How to Bake, Cook, and Live Better with Oats


What if there was a breakfast food that was readily available, very nutritious, and inexpensive?

What if you could eat it plain or use it a hundred different ways?

What if it was great for your health, lowered your blood sugar and cholesterol?

There is such a food.  It’s oats–like in oatmeal, muffins, or bread.

I eat oatmeal several times a week.  I cook a big pan of oatmeal and usually add nuts or dried fruit.  I eat what I want and store the rest in the refrigerator for up to a week.

We add rolled oats to many of our baking mixes, usually just a little.  Oats add nutrition, moisture, and a smooth texture.  Unless you check the label, you won’t know that it’s there but it makes a better product.

Merri Ann uses oats to make great gluten-free muffins.

It’s time to get to know oats better.  This is a flour-part post to help you get more out of your baking and cooking with oats:

  • Part 1: Nutrition: The Cadillac Grain
  • Part 2: How to Cook Oats
  • Part 3: How to Use Oats in Your Baking
  • Part 4: Ten Recipes including Merri Ann’s Gluten-Free Muffins

Part 1: Nutrition

Jane Brody in her classic book, The Good Food Book, calls oats “the Cadillac of grains.”  That’s because it is the most nutritious of grains.

  • Unlike wheat, the nutritious bran and germ are not removed in processing. You’re getting the whole grain.
  • Whole grain oats contain seven B vitamins, vitamin E, and nine minerals.
  • Oats are higher in protein than wheat.
  • Oats are higher in fat than wheat but with antioxidants that make it a healthier choice.
  • Oats are high in soluble fiber, fiber that lowers cholesterol and slows the rise of blood sugar.
  • Oats “fill you up” and help me avoid a mid-morning snack.

Avoid the little grocery store packets of prepared oats.  The oats are ground so fine that much of the fiber is destroyed, the sodium content is high, and often they include additives and artificial flavors. 

Part 2: How to Cook Oats

Rolled oats are simple to cook.  Just add the oats and a little salt to boiling water.  The package for Old-Fashioned with the larger, thicker pieces says to cook them for 15 minutes.  I don’t.  I cook them for about five minutes and then let them sit, covered, until I’m ready to eat—maybe 15 minutes.

Quick oats are only have as thick and will cook in half the time.

With either, you can add nuts and dried fruit. You can also add a chopped apple.  If you want a sweetener, add brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Cinnamon is a nice addition.

If you would like richer, creamier oats, cook them in milk instead of water.

Oats can also be added to soups and casseroles. A few oats will thicken a soup nicely adding a very smooth texture.

When oats are processed, they are treated with a low heat that creates a mild, toasted flavor.

Part 3: How to Bake with Oats

It’s easy to make oat flour—just grind it to a powder in your food processor.

Oats are gluten free and to make a bread with yeast, you’ll need mostly wheat flour.  (The rule of thumb is that no more than 40% of your flour can be from oats or rye.)  Start with 20% by weight and work up from there.

While you can use oat flour in these recipes, we don’t bother grinding the oats.  Quick oats dissipate in the mixing and baking and you’ll never notice any pieces.

You do not need wheat flour to make muffins or pancakes though you can use oats in addition to wheat flour in these quick breads.

As mentioned, we use oats in many of our cookie, muffin, and bread mixes.  Unless the objective is to make an oat cookie, we add just a little rolled oats—usually quick oats—to our cookies to improve the texture and add moisture. The oats will also keep the cookies fresher longer.  More oats will make the cookies or muffins chewier.

Part 4: The Recipes

Peach Berry Crisp with Cinnamon Spiced Whipped Cream

For the filling

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
    • 2 cups fresh peaches, sliced
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon cassia cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup quick oats
    • 1 1/5 cups flour
    • 1 cup cold butter, cut into chunks

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup whipping cream
    • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon cassia cinnamon
    • 1 tablespoon meringue powder, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
1. Mix the filling ingredients together and spread them in a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. For the topping, mix the brown sugar, quick oats, and flour together.
3. Cut the butter into the flour and oat mixture with a pastry knife until the mixture is composed of pea-sized bits. Spread the topping over the filling.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
To make the whipped cream, place all ingredients in the bowl for your stand-type mixer and beat until nice peaks form, scraping down the sides a couple times.

Maple Oat Scones Recipe

Years ago, we had a maple scone mix.  People loved it and it sold well.  It was loaded with maple chips.  Alas the chip manufacturer stopped making the maple baking chips and we dropped our scone mix.

We decided that it was time to create another maple scone, at least a recipe.

We think you will love these sweet, flaky scones with their maple flavor.

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons very cold butter

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon maple flavor

For the Topping

3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon maple flavor

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup quick cooking or old-fashioned oats

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.
  2. Use a pastry knife to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is coarse and uniform.  Stir in the 1/2 cup oats.
  3. Add the maple flavor to the milk.  Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk mixture.
  4. Stir to combine then remove to a floured counter and knead just until a dough ball forms.
  5. Pat the dough to 3/4-inch thick.  I usually form my dough into a rectangle and then cut my scones into squares.  You can also create a circle and then cut it into wedges.
  6. Place the scones about a half inch apart.  The scones will expand into each other and create soft edges, not crusty.
  7. For the topping, brush the melted butter over the scones.  Place the 1/4 cup brown in a small bowl.  Add the 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor.  Add the water, a little at a time, until you have a mixture the consistency of a pancake syrup.  Drizzle syrup over the wedges and sprinkle on the remaining oats.
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until the tops just start to brown.  Remove to a rack.  Serve warm.

