It is rare for something to just actually not taste good at all. Things may be a bit burnt, a bit too sweet or not sweet enough. Textures may be off, a bit too dry or wet or starchy. Flavours may work better apart then they do together.
This was one of those disasters that are just irrefutably disastrous: this cake did not taste good. It was musty, and in fact, nigh mouldy tasting.
I suspect the amaranth flour.
The other possible culprit is the perilla seeds–but I was fairly sure it was not them. They have a pleasant, toasty tea sort of taste, so far from what the cake actually tasted like.
Our more convincing suspect, amaranth flour, is rather new to me. I recently acquired some and decided to give it a try. The smell of the flour didn’t impress: it was quite moist and strange. That being said, I normally don’t expect flour to smell that delicious, so I set those concerns aside and went ahead to use 50% amaranth flour…which, if I wanted to taste it, I figured was a good place to start.
Hmm. Well, I certainly tasted it.
So after trying the cake, I turned to everyone’s dear old friend in times of trouble, Google, master of The Interwebs. Likely succumbing to phenomenon of confirmation bias, I directed my search to carefully look only for sources which confirmed what I had experienced: maybe amaranth doesn’t taste so good.
I found an interesting blog post from someone who had a similar experience. The flour smelled quite musty, and an unfortunate flavour lingered in baked goods. She also did her reading: 15% amaranth content in bread was as high as this paper recommended without taste deficits. I quite admire her idea to turn to the literature (one must use that institutional subscription for something, no?).
Poking around myself though, I found that amaranth could be used quite effectively at 25% in cookies, providing a golden brown colour, crisper texture and slightly superior flavour ratings–described as “malty and sweet”.
Oh my. So what is the consensus?
It seems that amaranths pleasantly earthy character comes out best in lower doses. Though depending on the source, the dosage varies. I’ll be sure to apprehensively give amaranth another try. I did notice the cake had a very tender and soft crumb, credit which probably goes to the amaranth flour.
plum, amaranth and perilla seed cake
Adapted from the 1:1:1:1 ratio of a Victoria sponge cake.
100 g butter
60 g brown sugar
50 g amaranth flour
50 g all purpose flour
scant 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
pinch baking soda
10 g roasted and ground perilla seed
45 g milk
6 small plums, cut in half
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8″ square pan and line with a parchment sling.
Cream the butter with the sugar, and then beat in the eggs one at a time. Separately, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and perilla seeds. Mix the flour into the butter, and then beat in the milk. Spread into the prepared pan and top with the plum halves.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer removes only with a few crumbs clinging.