I was recently introduced to a new potential superfood, chia seeds. Like most people, my first reaction was chia what? Is that the same as a chia pet? In a way, yes. Chia pets are grown using the chia seeds, but as it turns out, these tiny little bits of food pack quite a bit of nutritional merit and some cooking and baking versatility to boot!
Actually, the profile of chia seeds puts flax to shame. Chia seeds outshine flaxseeds in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, fiber, and calcium, yet they are lightweights when it comes to calories and sodium. But more on this later, onto the more important baking perspective. Chia seeds do not need to be ground, and in fact can be added whole to almost any recipe. They also have an interesting property, when added to water, they form a “gel.” I began to wonder the versatility of this gel in making egg-free and vegan recipes.
While I have grand plans for trialing chia seeds as a granola bar binder, in puddings, as a thickener for soups, and a potential egg sub in cookies, my first trial was rather conservative. As usual, some bananas were quickly browning in our summer heat. It was time to turn to the old standby, banana muffins. But this time, I would trial the chia seeds in place of the eggs! Now keep in mind, banana muffins are quite cohesive on their own, and therefore a very easy baked good to turn vegan. Still, I thought this might be a good FIRST test.
We weren’t disappointed. The chia seeds easily gelled, and they disappeared into the banana background for a seamless finished product. Every last crumb was devoured within a day.
Banana Chia Muffins (Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free)
This recipe needs some refining, but it is still useful in the beginning phases. You can use any combination of wheat flours and your oil of choice for this recipe. Also, it is likely that only 1 teaspoon of chia seeds are needed per ¼ cup of water, but I went for the gusto with good results.
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
3 Tablespoons water
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup coconut oil
3 bananas, mashed
chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
Add the chia seeds to the water, and allow to sit while you prepare the rest. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients (except for the ginger), and mix thoroughly. Add the wet mixture and the chia seeds to the flour mixture, and stir to combine. If desired, stir in the crystallized ginger, or perhaps chocolate chips if you would like. I set aside a few muffins to add ginger to for myself. Bake at 350º for about 15 minutes or so, or until tested done with a toothpick.