I developed this recipe as a way to get more excited about oatmeal. It deserves a more regular spot in my morning routine, especially because it staves off my tendency to have a second breakfast of cookies or cake. I wanted a version that was more exciting than the typical dried fruit and nut versions that I’m used to making. Having just bought a canister of cocoa nibs, I decided to sprinkle some on top of my oatmeal, and was instantly hooked. I played around with spices to complement the cocoa nibs, and landed on a combination of star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Instead of using ground spices, I steeped whole spices in milk, then used that milk to cook the oatmeal. The process takes only five extra minutes, and it’s so worth it; the combination of the creamy, spiced oatmeal with the crunchy cocoa nibs is downright addictive. —EmilyC
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe was a revelation -- to think that it takes only 5 extra minutes on a busy weekday morning to infuse such flavor into my regular, plain old oatmeal! All you need to do is throw some whole spices into a cup of milk and simmer for 5 minutes, then add oats and cook as usual. Fish out the spices, then treat yourself to a topping of cocoa nibs. The result is a sophisticated, complex, not-too-sweet take on oatmeal. I made it twice in a row, the first time as written, and the second time, using equal amounts fat-free milk and water (my usual way). The results with fat-free milk were of course less creamy, but still delicious. I recommend wrapping the spices in cheesecloth before adding to facilitate their removal from the finished dish. —Tarragon
Optional toppings: more milk, dark brown sugar, fresh fruit
Combine the milk, spices, and sea salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and let the spices steep for 5 minutes. Remove the spices. Add the oats and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're tender.
Remove oatmeal from the heat and stir in any additional toppings. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle generously with cocoa nibs. Serve immediately.