breakfast, brunch

farmers’ market monday: the best oatmeal ever.

Also known as Orange-Scented Steel-cut Oatmeal + Apple Raisin Filling + Cinnamon Maple Cream, but try to fit that on a subject line.

Because everyone should have a good breakfast in the morning, but for me? I’d rather have an excellent breakfast. This counts as a Farmers’ Market Monday because of the apples, but I’m here for a much more serious purpose: To get Movita Beaucoup off to baking school with a happy, not-nevous tummy. This should do it. I have made for her – and for all of you – the most amazing steel-cut oatmeal ever found in nature. You’ll feel so good about yourself in the morning when you finish a bowl of this, you won’t have the brain space to be worried about anything in your upcoming day. You’ll feel like you could conquer the world. And if you don’t think you have time for all this steel-cut oatyness in the morning, think again; because I made this one “instant,” just for you. Promise.

So, if you know Movita (and undoubtably you do), you know she begins baking school tomorrow, and I know she’s a little apprehensive. And who wouldn’t be? It’s like the start of a whole new life. She needs something fast to throw together, but it needs to be spectacularly tasty, because she’s going to be around pastries all day; I suspect they have to actually eat their own homework. She needs to start the day with something just as tempting as a pâte à choux.

“Oh, I’ve heard about those oats; don’t they take forever?” No. Forever is an overstatement. Do they take more than the few minutes we devote to our instant oatmeal? Yes. But that instant oatmeal goes from “done” to “all over your microwave” in a matter of seconds – we’ve all done it. For this, you boil water, add in oats and a few other things, stir lazily every so often, and wait for it to be done. If you think about it, your chances of an early-morning screw-up are way smaller here. There’s no comparing steel-cut oats and instant oatmeal, folks; I can’t believe they even share the same shelf space. And I love instant oatmeal, but this is on another level. I’m going to make it so all you need to do in the morning is cook those oats and throw this together; you just need to do a little pre-prep the day before.

And I’m not patronizing you either, night owls; no one wants to wake up and make this from scratch, not even the early ones among us. I’m a quintessential morning person: I could get up at 4 am and write the sequel to War and Peace if there were some need for it, but I get snippy when breakfast is too involved. When I saw this recipe, I thought my cookbook was joking; four recipes? For oatmeal? I think I’ll pass. But then it occurred to me; how utterly perfect would this be if I could make everything the day before (except the oatmeal part), and then whip it out when morning called? If this recipe had failed the overnight test, you wouldn’t have seen it; because I would never assume any of you had the time to fiddle over all this in the morning. But it did work.

You’ll be taking these ingredients, plus a few more, and making your components. Leave the pecans out if you want, but I like a crunch to my oatmeal most days. To prep, you’ll have very small recipes, non-fussy recipes for a cinnamon cream and an apple strudel-like filling.

The cinnamon cream (right) is a simple whisk-together-and-store recipe. Done. The strudel filling is a bit more involved, but not difficult. It’s mindless work, and I did it while doing about 10 other things and still managed not to screw it up. Once these two parts are done, store them in the fridge until the next morning, when you wake up and are ready for some oatmeal bliss. Ready now? Proceed.

I’ll be doing this layering part in pictures, with few words, because if you are reading this in the morning, the way Movita probably is, she’s going to be bleary-eyed and cranky with me for making her think. Visuals are much easier to process in the wee hours of your day. First, make your steel-cut oats according to package directions: this recipe calls for 1 dry cup, and that’s typically the measurement you’ll find on the “how to make” package instructions. You’ll add zest and salt to this. Once you’ve assessed cook time, work on getting out your components. You’ll need the strudel filling at room temperature/lukewarm: do this by zapping it in the microwave on high for a few seconds. Once your oatmeal is completed, add in my extra things (milk and brown sugar, sleepy: see the recipe directions below) and stir. Now, it’s time to layer.

Bottom layer: a few tablespoons of the apple strudel filling, enough to cover the bottom.