Kansas Corn and Oat Bread

This is an unusual but very good bread made with both oat flour and ground corn.  It is similar to Anadama Bread and is especially good for toast.  It is made with a combination of four flours: Cornmeal, oat flour, whole wheat flour, and white bread four.  Since only the wheat flours form gluten, the majority of flour must be wheat but there is enough oat and corn to make the bread rustic reminiscent of a peasant bread.

As a guide, the non-wheat flours should not exceed 40% and this recipe calls for exactly 40%.  Accordingly, wheat gluten is added to approximate an all wheat flour recipe.  A good quality dough conditioner helps.  (We recommend our Professional Dough Conditioner which calls for 1/2 teaspoon per loaf.  Other dough conditioners may be more dilute and require more usage.)  The oat flour retains moisture and helps to keep the bread moist.

We think you will enjoy this bread.

This recipe makes two loaves about 1 1/2 pounds each.

1 1/3 cup oat flour
1 1/3 cup cornmeal
about 3 cups high gluten bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons wheat gluten
1 teaspoon dough conditioner
7-gram package yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  1. In the bowl of your stand-type mixer, mix the oat flour, cornmeal, two cups of the bread flour, the whole wheat flour, wheat gluten, dough conditioner, and the yeast together. Add the warm water, sugar, melted butter, and salt. Beat with the dough hook for 30 seconds. Continue kneading with the dough hook, adding the remaining bread flour until you have a soft but not sticky dough.  Knead for up to five minutes or until the gluten is developed.
  2. Place in a lightly greased bowl; turn once to grease the surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until it is doubled in size, about an hour.
  3. Grease two medium loaf pans with shortening and set aside or grease a baking sheet to make free-standing loaves.
  4. Shape the dough into two loaves. Place the shaped loaves in the bread pans or on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  When the bread is doubled and puffy, place the bread and pan(s) in the oven.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes or until top is golden and the interior of the loaves have reached 190 with an insta-read thermometer.
  7. Remove the bread from the pans and let them cool on a rack.

You may use an egg wash on this bread to create a golden glaze by whisking one egg with one tablespoon of water and brushing the egg wash on with a pastry brush just before baking.   Instead of using an egg wash, you may dust the loaves with flour just prior to baking.

Honey Nut and Oat Pancakes

These are guilt-free pancakes.  With oat flour, honey, whole wheat flour, and walnuts, you know you are eating healthy.  And they are amazingly light and good.  This recipe is worth keeping.

Our favorite syrups for these pancakes are Cinnamon Apple Passion and Lawford’s Reserve Cinnamon Cream Syrup.

To get more recipes like this, subscribe to our newsletter or download free recipe e-books from the many in our library.

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup oat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2/3 cup walnut pieces

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sour cream, milk, oil, and honey together.  Add the nuts.
  3. Add the liquid and nut mixture to the dry ingredients all at once, stirring just to blend.  Some small lumps will remain.
  4. Heat a pan or griddle over medium-high heat. Coat it lightly with oil. When the griddle is hot, pour the batter onto the griddle in even circles.  Cook until bubbles form and start to break in the batter. Flip and cook until done.

Baker’s note: Your pancake batter should be just thin enough to pour and flow evenly on the hot griddle.  It will thin as it sits as the carbon dioxide from the leavening works out.  If you need to thin the batter, add more milk.

Merri Ann’s Gluten-Free Oat Muffins

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup oatmeal (either quick or old-fashioned)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter (half cube)

Mix the first four ingredients in your mixing bowl and let them sit while you mix the other ingredients in a separate bowl.

1 cup gluten-free flour (2/3 rice flour, 1/3 combination of either tapioca flour, potato starch, or other gluten-free flour)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (available in health food section of grocery store)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
(Optional – 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
(Optional – 1/2 cup flaxseed meal)

Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the oatmeal/liquid mixture.
Beat in 3 eggs
Add walnuts, coconut and if desired, flaxseed meal and mix well.

Mix thoroughly with electric mixer for a minute or so.
Spoon into muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for about 13-20 minutes (depending on size) or until golden brown and firm.

Makes six large muffins or 12 small (cupcake-sized) muffins

Chocolate Chip and Oat No-Bake Cookies

This is one of those cookies that you make on the stovetop but it is quick and easy cookie. We made ours in less than ten minutes from assembled ingredients to cookies on the sheet.

Everyone likes a chocolate chip cookie.   They oats make it a chewy chocolate chip cookie.  It’s a wholesome cookie that you won’t mind including in your child’s lunch box.

If you like chewy chocolate chip cookies, try these.

