the cookies.
Amaranth Wafer Procedure
Heat a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Flick water into the pot; if it immediately forms balls and evaporates, the pot is hot enough. If it does not, continue to heat, checking on the temperature every 30 seconds or so, until it is hot. It could take up to 5 minutes to heat the pan, depending on your stovetop. Add about a tablespoon of the whole amaranth and cover the pan. It should immediately begin to pop. Cook, shaking the pan constantly, for 5 to 10 seconds to pop the grains. Remove from the heat, give the pan a few more shakes, then uncover and pour into a medium bowl. Wipe out the saucepan. Continue popping the remaining amaranth one tablespoon at a time. When finished, let cool while you make the dough.
Whisk the amaranth flour, dried orange peel, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place the brown sugar and butter together in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Still on medium speed, beat in the egg until smooth, about 30 seconds, followed by the vanilla, about 15 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Return the mixer to low, then slowly add the flour mixture, followed by the popped amaranth and candied orange peel. Continue to beat until combined, 10 to 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and chill for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line two half sheet pans with parchment paper.
Drop the batter by the tablespoonful onto the prepared pans and parchment, 12 to a pan, 2 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough rounds to form cookies about 1/2-inch thick. Bake the cookies, one pan at a time, until the cookies have puffed, formed a cracked top, and are golden brown on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool for 1 minute on the pan before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the second prepared pan, then re-line the original pan to bake off a third batch. Sealed in an airtight vessel, the cookies will keep for two weeks. They freeze well, too.