Chia seeds is relatively new product in the market. Its appearance and quick spread can be explained by variety of different factors. Nutritional value of the product, the option to use chia seeds in grain free cooking and baking with special relevance to Paleo diet and autoimmune protocol, its exceptionally high binding capacity, that allows to use chia seeds as egg replacement, are among the most important of these factors. Another very significant reason for chia seeds to become a popular mainstream product (and not only the product for highly specialised niche market of dietary and health products), is its neutral taste, that allows to use chia seeds in savoury and sweet recipes.
The most common and obvious uses of chia seeds that do not need any special techniques or approaches are:
- the use of chia seeds as an ingredient in dry mixes (muesli) for breakfast
- adding chia seeds as an ingredient for smoothies
- soaking chia seeds in different liquid and semi-liquid products overnight to make breakfast without heating ingredients
- adding chia seeds to meat or vegetable mixes to make meatballs, rissoles or any other products that need to use binding substance to keep meatballs/veggie balls/fricadeles together
In all the above uses chia seeds are just added to the mix of ingredients, substantially increasing the nutritional value of the final meal. However, I am interested in more sophisticated use of chia seeds in cooking, and especially grain free baking. The areas of interest are:
- the use of chia seeds to thicken jams and fruits/berries sauces, that allow to reduce sugar content in half or even more, while leaving the typical texture of jams and sauces the same, as with very high sugar concentration
- the use of chia seeds to make dairy free citron and berry curds with structurally stable texture for use in grain and dairy free tarts
- the use of chia seeds in making quality grain, starches, dairy, egg and sugar free pastry cream
- the use of chia seeds to make sugar free confectionery or spreads, to thicken their texture and to enrich nutritional value
- the use of chia seeds in grain, legume, starches, yeast and gums free bread recipes
- the use of chia seeds to create grain and dairy free sweet and savoury versions of rolled pastry to bake tarts and layered cakes
- the use of chia seeds in soft batters to bake pies and pastries with fillings
- the use of chia seeds to bake savoury tart tatins or vegetable tray bakes
- the use of chia seeds as one of the principal ingredients to make grain and starches free pasta dough
The first part of the review about chia seeds in cooking and baking will discuss only topics 1 to 4 included from the list above.
The topic about the potential of jams and sauces with chia seeds in every day and special occasion menu is very interesting. These jams, sauces or even desserts in its own capacity, are very easy to prepare, adding chia seeds at the end of cooking time, allowing for another 5-10 minutes of cooking on low heat, before placing the product in clean jars for storage.
Their storage time is not the same as for average jams, where sugar to fruits/berries ratio is 1:1. However, they can be prepared from frozen berries and fruits and will keep for several weeks refrigerated without any changes. I make them regularly, and always have a jar or two in refrigerator. Jams and sauces are perfect as toppings for pancakes, desserts, ice cream, yogurt, cereal or muesli.
They can also be used as fruit or berries layers for cakes, placed both inside the cake, or as a top, finishing layer.
But what is more interesting, are the possibilities that chia jams offer to create new options for creams, cakes and pastries. Simple addition of chia jam enriches plain whipped cream taste and texture. It can be used instead of plain whipped cream in making and serving desserts and cakes.
Another very important feature of chia jams, is their high viscosity, the ability of the jam with even very low sugar content to be stable at high temperatures during baking, to prevent jam leakage out of the bun.
Chia seeds, as whole, or ground, make a difference when preparing energy balls, fruit or berry squares, dried fruits or chocolate truffles. And again, they perform not only the role of the binding agent, but also add significant nutritional value to the product.
Citron and berries curds are delicious and handy when you need dairy free option of the curd. I regularly make lemon, grapefruit, blood orange and raspberry curd to use them on their own, as well as the filling for tarts and tartlets.
Variation of curd or pastry cream recipe can be successfully used to make festivity cakes, where long list of dietary limitations will not be even noticed.
Napoleon Cake – grain and dairy free
Black Forest Cake – grain and dairy free
The main bulk of these recipes is published in my second blog dedicated to grain, dairy, starches and sugar free recipes. Two recipes: organic dried fruits and seeds truffles and frozen berries and chia jam are published in this blog. The second part of chia review will be dedicated to uses of chia seeds to make dough and pastry to bake bread, pies, pastries, buns, tarts, tart tatins, tray bakes etc.