Alegrías, whose name is derived from the Spanish word for “happy,” are made from the
highly nutritious, ancient grain amaranth. The recipe calls for amaranth that has already
been toasted or “popped.” You can find popped amaranth in grocery stores, or pop the
seeds yourself using an non-oiled heated pan on high (a clear lid is recommended for this).
Amaranth had been grown by the Aztecs, Incans, Mayans, and several other ancient
cultures until the conquistadors banned it from being grown in order to stop their
ceremonies. It was nearly wiped from existence, and only brought back through seed
saving by those who had retreated to the remote mountains. Today, it has been brought
back, and has been found to have important amino acids, protein, minerals, and vitamins
that completed the diet of these ancient peoples.
• ¼ pound piloncillo or panela (raw unrefined cane sugar in solid molds sold in international food market grocery stores)
• 1 cup water
• ½ pound amaranth cereal (“popped” amaranth)
• a few drops of lime juice (optional)
Place the piloncillo and water in a heavy bottomed pot and cook, stirring frequently,
until the syrup has reached the hard ball stage, 245º on a candy thermometer. If the pot is
too hot, you can tell that it has reached this stage after being on high by watching as the
boiling bubbles rise and then drop significantly back to the lowest levels.
Add the lime juice (optional), remove from the heat and add the amaranth immediately,
stirring it in with a wooden spoon or paddle. Add enough amaranth to gain the best
consistency to work with so that it does not have anymore unabsorbed liquid.
Immediately spread the mixture on a large platter or wooden board. Press it to a uniform
thickness of ½ inch, using a rolling pin or bottle.
Cool the mixture for about 2 minutes, until partially set, and cut it into finger-size strips
or squares. Depending upon how much popped amaranth was added, it may cool faster
and can be cut immediately after spreading.