Whilst putting together my recipe index the other day, it became apparent that I’ve written very few recipes containing chia seeds. Rather strange, considering that both chia and flax are staple elements in my household pantry.
Granted, there’s already a recipe for sticky fig and raspberry chia jam on the site alongside a crunchy honey chia muesli slice. But although I’ve referred to chia seeds as an egg replacer in many recent recipes, there’s been nothing ‘distinctively chia’ for the past two years.
Let’s consider that rectified.
Today’s recipe is a creamy, crunchy, incredibly delicious chia breakfast treat that could easily double as a healthy dessert. It was inspired by the wonderful David and Luise (of Green Kitchen Stories fame) who posted their own recipe for chia parfaits with apple crunch in late 2015.
Seeing as I’ve been cooking my way through a glut of delicious apples from my mother’s backyard tree, I figured I could make something even more apple-y to eat with a creamy chia pudding, preferably with buckwheat (my other recent obsession). Despite initial dreams of stewed apples (with lots of cinnamon and raisins), my thoughts turned to apple sauce which naturally led to apple butter. Because, butter (of course).
If you’re not familiar with apple butter, it’s not ‘butter’ in the traditional dairy sense. It’s more of a super-concentrated apple sauce, slow-cooked over low heat until the puree becomes thick and caramelised. In North America, apple butter traditionally contains a fair whack of brown sugar, however my dreams were for a golden-hued refined sugar free spiced apple butter, full of homegrown apple goodness and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Could it be done? Yep, pretty easily, in fact. I’d go as far as saying it could be made completely sugar free (as in, without any maple syrup or other sweetener) if you’ve got a batch of beautifully fragrant, slightly soft winter apples with sweet yellow flesh.
For the purpose of this exercise, I’ve added two tablespoons of maple syrup to my batch of apple butter which added a beautiful mellow sweetness. However, if you’ve got a batch of tart green apples, I’d probably add a little more (it’s all common sense, ya know*).
*Bear in mind that sugar has traditionally been used as a preserving agent in jams and jellies, so if you’re making any type of preserve without refined sugar you can expect a reduced shelf life and/or darkening of the fruit over time. I’ve written further notes on sterilisation and storage below, if you’re making a large batch of apple butter.
So, onto the recipe(s). Yeah, I know there are lots of words. However, I want to start by saying that these recipes are easy, really easy. Each one only takes a few minutes to throw together, then it’s just a matter of being patient (in terms of the apple butter) and completing some last minute assembly (the fun part). If you’ve got a slow-cooker, you can even put the apples on overnight and blend the mixture in the morning (I haven’t tried this, but if Michelle says you can, I believe her!). Just simmer the puree down slightly whilst you jump in the shower and then voila, breakfast is served!
Either way, all of the prep will be worth it when you’re sitting down with a cup of lemon scented chia, creamy yoghurt and caramelised apple butter. I’ve suggested the addition of fresh apple for extra crunch and tang (get some Granny Smiths or a similarly acid green apple if you can, the sour crunch goes so well with the sweet, subtly spiced apple butter) alongside the earthy buckwheat crunch, smooth pudding and a touch of maple syrup.
It’s so, so good.
chia puddings with spiced apple butter and buckwheat crunch
I’m being Captain Obvious here, but this is more of a concept than a strict recipe of quantities. Make the chia pudding, then play around with whatever additions or subtractions you like. No time to make apple butter? Use some nut butter, chia jam, pureed raspberries or banana soft serve. No buckwheat crunch? Add some toasted coconut or your favourite breakfast muesli. No yoghurt? Skim the cream off the top of a can of coconut milk and mix through some vanilla. It’ll be delicious either way.
Makes 6 serves
- 1 batch of simple chia pudding (recipe below)
- 300-400g full fat yoghurt (I used natural dairy yoghurt however coconut yoghurt would work wonderfully)
- buckwheat crunch (recipe below)
- spiced apple butter (recipe below)
- 2 fresh apples, sliced thinly (I used one crunchy acidic green apple and one sweet red apple for aesthetics and flavour. Just toss the slices in lemon juice to prevent browning)
- a little honey or maple syrup, to drizzle
- optional: other fresh fruit, for layering – I used jammy fresh figs because we had some and one small banana sliced into coins (hidden between the layers)
Place a few spoonfuls of chia pudding in the bottom of 6 small glasses. Add in some banana coins (if using), a few dollops of apple butter (I used about 2 tbsp per glass) followed by a few spoonfuls of yogurt. Repeat the layers, finishing with a pile of buckwheat crunch and the sliced fresh apple. If you’re feeling it, drizzle over a little honey, rice bran syrup or maple syrup to serve.
simple chia pudding
The recipe below makes 6 serves of layered chia pudding for today’s recipe, however I’d reduce that to 4 serves if you’re eating the chia pudding on its own. Make as much or as little as you like, the basic ratio per person is 2 tbsp chia seeds and half a metric cup (125mL) of milk (plant based or dairy, your choice). Got that? Basic ratio: 1 metric cup (250mL) of any milk to 4 tbsp chia seeds.
