I’ve been serving my Apple Pie Porridge to visiting friends and family for over a decade. It resolves all of the dilemmas about the plebeian oat as a menu offering. I mean, lots of us eat oats for breakfast, but it is rarely something served with pride to a guest.
Steel cut oats, cooked overnight is my answer. Oats in this shape cook up with more texture than the slippery instant oats we associate with busy morning breakfasts. I can make my oatmeal taste and smell just like apple pie without having to make a crust, and without the caloric guilt. Prepping a crock pot before bed gives me the option of making a breakfast far beyond what we would normally enjoy on a busy morning. I’m not usually thinking about breakfast the night before unless I already know my morning schedule will be slammed, or I have people to feed other than myself. Both of these qualifiers are true in regards to my fall gig, where I’m running the breakfast shop for all of that theme park’s vendors and workers. A few years ago, I added the dish to the offerings at my fall bakery. (Just for the record, I was selling Apple Pie Porridge to the public before either Starbucks or McDonald’s added oats to their menus … The Hubby points it out every time we drive past an advert “Look, Honey, they’re copying your good ideas.”)
This is an overnight recipe for a variety of reasons.
- Steel cut oats usually need an hour of cooking time on a stovetop. (Really, who has an extra hour in the morning?)
- I sweeten with fruit whenever possible, and the hours of slow cooking provide enough time for all of the sweetness to come out of the raisins and apples, into the porridge.
- No potpourri or smelly candle can compare to the genuine smell of hot apples and cinnamon coming from your own kitchen.
- I’m impatient.
I received two calls about oats this week. One from my friend Kelly, who wanted to know if I had this recipe posted anywhere; and another from The Hubby, who confessed to trying McDonald’s oatmeal. In his own defense, he reminded me that we are currently working in two different cities; so he did not have access to ‘real’ porridge. I asked him for a review. He said, “I don’t know how many sugars are in the thing, but it was A LOT more than I expected, supposedly 290 calories, and the apples were weird. Maybe they had been dried and then reconstituted.” (Or maybe he’s more accustomed to slow-cooked apples.) My curiosity took me to the McDonald’s online nutritional profile, where I got this list:
Whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, food starch-modified, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color.
Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain freshness and color).
Cranberry Raisin Blend
Dried sweetened cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California raisins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide (preservative).
Milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.
McDonald’s has 21 ingredients in their oatmeal. I’d never counted the ingredients in mine before today, but mine contains 9 ingredients, and that’s when you count cinnamon and nutmeg separately, rather than lumping them together as “natural flavor”. I also offer brown sugar when selling this to the public and about 75% of the festival-attending folks choose that option. Still, mine has less than half the number of ingredients of McDonald’s. However, my product doesn’t have to store for the same period of time, and I don’t have to fake a slow-cooked texture with a food starch. McDonald’s and Starbucks are still providing a service by offering a healthier option in the drive-thru breakfast market. I approve. Although Mark Bittman’s article today points out that “healthier” may be a misnomer in regards to McDonald’s oatmeal.
Healthier items allow us all the opportunity to choose a better life for ourselves. I’ll admit, the decision to add Apple Pie Porridge to my own commercial menu had selfish origins. I work to make exceptional food selections for myself in the midst of offering what the public craves at my work venues. Hot, scratch-made buttermilk biscuits would call my name every morning in my bakery. White flour is seductive. We’ve had a long and tumultuous, on-again / off-again relationship, and I’m just tired of the hurt. I had to strengthen my resolve by having another, more nurturing option available. I’m not anti white flour. I just have better personal health when I don’t consume it myself. My selfishness has paid off, and Apple Pie Porridge is an oft-requested item at our counter.
A note of thanks again to Kelly, who reminded me that there was a need for this post, and then graciously took these photos for me when she made the dish last night.
I’ll still make this often for myself and friends:
Apple Pie Porridge
This will make 4 hearty servings. It fits easily in a standard crock pot.
1 cup Steel Cut Oats
1/4 cup Flax Seed
2 small Apples
1/4 cup Raisins
1 Tbsp Full Flavored Molasses (Barbados, or first pressing. It has more sugar than Blackstrap)
1 1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
4 cups Water
1/4 tsp Salt
10 grinds Nutmeg
Core and chop apples, place everything in crock-pot, turn on low before going to bed.
Remember, the apples float, so the contents of the crock-pot are stratified in the morning until you stir it. Also, if there are crunchy bits that have stuck to hot-spots … turn the pot off, stir well, and they’ll soften and release as it cools a bit.
Dried cherries can be a nice replacement for the raisins occasionally. I’d love to hear about your own variations on this!