Lemon Amaranth Cupcakes



I've figured out a genius solution to our collective poor relationship with food.  Let's return to regularly enjoying dessert!  No, really.  Let's get back to having dessert every day.

Wait, isn't sugar fat carbs dairy soy meat eating breathing indulgence the root of all evil? Or is it extremist thinking that has gotten us into trouble?  I think that returning to dessert might mark a return to sense with regard to eating.  And by dessert, I don't mean a single square of dark chocolate, or Weight Watchers cookies.  I'm talking about the kind of treats that have some sugar and maybe some butter, too, and were baked lovingly with human hands.

What if all of the diets we've endured over the the few decades are actually responsible for our utterly screwed up ideas about eating?  Is it possible that the undercurrent of thought which associates Puritanical deprivation with righteousness is the very reason why so many people inhale entire boxes of Hohos in one sitting.

I'm starting to think that reintroducing the dessert course could realign our food instincts.  Think about how differently you eat when you know dessert is waiting at the end of your meal.  The save-room-for-dessert mentality discourages overeating while the main course is on the table.  Also, knowing that a little bit of deliciousness lies at the end of the meal might also keep us from devouring a whole box of candy by the light of a computer,  or wolfing down four pieces of cheesecake at once, like a kid let loose on vacation.  It might even prevent some of the psychological games we play with ourselves, I really want a slice of apple pie, but I'll eat two pounds of frozen grapes instead.

Having dessert, nothing fancy,  a nice handmade treat, is a kind of security.  It is knowing that life holds a rich slice of goodness every day.  So tonight, and maybe tomorrow and the next night, too, have some dessert.  Might I suggest these lemon amaranth cupcakes with cream cheese frosting?

Foraging for Amaranth


Chances are that you've got amaranth (Amaranthus spp.) growing somewhere near you right now.  Often called pigweed or waterhemp, it is a widespread plant, with several dozen species growing in North America alone.  In the spring, its tender leaves make a nice green vegetable.  In the autumn and throughout most of the winter, stalks lined with prickly chaff can be stripped and winnowed to reveal tiny shiny black seeds of grain.

These small grains have been the backbone food for many cultures throughout history.  Nutritious and lacking bitterness, they can be eaten raw or made into everything from cereal to baked goods like crackers and breads.

Like so many abundant weedy plants, amaranth prefers disturbed soil.  Look for it in fields and places man has forgotten.  Its alternate leaves, stems which are sometimes red, and heavy flowering heads favor full sun.  For more on identifying amaranth plants, have a look at this article.  If you already know how to identify amaranth, refer back to this post (which also contains a closeup picture of amaranth seeds), where I explain my favorite method for winnowing.

Lemon Amaranth Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


1/4 c. butter, room temperature
3/4 c. flour or gluten-free flour blend*
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
2 tsp. amaranth seeds (substitute poppy seeds)

1.  With a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, whip the butter until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

2.  Sift in the dry ingredients, and continue blending until the mixture resembles wet sand.

3.  In a cup, combine the egg, vanilla, milk, and lemon juice gently with a fork.

4.  Pour the wet ingredients into the butter and dry ingredients, and mix until just combined.

5.  Stir in the lemon zest and amaranth seeds.

6.  Pour the batter into 6-8 lined muffin cups (6 if you don't mind them getting muffin tops, 8 if you want them to be neat), and bake in a 350 degree (F) oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes away crumb-free.

7.  Cool completely before frosting.

*I used a mixture of sorghum flour, rice flour, cornstarch, and a touch of xanthan gum

Cream Cheese Frosting


1/4 c. butter, room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. powdered sugar

1.  Using a mixer, whip the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until they are fluffy and smooth.

2.  Mix in the powdered sugar 1/4 c. at a time until the mixture form the thick goop we all love.

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November is seed month at Wild Things.  That leaves the door wide open for you to get out there and try foraging and cooking with all sorts of ingredients.  After you're finished, share your recipe at wildthings.roundup@gmail.com, and watch it appear in the round up at the end of the month.

Comments

  1. I am all for this dessert-intervention; it's a great idea. :*

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  2. Do amaranth taste like poppy seeds?

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    Replies
    1. I've gotta be honest, eaten this way, I don't think they have much of a taste. But ground as a flour, they do have a bit of a sweet grain taste which is quite nice.

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  3. What I know to be pigweed here in Connecticut is purslane. Are you saying that they are one and the same? I have to admit I have never seen purslane going to see before.

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    Replies
    1. Nope, the low-growing succulent leaves of purslane are quite different. Although they do make tiny black seeds. I collected a bunch for a friend that lives in Alaska so that she can try to grow purslane.

      There are many species of amaranth, but they grow upright and don't have succulent leaves. I don't have any pictures of my own from when the leaves were green, but the link I provided has quite a few pictures. Common names can sometimes be deceiving because they vary so much from region to region.

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  4. Did you grind the amaranth? I know I've seen amaranth flour before.

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    Replies
    1. For this recipe, I've kept it whole. But it certainly can be ground and substituted for part of the flour in just about any recipe you can think of - from cakes, to breads and flatbreads, to cookies and crackers, and more.

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  5. Oh yum. I'm pretty sure I've seen this plant nearby. Now I'm going to go check it out so I can make this recipe (like I need an excuse to make cupcakes!).

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    Replies
    1. If you ever need an excuse to eat cupcakes again, just come here, and I will give you a permission slip ;)

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  6. Lovely! I love your piping/icing technique. So pretty. Thanks for always inspiring!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks :) I'm a home-style, slap it on the plate kind of gal. But sometimes it is nice to have something pretty.

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