Next layer: oatmeal. Spoon what you’d like over top your apple mixture. Smooth over evenly.

Next: more apple filling, about the same amount as the first layer. It IS starting to smell delicious, I agree. Spread this layer out to cover the oatmeal. Top with as much oatmeal as you wish, remembering that you want to leave a little space at the top of your ramekin. Why would you want to do that? Here’s why.

Because we just added about a tablespoon of sugar on top and brûléed. Your. Breakfast.

Your oatmeal now has a chic sugar crust, sealing all of that flavor and warmth inside. And you can do this with a blowtorch or your broiler, whichever you feel safest with early in the morning. Or, perhaps more importantly, what your loved ones feel safest with you wielding at early hours.

Oh, we’re not finished yet. Remember that cinnamon cream? You do this with it:

Listen; it’s time to eat. You have things to do today. Maybe you’re headed to work. Maybe you need to get the kids off to the bus stop. Maybe you’re off to your first day of baking school. Whatever the case, you won’t be leaving the house without a smile sticking out of your cheeks. Toss some toasted pecans over the top, stir it all together, and….spoon, please.

I hope you have a lovely day.

Meanwhile, I’ll be starting pretend baking school. Read: I want to support Movita/feel her pain and joy in the only way I can: by facing my fears and learning pastry techniques right along with her. I want to Croissant and Danish and Pain-Aux-Whatever my way into your hearts, people. I’m working up my nerve, but bear with me, because there will be some epic failures before there will be successes. Once I get it right, I’ll be sharing my notes with you.

 Adapted from The Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay. Quite the incredible breakfast resource, I might add. Pop over to the cookbook library to learn more.

Orange-Scented Steel-cut Oatmeal + Apple Raisin Filling + Cinnamon Maple Cream

 for the cinnamon cream:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (greek yogurt fans, be my guest and substitute if you wish)
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

for the raisin soak:

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup raisins

for the apple filling:

  • 1 recipe raisin soak (above)
  • 2-3 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and medium-diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (if you’re worried about salt ruining your oatmeal, start with the 1/4 teaspoon and work your way up. remembering this is one component of several sweet ones. The salt really does bring the flavor out, but you don’t want to ruin it for yourself. I end up with a 1/2 teaspoon in my batch, and I think it works.

for the oatmeal: 

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • water according to package directions
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (about 1 large orange; i used a tangerine this time)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup whole milk

for the crackly topping:

  • 4 tablespoons turbinado (raw) sugar, or granuated will do (having no turbinado, I used regular. You see my results? That’s from sprinkling the sugar on with some haste and blowtorching it. The moisture from the oatmeal wants to get to it, so if you use granuated, work fast. Turbinado gives you more time)
for the toasted pecans (this is optional)
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves

I’ll word this recipe like you’re heeding my advice and making the components a day ahead to throw together the next morning. Even if you make it all the same day, this isn’t a bad way to order things. Make sure, before you begin the day of, to read your steel-cut oats to see how long the package says they will take to cook: you’ll want to time things out accordingly.

Whisk your cinnamon cream:

Stir together the heavy cream, sour cream, maple syrup, orange juice, and cinnamon in a small bowl until everything is thoroughly incorporated, and there are no lumps of sour cream in the mix. Everything should be smooth and the cinnamon shouldn’t be clumpy either. Place in a small, airtight container in your fridge to chill.

Soak your raisins:

In a small saucepan, stir together granulated sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and 3/4 cup water over medium-high heat until dissolved, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in raisins, and set aside to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Bubble your apple filling:

In a medium saute pan, heat the butter until melted. Stir in the brown sugar and salt, cooking over medium heat until melted. Add the apples and the pan of raisin mixture (syrup and all) to your pan and cook until apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 12-13 minutes. If storing for next-day use, let cool for about 1/2 hour at room temprature, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Toast your pecans (optional):

Dry-toast your pecans in a medium skillet until fragrant and lightly browned, about 5 minutes or so. Watch carefully, as pecans can burn easily.

