In the past week, there have been lots of little signs that fall is approaching here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s dark at 7 pm, we had our first rain since the beginning of summer and the mornings are brisk and chilly. Just like that, summer disappeared and for once, I’m not sorry. Because fall means everything cozy: warm mugs of cider, fuzzy sweaters, crunchy leaves on the ground. And apples and pears! They’re among those fruits that are available in grocery stores year round, so we tend to forget they have a season. Bite into a crispy mountain rose apple or golden bosc pear this time of year, though, and you’ll remember what apples are pears are supposed to taste like. Autumn’s crisp, juicy, flavor packed orchard fruit put mealy, bland summer picks to shame.
They’re endlessly versatile so you’d be hard pressed to run out of creative ways to eat and drink them while the season lasts. I make a version of this baked oatmeal every fall. It’s sweet, chewy, filling and a warm and tasty way to make the most of some fresh apples or pears. It couldn’t be easier to throw together and is an handy make-ahead breakfast for the week if you don’t polish it all of at once. I also recommend eating it à la mode! This year I traded sugar for maple syrup, which gives the oatmeal a subtle maple flavor and makes it sweet but not too sweet (if you like a sweeter breakfast, feel free to use more than I specify in the recipe). For the fruit, I layered crisp bosc pear slices throughout the oatmeal and topped it off with some whole pears. Bosc pears hold up well to baking and don’t release as much moisture as other pears I’ve tried, so they’re a good choice for this recipe. Lastly, I made a batch of healthy “caramel” – it’s made of sweet medjool dates but looks and tastes a lot like the real thing – to spoon over the oatmeal before baking.
Baked oatmeal is a wholesome, simple breakfast that becomes something truly special when it incorporates the flavors of the season. I’m already dreaming up an apple and cardamom version for next time. Enjoy!
For the oatmeal
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 cups milk (dairy or nut)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup maple syrup (honey or brown sugar can be substituted)
4 Tbsp melted butter (coconut oil can be substituted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 bosc pears
For the caramel
2 cups medjool dates, pits removed
3-4 Tbsp hot water
Preheat oven to 375º F. Grease an 8” baking dish.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside. Mix the wet ingredients in another bowl. Set aside.
Half and core the pears. Thinly slice three of the halves, leaving the slices attached at the stem end. These will top the oatmeal. Set aside. Slice the remaining pears, and arrange some of the slices in a single layer in the baking dish. Cover the pears with a third of the oat mixture. Layer some more pear slices and cover with oats. Repeat until the oats are used up.
Slowly pour the egg mixture over the oats. Allow the oats to soak up the eggs for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, make the caramel. Process dates and hot water in a high speed blender or food processor, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed, until a smooth paste is formed. Spoon 5-6 large dollops over the oatmeal. (The leftover caramel will keep refrigerated for several days. It’s a great dip for apple slices!)
Arrange the three pear halves on top of the oatmeal. Bake 40-50 minutes until the top is just set. Top with extra maple syrup, cacao nibs or whipped cream, as desired. Serve hot.
Written and photographed for danibarbe.com by Kayleigh Kosmas