Can we take a moment to talk about oatmeal? I know it's not the most riveting subject. Oatmeal hardly ever is, especially when you relegate it as simply a pasty beige goop. It doesn't have the saucy, cheese-tasting goodness of a perfectly soft boiled egg's yolk, nor the crunchy, porcine goodness that is only the crispiest farmers' market bacon. And then there are cinnamon rolls. The yeasty, homemade kind with crusty bits of cinnamon sugar peaking out of the folds and an aroma that curls through the house curing everything from Mondays to broken hearts. Then there's all cream cheese icing, the sort that you slather on with a spatula as if you were going to mason together a wall of sticky buns.
I mean, I dig oatmeal. But no oatmeal is really ever gonna match that. Let's be honest.
Thing is: cinnamon buns are a fuck-ton of work. Oatmeal? Not so much. It's a snap, and you can still craft some truly flavorful recipes with minimal effort that'll ensure you aren't missing any cinnamon buns. And, heck, you can serve it up with some soft boiled eggs and bacon just fine.
I was lucky in that I was never served goop. My dad, who usually worked well past nine, ten, sometimes eleven o'clock at night, was the one who made my brother and I our lunches for school and ensured we ate a halfway decent breakfast. This left my mom to have a peaceful, child free morning before she went off to teach a room full of third graders then come home to watch her own kids.
Come the colder months oatmeal was the usual fare. However, dad knew how to make it a bit more engaging for the sake of flavor and nutrition. It wasn't uncommon for us to find sliced banana, slivered almonds, mashed blueberries, raisins arranged into a happy face, melting crusts of cinnamon and brown sugar, swirls of maple syrup or honey, snowy mountains of dried coconut, or roasted apples mixed into our oatmeal. It's a special childhood when one of your fondest memories is looking forward to the oatmeal your dad made before school. Or a lucky one. Probably a bit of both. Either way, the other kids at school didn't really get it what with their Lucky Charms and Wheaties.
(Of course, the best school morning were when dad treated us to cinnamon toast and bacon - an event reserved generally for birthdays or the first day of school. Still, I was pretty keen on the oatmeal.)
I've detailed my adoration of oatmeal before, but I've only recently discovered baked oatmeal. As I've come to learn there's no such thing as bad baked oatmeal, so even if you've never had any particular fondness for the stovetop kind I urge you to consider the following recipe. Maple syrup, brown sugar, pecans, almonds, cinnamon, milk and bananas all mixed together with some oatmeal and baked into a sticky, rich mess. The grain, milk, and fruit deeply caramelize into something akin to a molten cookie dough. It has a pleasant chew and the sides and top have a slight crackle worth investigating.
Of course, you can use strawberries, rhubarb, cardamom, chocolate, or whatever you've got sitting about the house. The oatmeal don't care.
If you can make this with you dad I highly encourage you to do so. I imagine that if you were fortunate like me then you can't ever thank your parents enough.
Baked Oatmeal with Bananas and Blackberries
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of good salt
2 cups whole milk or coconut milk, either works
1/3 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 ripe bananas, sliced
2 mighty cupped handfuls of blackberries (about 2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 375F and butter the heck out of a medium-sized baking dish (8 or 9 inch square will do). Mix together the oats, baking soda, salt, and spices. In another bowl whisk together the butter, egg, milk or coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
Place the banana slices in a layer on the bottom of the pan and scatter two-thirds of the berries. Toss over the oat mixture and thwack the pan on the counter to ensure they crawl into every nook and cranny. Add the milk mixture and thwack again. Toss on top the remaining berries and another drizzle of maple syrup because why not, right?
Bake for about 35-40 minutes. Serve with butter and large mugs of tea. Bacon would be awesome, too.