 Now: how easy was that to do? SO easy. And you’re all ready for tomorrow. You can even zest your orange and measure it out for tomorrow’s use: just place your measured amount of zest into a small ramekin and seal with plastic wrap. done!

It’s morning; you’re pumped. Let’s make that oatmeal!

In a large saucepan and using your oatmeal packages instructions for water, bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Once your water has reached a boil, stir in oats and orange zest and cook for the length of  time specified on your package, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.

Towards the end of your cooking time, get your apple filling out of the refrigerator, transfer to a microwave-safe container, and zap at 10-second intervals on high, stirring after each zap, until heated through. You know how apple pie is when it’s first ready to eat: still warm but not super runny? That’s what you’re aiming for; just get the chill off of it.

For prep purposes, also get your cream out of the fridge, and find an appropriately-sized ramekin to use for your oatmeal-layering. I use one which is almost 3 inches high and about 5 1/4 inches in diameter, and it’s a good serving size. Get out the pecans if you’re using, and if brulee-ing via broiler method, preheat broiler.

Once your oats have reached desired consistency, add your brown sugar and whole milk, stirring over the heat for about 1 minute until blended. Remove from heat. You’re ready to stack that oatmeal.

Stack that breakfast:

Spoon a few tablespoons of the apple-raisin filling into your ramekin, covering the bottom and smoothing evenly. Add desired amount of oatmeal (basically this is what you think will fit with two layers of each type of filling in your ramekin, up to you), smoothing over the top of the apple mixture. Add a few tablespoons more of the apple mixture on top of your oatmeal layer and smooth. Add your final layer of oatmeal, smoothing over.

Time to brulee: Working quickly, sprinkle about a tablespoon of sugar on top of your oatmeal and brulee using either a blowtorch (what I used) or your preheated broiler, watching carefully until optimal crust is reached. Remove carefully from oven (or be careful handling your ramekin if you torched it; the edges could be very hot) and let harden for a minute.

Big finish; pour your cream overtop your oatmeal, sprinkle with pecans (if using) and break into that crackly crust, stirring your oatmeal in with your apples. Eat.

The recipe says this makes 4 servings, and you can make this serve 4 in those size ramekins. If you’re feeding hungry mouths, plan on closer to 2-3 servings, and you may have some cinnamon cream and apple filling left over for when you make this again the next day. Bonus.

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  • Reply natalie September 3, 2012 at 7:54 am

    oh. my. god.

    I love how you were addressing my cranky anti-fussy-breakfast thoughts as I was reading … I always give in to marketing or, ya know, that one paragraph in a magazine that says “EAT STEEL CUT OATS THEY ARE BETTER FOR YOU THAN OATMEAL” … so I bought them, and there they sit in the pantry. I open the door and I say “good morning, oats… oh look instant oats are right next to you. Maybe tomorrow, steel cut… maybe tomorrow…”

    I think you actually have me convinced to make this… over the weekend perhaps?

    Although, I’ve heard tales of the ability to make steel cut oats in one big batch on, say, a Sunday. And then just reheating them throughout the week for an easy early breakfast… which would give an even lazier option for those of us who are… “less ambitious” in the mornings…

    • Reply shannon September 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      It’s like i was reading your MIND. 🙂 i had similar thoughts about steel cut oats awhile back, but whenever you go someplace awesome for breakfast, it’s the only kind they serve. so i thought “this is ridiculous: just try them.” and i did, and they’re really not as big a production as one would think. I used the Bob’s Red Mill kind for this, and they worked great. and only about a 20-minute cook time (not the “hours and hours or something” steel cut phobes will say they take).

      now you’re reading MY mind: i didn’t say this in the post, but as a PS: i made my first batch of this (ahem, yes, i’ve eaten this all weekend) to make sure i loved it. I did, but i had oats leftover. I put just the cooked oats in an airtight container and refrigerated. that night, i was perplexed about dinner. did i warm those oats up in the microwave? yes. were they awesome and not at all sludgy? YEEEESSSS! i couldn’t believe it: steel-cut oats have some sort of magical properties to where they don’t turn into wet concrete like normal oatmeal would. so that make-ahead tale? it may be true. i know you can do it at least overnight. AND it’s a great way to use up all those other components. I hope that convinces you…i’m dying for someone else to try it. 🙂 it’s one of those recipes, like the momofuku style of caking, that i want to try using all sorts of different flavors.