Ingredients

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup quick rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, cook the brown sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring continually, until the mixture comes to boil.   Cook for one minute longer.
  2. Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter, quick oats, and vanilla.  Let cool until just warm to the touch then stir in the peanuts and chocolate chips, stirring just until the chips and peanuts are dispersed.
  3. Drop the cookies by the spoonful onto a nonstick baking sheet or waxed paper.  Cool completely in the refrigerator.

Baker’s note:  If you stir the chocolate chips in before they have sufficiently cooled, they will melt.  That’s not bad but you will have chocolate cookies instead of chocolate chip cookies.

Auntie Katie’s Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

These are fine They taste great, they are tough enough to take a little abuse, and they are wholesome, filling cookies. You can hand them out to the kids without creating an overwhelming sugar high. Stick a few in your daypack when you head up the trail and they’ll make a great snack half way to the lake.

These are hearty cookies with nuts and raisins. We love them and they are nutritious cookies but probably not the first choice of younger kids.

We modified this recipe from an old Farmer’s Home Journal Recipe that we have used for 20 years. It has stood the test of time. We updated the recipe by modifying it so that it could be made in your stand-type mixer and reduced the sodium and ginger. We also added turbinado sugar because we like working with that so much.

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
4 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup molasses
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup hot water

turbinado sugar for decorating

Bake 375 for 8 to 10 minutes

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside. Melt the shortening in the microwave and set aside.
    2. In the mixing bowl of your stand-type mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the rolled oats, granulated sugar, ginger, molasses, eggs, raisins, walnuts, melted shortening, and hot water together. Add the flour mixture in three parts, mixing after each until you have a dough suitable for rolling. (If the dough is too wet, add a couple tablespoons of flour.)
    3. Divide the dough into three parts and roll each to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut into shapes and place the cut cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet. (If the sheet is non-stick, it does not have to be greased.)
    4. With a pastry brush, very lightly brush the cookies with water. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar.
    5. Bake for eight minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks.

Baker’s note: With dark pans, eight minutes baking time was just right. Lighter colored pans will take longer.

Sesame and Oat Cracker Recipe

You make these crackers just like sugar cookies except that you don’t have to decorate them. Roll out the dough, cut them into rounds or shapes, and place them on the baking sheet.

For this unusual cracker, you grind roll oats in a food processor or blender—two cups coarse ground oat flour for one cup wheat flour. No wonder it’s a wholesome cracker.

The secret of crispy crackers is a long bake, long enough to drive the moisture from the crackers.

Ingredients

2 cups quick rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup cold butter
1/2 cup ice cold water plus one tablespoon if needed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. Grind the oats about 1/2 cup at a time in your blender or food processor. Do not over-process. Your oats should be coarsely ground.
2. Add the flour, sesame seeds, granulated sugar, salt, and baking powder and stir to combine.
3. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender until the mixture is granular.
4. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour the cold water into the well, first the 1/2 cup and then the extra tablespoon if needed. Stir with a fork until the mixture comes together then knead it on the counter just until you have a ball of dough.
5. Roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut crackers with a cookie cutter or bottle lid. Place the crackers on an ungreased cookie sheet. Prick the crackers in two or three places with the tines of a fork.
6. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until the crackers are baked and dry. Let sit on the cookie sheet for five minutes and then remove them to a wire rack. Serve with a dip or spread. Makes about 5 dozen 1 1/2-inch crackers.

Rhubarb Nut Crisp

I like rhubarb.  I have a rhubarb plant in my back yard that has grown into a monster perennial.  It takes no care and provides enough stalks for few rhubarb pies and crisps each spring.
This makes a great springtime dessert. A crisp can be served hot or cold with whipped cream or ice cream.
This crisp is made with panko.  While you can use a streusel topping, I usually use panko.

Get your panko here

Ingredients

4 to 5 cups thinly sliced rhubarb pieces
1/3 cup walnut pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Combine the rhubarb with the walnuts in a 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Add the 3/4 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons flour and toss well to evenly coat all pieces.
  2. Combine the Panko, cinnamon, the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and 1/3 cup flour in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry knife until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over fruit.
  3. Bake for 35 minutes.  The rhubarb should be tender and the topping crisp.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Raggedy Ann Cinnamon Chip Muffins Recipe

These muffins are made with cinnamon baking chips. In the high heat of the oven (the oven is set to 425 degrees), the cinnamon chips melt leaving swirls of cinnamon through the muffins. With all that melting cinnamon, the tops are often roughhewn and ragged and hence the name, Raggedy Ann cinnamon Chip Muffins. These are very good muffins.

This recipe makes ten large, well-domed muffins or 12 smaller ones.

Ingredients

2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
one teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup Prepared Pantry or equal cinnamon chips

For the topping:

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a muffin pan.

  1. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
    2. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together.
    3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir only until combined. Add the cinnamon chips.
    4. Drop the batter into the greased muffin cups. Mix the two tablespoons sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon together. Spoon the cinnamon sugar over the muffins.
    5. Place the muffin pan in the oven. Immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes or until done. Baking times will vary depending on how well your oven holds heat. Cool the muffins on a wire rack.
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