Nearly five years ago, Molly Wizenberg wrote about Heidi Swanson’s baked oatmeal on her blog, Orangette. I made it promptly and soon found myself making it regularly, taking Molly’s suggestion to stir together the dry ingredients the night before to minimize the effort in the morning. A few months later, in an attempt to eliminate the entire morning effort, I swapped out the rolled oats for steel cut, assembled the entire recipe (liquids and all), stashed it in the fridge overnight, and baked it in the morning. The steel cut oats had worked like a charm: They hadn't turned to mush in the fridge and they retained their chewy texture during their near-hour bake.
I wrote about the baked steel cut oatmeal on my blog, and over the years, many people have written in sharing their own adaptation of the recipe, substituting various nuts, seasonings, sweeteners, and milks. Reading the many success stories about using non-dairy milk—from almond to coconut to soy—in place of cow’s milk inspired me to give it a try along with a few other changes: reducing the maple syrup from a third cup to a quarter, and omitting the melted butter altogether. I had my doubts—it all sounded a little bleak—but the resulting dairy-free, not-too-sweet oats still tasted delicious, just as comforting and satisfying as the original.
As an omnivore without allergies, I typically experiment with alternate ingredients purely to be able to answer inquiries in an informed manner. But this recent experiment, especially given this past month of indulging, has led to a welcomed change in my baked oatmeal ritual, one I don’t anticipate dissolving with other yet-to-be-made New Year’s resolutions.
Substitutes for almond milk: Using almond milk makes this baked oatmeal dairy-free, but if you are not avoiding dairy, cow’s milk, of course, will work. Other nut milks, coconut milk, and soy milk can also be substituted for the almond milk. Additionally, homemade almond milk made from soaked and puréed almonds as well as that made from almond butter blended with water works, too.
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Sweetener: As noted above, I’ve cut the maple syrup down from 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup, but feel free to adjust the sweetness to your liking. Other sweeteners such as honey, agave, or brown sugar can be used in place of the maple syrup. For a much less sweet version, you can omit the sweetener altogether and replace it with some chopped dates or a handful of raisins.
Other add-ins: My favorite add-ins include: sliced almonds with peeled and sliced apple, or frozen blueberries. Many nuts can be substituted for the almonds: pecans, walnuts, pistachios, etc. I never toast the nuts anymore—too lazy—but toasted nuts will add more flavor. Other dried fruit, coconut, fresh or frozen berries can all be added as well.
This baked oatmeal happens to be gluten- and dairy-free, and though I have not tried veganizing it, I imagine, with only one egg, it would be easy using ground flax or chia or any of the other suggestions outlined in this post.
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