Hannah Kaminsky, Bittersweet and author of My Sweet Vegan – Excitedly tearing open a recently arrived package in two, a large plastic bag unexpectedly fell to the floor. What curious surprise awaited me within, I could only guess. Retrieving the small parcel from its resting place at my feet, my interest only grew once I caught sight of its contents.
Bearing a label that read “Chia Seeds,” I was certain that some mistake had been made. Chia? Like the grass heads? I wondered with disbelief. Who knew such novelties were even edible!
Wanting to find out more before tossing these mysterious seeds into my food and possibly discovering that were in fact meant to adorn some pottery animal like the traditional Chia Pet, I hit the internet to gather more information. From what I could glean of the tangled world wide web, it turns out that these tiny unsprouted plants are thought of as a “super food,” capable of incredible nutritional feats. Not one to easily busy into the hype of miracle foods, what captured my interest buried deep within this wealth of useless knowledge was that it apparently had incredible thickening powers, capable of creating a “gel” even as whole seeds. This new information could only mean one thing in my book: Time to experiment.
Considering its unusual textural properties, I somehow got it in my mind that a chia-based egg replacer might just be perfect. Dying to unlock the full potential of those tiny specks, there was no chance I would take the easy way out and make some basic muffin or quick bread- Oh no, I had much great plans in mind, aim to make no less than the French egg-based baked custard known as a Clafoutis.
Grinding the seeds as fine as dust before soaking, I hoped to eliminate any grittiness that they might otherwise impart…. But in doing so, turned my main ingredient into an unappealing muddy grey color. Disheartened by this unfortunate transformation, I sought reassurance once more online and – Wouldn’t you know it! – Others have arrived at exactly the same cloudy shade, even when working with a standard, eggy recipe! Back on track putting appearances aside, I kept my chin up and proceeded with this mad experiment. Into the dish it went, strawberries joining it shortly, and they all made a nice toasty visit to the oven.
Emerging smelling of the sweet berries resting on top, it looked every bit as authentic as those I have marveled over in photos. After an agonizing hour of waiting for it to cool, a light show of confectioner’s sugar topping it all off, and the time of judgement had arrived.
I don’t have an interior shots because it was eaten so quickly, if that gives you any indication of its success. Another example of why one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, Chia seeds really may just be the next miracle ingredient, supposed health benefits aside. I know that they aren’t the most common staple in the typical baker’s pantry, but can I tell you? Hunting them down, if only for this delectable dish, is completely worth it.
1/3 Cup Soy Creamer
2/3 Cup Soymilk
3 Tablespoons Chia Seeds
3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Tablespoon Margarine
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
8 Ounces Fresh Strawberries
Confectioner’s Sugar (Optional)
Begin by grinding down your chia seeds in a spice grinder to a fine powder. Combine both the soymilk and soy creamer in a small bowl, and whisk the powdered seeds in just to make sure no clumps form. Let it sit for 10 minutes before stirring again, breaking up any lumps, and then leave it alone for another 20 minutes afterward. Depending on how long your oven takes to heat up, you may want to go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees now while the mixture is thickening.
In a separate bowl, mix together the cornstarch, flour, and sugar. Melt your margarine and stir it in, along with the vanilla and salt. Your chia mixture should now be the consistency of pudding, and it can now be added into the flour mixture. Stir until smooth, and pour the batter into a lightly greased 7 inch custard dish. Slice the strawberries in half and arrange on top as desired- No need to be as meticulous as I was! Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until it pulls away from the sides and browns slightly around the edges. The berries may leak some juice, but don’t worry, just lightly pat it with a paper towel once cool to remove the excess, or leave it if it doesn’t bother you. Lightly dust with confectioner’s sugar if desired.
Makes 2 – 4 Servings.