  • Reply Jen @JuanitasCocina September 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

    What the frick did you just do?

    You have me drooling all over my house dress and I don’t even really LIKE breakfast.

    Yes, I have a house dress…all the cool people do.

    Also, I need a blow torch.

    • Reply shannon September 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      blowtorch: jen’s christmas list. CHECK. i just really recently started using mine, so if *anyone* needs a link sent to them/recommendations made, you know who to call/ask.

      in other news, i also have a house dress. because that’s what i wear when i’m really kicking back. more formal “work days” call for yoga pants. only cool people know how awesome the housedress look can be.

      I would eat this oatmeal for lunch and/or dinner and/or even dessert. because it’s kind of dessert, if you think about it. so even if you don’t like breakfast, this could be dinner.

  • Reply movita beaucoup September 3, 2012 at 9:41 am

    MOTHER OF PEARL. This is so amazing. I love it, top to bottom. Way better than those packets of instant oatmeal. Packed with the best of ingredients, and so carefully put together. Thank you for making me such an amazing pre-school breakfast. Thank you for battling the butterflies in my tummy. Thanks for coming to baking school with me. You are a good friend indeed…

    • Reply shannon September 3, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      dear movita, i hope you love your oatmeal: i fell in love with a few cookbooks again after reviewing them the other day, and this popped into view in a moment where i was thinking about you starting school tomorrow. I know how flippy i get when i begin something new, and this for you is like, HUGE new. We had just discussed oatmeal and our mutual fondness for the packets (which still totally have their place in my heart), so, the rest is history. I’ve never made layered oatmeal, but i knew we would like it. you’ll do SO GREAT tomorrow, by the way. i wish you luck, although you will not need it.

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog September 3, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Oh. My. Yum! Shannon, this oatmeal is bonkers (totally in a good way)!

    Steel cut oatmeal happens to be a staple in my kitchen for the fall/winter months. I practically eat it every morning. I am so making this oatmeal this week, and I can’t wait. Pinned!

    And, how nice of you to make this for Movita. You are such a sweet sweet girl.

    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 9:28 am

      This oatmeal IS bonkers, and i’m so happy i remembered to do it right as fall is starting; oatmeal is my total jam when it’s cold out, and it’s nice to be able to be quick about it (with instant) but also have a nice, slightly longer, indulgent version to have fun with.
      Movita is my hero right now for beginning baking school; can you imagine starting something like that? how awesome, but so nerve-wracking. i’d be right back in the “omg omg omg everyone’s dough will rise but mine” high-school terror mode. 🙂 so, it was the least i could do. long distance oatmeal hug.

  • Reply Brianne September 3, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Oooh, I made orange scented overnight steel cut oats once, but this. This is a whole new level!

    And I can’t wait to hear about all these new baking adventures!!

    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 9:26 am

      brianne, i am just super-stoked you’re back. like, SUPER. i just feel like at some point i should be able to say “hey: i can make a danish” and not be lying. but man, am i afraid of bready things. so…working up the nerve. i’m in “pre-adventure” mode.

  • Reply Ashley September 4, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I have, in fact, exploded both instant oatmeal and steel cut oatmeal all over my microwave. But this looks much safer…and delicious…and fun (blowtorch in the morning, hello!). Bobby Flay really does breakfast and brunch like a boss.

