I am, as I write this, eating a plate of what you see above: the most wonderful oatmeal imaginable. Oatmeal that is almost unrealistically delicious, and oatmeal that, as I mentioned in the previous sentence, is eaten on a plate, not a bowl, and with a fork, not a spoon. Not that you have to eat it on a plate with a fork, of course. If you wish, you can most certainly eat it in a bowl, and with a spoon, but my point is that this heavenly oatmeal, warmly spiced, barely sweetened, and studded with big bursts of fresh fruit, is unlike any oatmeal I’ve previously encountered.
But first, a confession: I am not a big fan of oatmeal. I like oats, and I adore homemade granola, but oatmeal, boiled into a porridge for breakfast, has never appealed to me. The texture is troublesome, the odd odor is off-putting, and, there just isn’t enough going on, flavor-wise, to entice me into eating it.
But if you take those oats and bake them? Then you’ve got something. In Heidi Swanson’s enormously popular (and for good reason) cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, a recipe for baked oatmeal has been calling my name ever since I first laid eyes on it. With layers of fresh fruit baked into a lightly sweetened bed of oats, milk, and spices, it’s the sort of breakfast dish that perfectly straddles the line between indulgent and healthful. And though Swanson’s recipe is nearly perfect as is, I fiddled with it here and there—swapping out some spices, reducing the sweetness, changing the fruit selection, browning the butter—and came up with something that might be a slightly different beast than the original, but it’s still quite a sight to behold. Baked into a toothsome treat, bursting with fruit, and spiked with a shot of brown butter, it’s a whole new kind of oatmeal.
Last Year: Best Pizza Dough–it really is the best, and there is no kneading involved!
Baked Brown Butter Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pears Recipe
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
2 cups oats, not quick-cooking
½ cup toasted walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
big pinch of cardamom
small pinch of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups milk
1 large egg
¼ cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch chunks
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Butter an 8” by 8” baking dish and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, ¼ cup of walnut pieces, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until it melts, then foams. When the butter begins to smell quite nutty and develop small brown bits on the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and pour into a separate bowl. Allow to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, egg, maple syrup, vanilla, and half of the browned butter.
Arrange the pear pieces in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. Cover with 1 cup of the blueberries. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the fruit. Drizzle the milk mixture over the oats, then gently tap the baking dish on the counter to make sure the milk mixture settles all the way to the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle on the remaining blueberries and walnut pieces.
Bake the oatmeal in the upper third of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until the top of the oatmeal is dark golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Drizzle each serving with the remainder of the brown butter. Out of this world.
Serves 6-10 people.