Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baked Oatmeal Sqaures

This is the pure on-the-go oatmeal breakfast I have been dreaming of for many years.  Oatmeal muffins, cookies and breakfast bars are good but have too many other ingredients to really qualify as a breakfast that can kick off a morning.  Baked oatmeal squares taste like oatmeal in the bowl, and now, in your hand.

I made the first batch plain and the second with dried fruit and nuts (cherries and almonds).  Both were so tasty, not too sweet and pleasantly moist.  The squares and wedges can be cut and eaten right out of the oven, topped with some yogurt and sliced fruit, or cooled and then cut into portions for the road.  Keep individually wrapped portions refrigerated (or frozen) then put them in your bag on the way out the door.  They are really good room temperature and even better warmed in the microwave when you get to work. 

There are as many flavor variations as you can think of but one thing is not negotiable.  The oats have to soak over night (or eight hours) so you have to plan ahead to enjoy these.  The key to the recipe’s moisture and texture is that the oats are soft and have absorbed the liquid before the batter goes in the oven. On the bright side, it took me less than five minutes to mix the ingredients together last night for this morning’s treat.  In fact I did it during a commercial break.  This morning, while the oven heated to 350˚F, I poured the batter into an oil-sprayed metal pie plate and then baked it for thirty minutes. 

Try this simple version first.  If you like it you can double the recipe and have baked oatmeal squares all week long.  You can also experiment with your favorite flavors.  I’ve listed a few suggestions. 

Baked Oatmeal Squares
Makes 4 large squares or wedges

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 egg (or 2 egg whites)
3/4 cup milk or buttermilk (go for the buttermilk if you have it)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Method
  1. Combine all ingredients together in the vessel you’ll be soaking it in.  A bowl covered with plastic wrap, a 1-quart plastic food storage container, etc.  
  2. Place covered container in refrigerator and let it sit at least 8 hours.  Note: Oats absorb liquid best in more acidic environments.  If you think you’ll remember, you can wait to add the baking powder and salt after soaking the rest of the ingredients to keep the ph-level acidic.  
  3. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350˚F.  Spray an 8” pie plate or baking pan with oil.  
  4. If you are adding fruit, nuts or other goodies, stir them into the batter at this stage.  (If you haven’t added the baking powder and salt yet, do this now.)  
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  I like to sprinkle on a little cinnamon sugar just before it goes in the oven for a little brûlée effect.   
  6. Bake oatmeal at 350˚F for 30 minutes, until oatmeal is firm in the center.  Remove from oven and enjoy. 

Mix-Ins:
1/4 cup dried cherries and 2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 small apple or pear, chopped in small pieces
1/4 cup blueberries or sliced strawberries
1/4 cup fruit jam (fig, raspberry, apricot, etc) or nut butter swirled into batter
Replace half the brown sugar with 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup raisins and chopped peanuts
1/2 cup total of chopped dried fruit—try apricots, cranberries, mango, orange peel
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips (it will still have less sugar than a pop tart)
1/2 sliced banana

Can’t wait until tomorrow morning.  Wish I had bananas in the house.

Acknowledgments:
I started with the recipe for baked oatmeal from Pattycake (http://pattycake.ca/node/382) who in turn adapted it from Macheesemo (http://www.macheesmo.com/2010/06/baked-oatmeal/).  Quaker Oats has a version using instant rolled oats that doesn’t require soaking but it doesn’t travel.  I’ll be working on a version using ground oats (a Scottish version of pinhead oats) that will likely take much more soaking time but will be extraordinary.