Meanwhile, use a whisk to stir the 2 tablespoons of cornstarch into the 2 cups of original fortified plant-based milk in a small pot. Stir this mixture until all the cornstarch has dissolved into the milk.
Next, heat this pot with the combined mixture on medium heat on the stove. As the mixture is heating up, add in the cocoa powder and the maple syrup and use the whisk to stir to make sure all the ingredients are well combined.
Once this mixture begins to simmer, continue to heat this combined mixture on the stove top for the next 5-10 minutes, allowing it to continue gently bubbling. Stir this mixture occasionally with the whisk to prevent the pot contents from burning at the bottom. You can turn down the stove setting if needed to maintain a gentle simmering.
Turn off the heat setting once the mixture starts to thicken a little. Allow the pot contents to cool for about 5 minutes. This mixture will continue to thicken as it cools into a pudding consistency.
While the pot contents are cooling, check on the soaking chia seeds in the refrigerated jar. Stir the contents in the chia jar again with a spoon to make sure the chia seeds are well mixed with the plant-based milk and not stuck to the sides of the lidded jar (stirring the chia mixture once or twice early on will also encourage a faster gelling time before letting this mixture sit for a prolonged period of time.) Cover the jar with the lid and then place it in the fridge to allow this chia mixture to thicken up for at least the next 1 ½ hours (feel free to let this chia mixture sit longer in the refrigerator to gell to a thicker consistency if you would like).
Once the chocolate pudding portion has cooled for at least 5 minutes, carefully spoon half the contents into glasses or dessert bowls. You can leave the remaining amount in the pot and place it into the fridge to be used later.
About 1 1/2 hours later (or the next day), wash and cut the strawberries (or other fruit) into thin slices. Next, carefully spoon half of the thickened chia mixture over the chocolate pudding portions in the glasses. Alternate the layers by topping this chia layer with a layer of sliced strawberries, then more chocolate pudding before adding on another chia layer on top. Finally, add a last layer of sliced strawberries on top. Enjoy immediately or place the glasses back into the fridge until serving time!
Instead of strawberries, other fresh fruit in season such as blueberries, raspberries, banana slices, blackberries or even diced mango can work well in this recipe!
The mixed chia seeds portion can also be left in the fridge to thicken up overnight.
Use the whisk to mix up the contents of the chocolate pudding right before layering, as a thin film can form at the top as the pudding mixture cools.
If using ground flaxseed (optional), sprinkle half to one teaspoon of ground flaxseed evenly over the first chia layer in each glass, before continuing with the layering.
Add less maple syrup if you would like a more bitter chocolate pudding flavor. You can also stir in ¼ teaspoon of instant ground coffee into the chocolate pudding mixture as it is heating up on the stove for the additional hint of an 'expresso coffee' kick (when making this recipe for adults) if you like!