- 2 cups unsweetened milk (I use soy, coconut or almond milk) plus extra, to serve
- 1/2 cup (8 tbsp) white or black chia seeds
- optional: 1-3 tablespoons of sweetener (maple syrup, rice malt syrup or honey) to taste.
- finely grated zest from 1/2 lemon, added last minute before serving
Mix the chia seeds, milk and sweetener (if using – my preference is for 1 tbsp maple syrup) together in a large bowl. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until the chia starts absorbing the liquid, then mix again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the fridge for at least 4 hours (or preferably overnight). If you can, I’d recommend mixing every hour to prevent clumps forming. If the mix seems to be getting too thick (e.g. if the seeds have absorbed all available liquid), drizzle in a little more milk to loosen.
Before serving, add the fresh lemon zest, drizzle in a little more fresh milk and stir well. Your finished mix should be adhesive and creamy, not gluey (add more milk if it seems very congealed). Layer as specified below. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
spiced apple butter
Use winter apples that have grown a little softer and sweeter for the best quality refined sugar free apple butter. If you prefer a sweeter, more traditional apple butter, feel free to substitute 1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar for the maple syrup (add the sugar during the initial cooking stage with the water and salt). For maximum nutrition, you can leave the peels on the apples (after cooking, they should easily blend down in the food processor) however I like to remove the peels for reduced bitterness. They also make a delicious cook’s snack, either raw or dehydrated into apple peel crisps.
Makes approx 2 cups cooked apple butter
- 900g (2 pounds) assorted apples, peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 cup water
- sea salt
- 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp maple syrup or rice malt syrup
- 1/2 tsp chai spice mix, mixed spice or cinnamon (this produces a mildly spiced apple butter, add 1 tsp if you like discernible spice)
- 1 tsp organic vanilla essence (optional)
Combine the apples, water and a good pinch of salt in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the apples are soft (about 20 minutes).
Remove from the heat and transfer to a food processor bowl. Blend (in batches, if required) until smooth. *I blend my apples whilst they’re still hot, ensuring the processor lid is firmly in place (I cover the lid with a tea towel and hold it down during the blending process). However for maximum safety, I’d suggest that you allow the apples to cool first.
Return to the cooking pot with the lemon juice, spice mix, maple syrup and vanilla. At this stage, you have two options:
- oven method: ensure the mix is in an oven-safe pot. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven (at 120 degrees C/ 250 degrees F) for 3-4 hours until reduced, thickened and caramelised. Stir every 30 – 40 minutes.
- stove-top method: return the mixture to the stove-top. Loosely cover the pot with the lid, allowing a vent for the steam to escape. Cook, on the lowest heat possible, for 4-6 hours until thickened and caramelised, stirring regularly to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn (I stirred it at least every 10-15 minutes whilst completing other kitchen tasks).
See points for assembling your chia pudding below… and use any leftover apple caramel to top oatmeal, toast or yoghurt. So good.
Cooks note: if you’d like to store your apple caramel, transfer it into a sterilised glass jar whilst hot and place the lid on immediately. Process in a hot water bath (this just allows the lid to ‘seal’ for safe storage, however some feel you can get away with skipping this final step!). I’ve kept sugar free preserves for up to six months in a cool, dark place after using this method. Otherwise, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or freeze for 3 months.
Use any leftover crunch as a granola (because essentially, that’s what this is) with your favourite milk, as a smoothie topping or just as a healthy transportable snack.
- 1-2 tbsp melted coconut oil
- 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats*
- 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup pepitas/pumpkin seeds/coconut if you like
- 1 tbsp sweetener (maple syrup, rice malt syrup, honey)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon, to taste
- pinch of sea salt
- optional: dash of vanilla
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, then set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the buckwheat, nuts and cinnamon. Pour over 1 tbsp coconut oil, your chosen sweetener and vanilla (if using) with a pinch of sea salt. Mix well, ensuring the dry ingredients are well-coated (drizzle in a little more coconut oil if your mix is a little dry).
Pour the mixture over your prepared baking tray (don’t worry if there are are few clumps, this will actually add to the ‘crunch’ when you assemble your puddings).
Bake for 20-25 minutes, mixing half way through the cooking time. The buckwheat crunch will be ‘done’ when the mixture is dry, golden and fragrant. Store in an airtight container or glass jar (the mixture should keep in a cool, dry place for a few months if you decide to make a large batch).
*You can find whole raw buckwheat (groats) at health food shops and good grocery stores. Raw buckwheat should appear very pale green rather than dark brown (the latter version is called ‘kasha’ which has been toasted; for this recipe you require the raw version of buckwheat as you’ll be toasting it yourself).