Posted in NY Times, April 2014.
APRIL 14, 2014
Chia seed breakfast pudding. Credit Evan Sung for The New York Times
Chia seeds may be having their moment as the darling of the natural food set, but that’s not what made me want to sample the unusual chia-seed pudding at El Rey, a coffee bar on the Lower East Side that offers a small menu of dishes and pastries.
For me, the lure is in the seeds’ tapioca-like texture (and, I won’t lie, the fact that they are related to chia pets, which I loved as a kid).
When chia seeds are soaked in some kind of sweet, milky liquid (milk, coconut milk, almond milk), the whole thing turns custardy, and the seeds take on a pleasingly slippery texture while remaining very slightly al dente at the core. The pudding has the appeal of tapioca, but is easier to make (you don’t need to cook it), nutritionally dense and slightly more exciting to crunch.
The simplest chia-seed pudding doesn’t even require a recipe. Just cover the raw seeds with some kind of liquid, sweeten it to taste and let it sit at room temperature. After as little as 15 minutes, the seeds soften and swell, and the liquid all but disappears. Instant pudding, but good for you, too.
At El Rey, the chef Gerardo Gonzalez offers a breakfast version that’s a more sophisticated take. He mixes the seeds with both coconut milk and almond milk seasoned with sugar and sea salt, then garnishes it with apricots simmered in passion-fruit nectar, toasted almonds and coconut flakes.
It’s a complex jumble of tart, sweet and milky flavors, with a multitude of interesting textures. It makes an excellent breakfast, an unusual and not-too-sweet dessert and, if you mention the pets, an amusing conversation starter too.
Chia seeds are nutritionally dense seeds that will thicken any liquid you add them to. Mix them up with coconut and almond milks and you’ve got an almost instant pudding with a tapioca-like texture and gently sweet flavor. This recipe is meant for breakfast, but if you add a little honey to the seeds as they swell, it will be sweet enough for dessert. You can use either black or white chia seeds here, or a mix. The pudding will continue to thicken as it sits, so feel free to thin it out to taste with a little more almond or coconut milk before serving.
- TOTAL TIME
- 1 hour
- 130 grams whole dried apricots (about 20), more as needed
- 1/3 cup passion-fruit juice or nectar (passion fruit-pear is fine)
- 50 grams sugar (3 tablespoons)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Fine sea salt, as needed
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 85 grams chia seeds (1/2 cup)
- 45 grams toasted kasha (1/4 cup), optional (see note)
- Roasted whole almonds, coarsely chopped, as needed
- Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, as needed
- Sliced banana, as needed, optional
- Coarsely chop half of the dried apricots. Place chopped apricots in a small pot with passion-fruit juice, 25 grams sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons), lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Simmer very gently over low heat until apricots are soft and liquid has turned syrupy, about 30 minutes.
- While chopped apricots cook, put remaining whole apricots in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak until plump, 10 to 20 minutes. Drain and reserve plumped apricots and the apricot sauce for garnish.
- Meanwhile, in a quart container with a lid (or use a cocktail shaker), combine almond and coconut milks, remaining 25 grams sugar (1 1/2 tablespoons) and a pinch of salt. Stir in chia seeds and kasha, if desired; shake thoroughly so that seeds are evenly hydrated. Let rest at least 20 minutes or until pudding has a rich, creamy texture. Seeds should be fully hydrated. (Pudding will keep for up to 3 days but may require rehydrating with more almond or coconut milk as the seeds continue to absorb liquid.)
- To serve, spoon pudding into bowls. Top with apricot sauce, plumped apricots, almonds, coconut flakes and sliced banana, if desired.
- 4 servings
Toasted kasha, also known as buckwheat groats, can be hard to find. But you can easily toast raw kasha in a dry skillet for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Or leave it out.