Archive for: steel cut oatmeal
There are three main types of oatmeal to choose from in the cereal aisle of the grocery store: regular oatmeal, quick cooking oatmeal and instant oatmeal. What kind of oatmeal is the best for baking? Sometimes, recipes will specifically call for different types of oatmeal and other times they’ll simple say “oatmeal” with no explanation. While it isn’t difficult to pick out which kind you want to have for breakfast, it can be difficult to know what works in a recipe.
Regular oatmeal, also often described simply as rolled oats, is the most basic type of oatmeal that you can find. This type of oatmeal is made with whole rolled oats that are steamed and then flattened. When it comes to breakfast, they cook in just a few minutes and have a nice, chewy texture. This type of oatmeal also lends a slightly chewy texture to baked goods and the whole oats are clearly visible in the finished product, leading to more rustic looking cookies and baked goods.
Quick cooking oats are rolled oats that have been coarsely chopped. Breaking them down into smaller pieces enables them to cook more quickly. They have the exact same flavor as regular rolled oats, but have a slightly finer texture. Cookies that are made with this type of oatmeal tend to look a little “prettier” because they don’t have big oats floating around in them and they give a baked good a very uniform texture. Quick cooking oats can be made at home by pulsing regular oatmeal in the food processor a few times.
Steel cut oats, also known as Irish oats or pinhead oats, are whole oat groats that have been chopped into large pieces and make a minimally processed cereal with a good oat flavor and a hearty texture. They are different from regular oatmeal because of the way that the oats are processed. Most oatmeal is made by rolling the oats under heavy rollers until they are flat, then lightly steaming and toasting them. This process makes the oatmeal cook quickly and have a soft, tender texture to it. Steel cut oats resemble very small, coarse grains of rice. They have a coarser texture than rolled oats and the oatmeal has a chewier texture, as well as an even more pronounced oat flavor to it.
Rolled oats are generally better for baking because they do not need to be cooked before being incorporated into cookies and cakes. They are flavorful and tender in baked goods, while steel cut oats can be overly coarse and can add a heavy texture to baked goods. Steel cut oats make a great breakfast cereal, however, and take on a lovely texture after a long, slow cooking process. Since making steel cut oats isn’t as fast as turning rolled oats into breakfast, it is best to make a big batch and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. With a little water or milk, the chilled steel cut oats can easily be reheated in the microwave without having to make a whole new batch.
The colder the weather gets, the more appealing the idea of starting the day with something warming is, and nothing is quite as warm and satisfying as a hot bowl of oatmeal (hot coffee is a year round staple, naturally). Maple syrup or brown sugar are all I really need to make a bowl of oatmeal perfectly enjoyable, but when I have the chance I like to play with flavors and get more creative. Chai spiced oatmeal is one example of this. Today’s oatmeal was inspired by a favorite dessert: coconut cream pie.
I added coconut flavor to this oatmeal in two ways, using coconut milk and shredded coconut. Coconut milk can be a bit too rich – even the low fat variety – if it is used to replace all the milk in a bowl of oatmeal, so I use a combination of water and coconut milk as a base. Shredded coconut is stirred into the mix, along with a pinch of salt and some vanilla, and the finished bowl is topped off with a bit of whipped cream. Toasting the coconut is optional, since it is easier to use untoasted and untoasted still tastes great in the bowl. I usually have sweetened shredded coconut, so I don’t add in sugar or syrup, although you can certainly sweeten to taste.
These flavors can easily be adapted to use in steel cut oatmeal if you have more time to make up a big batch. I often use quick-cooking on weekday mornings when time is at a premium, so I’ve written the recipe to work for a single serving of “regular” oatmeal, whether you prefer to use plain rolled oats or quick-cooking.
In the winter, especially when it’s raining (or snowing, for that matter, though that’s pretty unlikely in most of southern California) and cold, I can’t think of a better way to start the day than a hot bowl of oatmeal. Ok – maybe staying in bed under the warm covers is a better way, but since we all have to get up sometime, oatmeal is an acceptable substitute.
I regularly make big batches of steel cut oatmeal, eat one bowl full, then pour the rest into a sealable container and store it in the fridge. The oatmeal sets up and it is easy to scoop out individual portions for the rest of the week. On weekends, I tend to have a bit more time on my hands and this is when I usually make the big batches. Occasionally, I’ll make something to go with the oatmeal instead of tossing in the usual scoop of raisins.
For this batch, I made some caramelized apple slices. It’s a quick and dirty way to do it, simply browning the apples slightly in a hot pan with butter, then turning down the heat and letting them cook until soft. At this point, you can toss in some brown sugar (really making a very nice caramel apple sauce) or do what I do and add the apples to the oatmeal with maple syrup. I’ll always do at least two apples and save the leftovers for another breakfast or two, but if you’re sharing your initial batch of oatmeal with some loved ones or hungry friends, you might want to toss in a third apple, just in case.
I must admit that I don’t know if I would serve this at a brunch. It is something I am more likely to make for myself. Indeed, I have oatmeal very frequently for breakfast.
Growing up, oatmeal was not one of my favorites. I didn’t dislike it, I just tended to make it when it was very cold or when I was sick. I didn’t make it well, usually overcooking the “quick cooking” variety of rolled oats in the microwave until it was sort of rubbery. I would then drown my breakfast in cinnamon, sugar and milk.
While I love ordinary oatmeal, I think I love steel cut oats more. It’s no secret that steel cut oatmeal takes longer to cook than rolled oats do. This is what really makes it appropriate for a weekend: time. It is not labor intensive to prepare, but it does take quite a while. Fortuantely, you can make a huge batch and store the leftover in the fridge. On busy weekdays, just spoon (or slice) some off and microwave it with a little bit of water to keep it moist.
This recipe makes 3-4 servings. According to the manufacturer, 1 cup cooked oatmeal is a serving. I like to have my oatmeal with dried and fresh fruit. With a chopped up banana or a big handful of blueberries filling up the bowl, I can only fit in so much oatmeal! If you add dried fruit towards the end of cooking, it will absorb moisture and become nice and tender.