Amaranth Raisin-Walnut Bread

amaranth bread

Quick breads are some of the easiest to bake and most pleasing to eat. A slice of raisin bread or nut bread goes great with coffee for breakfast or can be enjoyed for an afternoon tea break. All that most recipes require is simply dumping ingredients into a bowl, stirring together, pouring into a loaf pan, and baking. Unlike regular bread, there is no yeast involved, thus no rising, resting, or punching down. Baking powder and/or soda does all the work in making the bread rise, so it's less work for the baker.

I love quick breads in all forms and I've made many different recipes on this site. But one of the things that keeps me from making them more often is that they aren't all too healthy. Typically quick bread recipes are made with white flour and include lots of sugar. Instead, this recipe uses all whole-wheat flour and is sweetened with agave syrup, a low-glycemic sweetener made from the agave plant. The feature of the recipe is whole grains in the form of ancient amaranth.

All this month I've been introducing new and interesting whole grains to this site and my diet. Recently I discovered amaranth, a pseudocereal much like quinoa. It's also called an ancient grain since it dates back thousands of years. It traces its roots back to South America, Southeast Asia, China, and Africa. The Aztecs and Incas both grew amaranth. In South America it's still enjoyed today toasted like popcorn or mixed with honey, molasses, or chocolate and formed into patties resembling rice cakes.

Nutritionally, amaranth offers complete protein and loads of dietary fiber and it is gluten free. The tiny beige seed can be cooked in water and enjoyed like rice or any other grain. But in this recipe it gets soaked in boiling water before being added to the batter. Once the bread is baked, the amaranth becomes toasted and nutty. The raisins, which are soaked along with the amaranth, plump up and add their sweetness to the bread. The chopped walnuts add additional texture and nuttiness. If you like bread loaded with dried fruits, seeds, and nuts, this whole-grain quick bread is for you.

Amaranth Raisin-Walnut Bread

Recipe adapted from Bob's Red Mill.

1/2 cup amaranth
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup canola oil, plus more for pan
2 large eggs
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine amaranth and raisins in a bowl and pour over with boiling water. Let soak for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a large (9-by-5-by-3-inch) loaf pan.

In a small bowl, combine oil, eggs, agave syrup, and vanilla.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and walnuts. Add the soaked amaranth and raisins with the soaking liquid and the oil mixture. Beat together just until combined. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 12 to 20 slices.