    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 9:25 am

      ashley, i’m surprised the government doesn’t design explosives based around microwaves and oatmeal, to be honest. this is much safer to do (aside from the possibility of over-bubble, but mostly it doesn’t do that). the blowtorch part? I’ve never felt so kitchen-maveny in the morning.
      Bobby Flay is a rock star with breakfast. I’ll be making more of his brunch and breakfast recipes here coming up, because well, i want to eat them. but i’ll share.

  • Reply Emma September 5, 2012 at 8:09 am

    So many steps. It’s not even early in the morning any more, I’ve been up for four hours, but I can’t follow the steps right now. I guess I’m snoozy. This looks simply delectable though, and leaps and bounds better than my morning hot cereal. On the other hand, it’s PAYDAY!!!!

    You know what that means.


    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

      this is a tragedy! do you feel like i could write this better? I tried to do it sort of as i was doing it, so i knew in what order worked for me. did you do it all at once this morning or did you make some components yesterday?

      i’ll say i was a little snoozy myself when i did this all the same day, which is why i suggested the day before stuff (because that seemed to go much more smoothly when it was a “remove from fridge/pour” thing versus a “get it all done now” thing. I got a little distracted by the ingredient similarities in each thing: cinnamon should go in the apples or the soak? or wait…orange juice here and zest here? that sort of thing. it’s like even though there wasn’t a true “overlap” of anything, I got a little wonky with what should be matched with what. thoughts?

      payday!!!!! BUTTER! i’ve been waiting for this day for you. go stock up. N.O.W.

      • Reply Emma September 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        No no no, I meant the hot cereal that I normally make myself, and made myself this morning, aka, Malt o’ Meal, water, brown sugar, and blueberries. I didn’t make your oatmeal… yet:)

        It’s all in my head, I’m just a bit illin’, hence why I was having trouble tracking. I mean I’m super ill. No I’m not. Just illin’. Which is a tragedy to me, but should in no way reflect on your recipe write-up!

        • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

          sigh. of. RELIEF! i was so worried.

          Illin’ is never, ever good. Unless you’re illin’ in a Beastie Boys way, which would be the exception to the rule. By all means, wait to make the oatmeal until you’re fully recovered. or mostly; it may help you along the rest of the way. now get better. 🙂

          • Emma September 7, 2012 at 8:59 am

            I am quite ill, cause I’m rhymin and stealin.

            It had to be said.

            I’m trying to get better, but I don’t quite know how:( I think I pulled a muscle in my stomach. Dumbest injury ever!

  • Reply Katherine @ eggton September 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Oh my good grief WHAT ELSE do you want to put the cinnamon cream on?! I ask because I want to make a list and knock them off one by one. So far, my list only has 5,432 ideas for this cinnamon cream on it, and if you have any others I’d be happy to add them and do the test tasting.


    • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Just this morning, as i was pouring it over yet another bowl of steel-cut oats (this time just plain with a bit of brown sugar, and yes, it was still amazing) i thought someone should really turn the cinnamon cream into a body wash of some sort. I could wait up to this whole maple/cinnamon/orange thing in the shower every day, for SURE. Or some sort of candle, perhaps.

      i’m working on what else to pour it over. seems as though there should be so many applications for something this delectable. I feel like there could be french toast and/or waffle possibilities.

      I. KNOW.

    • Reply Emma September 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Waffles. Ice cream. Apple fritters. Funnel cakes. Chocolate-flavored snow cones. Birthday cakes.

      • Reply shannon September 5, 2012 at 3:58 pm

        twins: thought about making the flavors into an ice cream flavor. Which would be so good it hurts to think about it. interesting call on chocolate flavored sno cones.

        and now i want to make everything this flavor. cinnamon cream life.

  • Reply TastefullyJulie September 10, 2012 at 6:43 am

    I want to pour that cinnamon maple cream on everything!

    • Reply shannon September 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

      hi julie! i KNOW, right? there were several times when i opened the fridge and removed the container of cinnamon cream, really just to smell it (because it smells like i imagine heaven smells like), but also to try and brainstorm how to use it in other ways. I ended up making oatmeal a LOT just to make sure none of that went to waste.

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