Alegría de kiwicha, cacao y maní // Amaranth Cacao Peanut Brittle
I do not have much of a sweet tooth. There are few sweets that really grab my attention. The ones that do often incorporate nuts or seeds in them. Not cookies. I don't like that at all, but in candies, yes. I love the deep flavor and crunch that nuts give. And I love the surprising earthy, chewy texture that seeds give too. Nuts and seeds also break up the sweetness a bit to vary how the flavors hit your tongue. A type of confection that comes out of Mexico, that hits all the right notes, is called alegría, which means "joy" in Spanish. In English it is known as brittle. Alegría is a brittle made with unrefined cane sugar (aka piloncillo or panela or, in Peru, chancaca) and popped amaranth seeds (amaranto in Spanish or kiwicha in Quechua) as its star. It can also include other nuts or dried fruits. I decided to give making a different type of alegría a shot by changing the sweetening and binding agent and only using add-ins that are indigenous to South America, a Alegría de kiwicha, cacao y maní, or an Amaranth Cacao and Peanut Brittle. It is featured here as a topping on a vegan blueberry avocado ice cream.
It is believed that Mexico is the origin of amaranth and today there are many varieties that grow throughout the rest of Latin America. In Peru, it is a crop that has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. Amaranth was known as huāuhtli to the Aztecs and is known as kiwicha in Peru, from the Quechua language. Kiwicha is used more often as a cereal in Peru, in some desserts, but also in porridges and soups. It is also made into a flour for the making of various breads and cakes. It is high in calcium and incredibly nutritious. Like quinua, kiwicha was highly valued by pre-Incan civilizations and the Incan Empire. Cacao and the peanut (maní, in Peru) are indigenous to South America and also have been cultivated for thousands of years. The Olmecs of Mexico are believed to be the first peoples to domesticate cacao about 3,000 years ago. The oldest known remains of peanuts were found in Peru and are 7,600 years old!
Since I can get down with any kind of brittle I knew that making a variation of alegría would absolutely bring me joy. You can find variations of brittle all over the world whether it is made with sesame seeds, pistachios or, in the U.S., the one I grew up eating most often was Peanut Brittle. In Mexico, the first mentions of the confection appear in the 16th century. Historically, and even now, it has been made with honey, molasses, cane sugar, or even chocolate. I've begun moving away from using sugar and have moved closer to using indigenous ingredients from the American continents. For that reason I created a recipe using maple syrup to represent the North and the other add-in ingredients to represent more of the South: amaranth, raw cacao nibs, and peanuts. I hope you enjoy this recipe, amig@s, I honestly couldn't stop eating this!
Dulce de kiwicha, cacao y maní -- Serves 12
1/2 cup popped kiwicha (amaranth)
1/8 cup cacao nibs
1/8 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons maple sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
In a small pot, heat maple syrup and add coconut oil. Mix for a few minutes,
Pour maple mixture over dry ingredients and mix.
On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, pour mixture gently, creating a rectangular shape. Be sure to spread as evenly as possible so edges do not burn during baking process.
Bake for 25 minutes. Turn halfway through.
Remove and allow to cool fully. Crack into preferred sized pieces.
Store in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for up to a month.
Buen provecho, amig@s!
Note: Popping amaranth is super easy! It's best to do small batches at a time so not to burn the seeds. Just use a dry pan at medium-high heat, pour in a couple tablespoons and they'll start popping in just a few seconds. You should have a pan cover near by just to keep them from escaping.