Stone Soup is an ongoing quarantine feature in which I come up with a recipe that uses the impossible thing in your cupboard, without making you go to the store or wasting any of your ingredients. Last time, we made semolina pudding.
Claire Louise says:
I have a big ol' bag of rolled oats in my pantry that is on the verge of expiry. I don't want it to go to waste, so I've been trying to decide what to do with it. I baked some into a loaf of bread, which was good, but I want to branch out. I've considered making it into granola, but every recipe I've seen calls for weird stuff I don't have or can't find.
So, what do you think? Is there any hope for me and my giant bag of rolled oats? Or am I sadly doomed to food waste? Help!
I’ve posted a recipe for no-bake protein bites that uses rolled oats, but I want to give Claire Louise another couple of options. First, let’s do a quick oat rundown:
- Oat Groats - Whole, uncut, unfuckedwith oats. They look like really big grains of brown rice. Health-food establishments enjoy inflicting these on people. They take a billion years to cook. Chewy, good flavor, not worth it, will irreversibly change the morale of your colon.
- Steel Cut Oats - These are what you get when you chop up oat groats into a few pieces using a sharp blade. Easier to cook than Oat Groats, but harder to cook than any other kind of oat, and you’ll wind up with a texture-y oatmeal as a result. Fancy brunch oatmeal is usually made with Steel Cut Oats.
- Scottish Oats - Ground up with a stone into an irregularly-sized pile of what looks a lot like sawdust. Very tasty, a good time to be had by all. Don’t think these cook as easily as rolled oats, though; the timing and care needed is closer to Steel Cut.
- Rolled Oats - Take an Oat Groat, steam it, and then press it between rollers. Now you’ve got a Rolled Oat! It’s a flat flake, what most Americans think of when they picture an oat. The steaming process helps the oats stay fresh for longer, and the rolling exposes the tender innards of the oats, so they cook faster than their more intact cousins.
- Instant Oats - Do what you did to the groat to make it into a rolled oat, but do it… more. Now you have Instant Oats! More delicate and much more likely to turn to mush.
Claire Louise has rolled oats. These are my personal favorite, because I never want to have to plan ahead of time when it comes to oatmeal. I also love them because you can really easily use them to make a staple that lots of people are missing right now:
5-Minute Oat Milk
I’ve been making this once every couple of days for the last few months. It’s so fucking easy, and at the end of the process, you have fresh oat milk in your fridge. You can use oat milk the same way you use dairy milk in lots of contexts - just remember that it doesn’t have a lot of the fats and sugars that regular milk does, so you shouldn’t expect it to form cream or to caramelize over heat.
Step One: Pulverize it. You’ll want to demoralize your oats as much as possible before you do anything else. Take one cup of rolled oats and chop them up as fine as you possibly can. Your goal is to expose as much oat surface area as possible. I like to use a blender or a food processor for this step, but if you don’t have those, you can always use a knife or mortar and pestle.
Step Two: Just add water. If you’re using a blender or food processor, put three cups of water in with the pulverized oats and pulse in short bursts for no more than 30 seconds total. Any longer than that, and the starches in the oats will start binding together in ways that will make the texture unpleasant.
If you don’t have one of those and need to work by hand, use a giant jar or a tupperware or whatever, something big that seals up well. Stick with a 3-to-1 ratio of water to oats, and feel free to work in batches if you need to. Shake hard for about thirty seconds.
Step Three: Wow, this is draining. Strain the liquid into a clean vessel. Personally, I use a cold-brew coffee bag for this - the size of the mesh is perfect - but a cheesecloth or a coffee strainer would work just as well.
Once you’ve poured everything out, apply some pressure to the solids to squeeze out excess liquid. If you’re using a straining bag or a cheesecloth, just give the goop inside a gentle squeeze. If you’re using a coffee filter, use the back of a spoon to press down on the goop. Don’t go too hard here - the oats are mush now, and you don’t want to force them through the tiny holes in your straining material. You also don’t want to wind up with oat slime on your hands, which is a real thing that is a nightmare to experience.
That’s it! You did it! You have oat milk! I know, it seems like there should be more to it than that, but there really isn’t. It’s that simple. This will keep in the fridge for a few days. Put it in a container that seals tightly, like a jar, so you can give it a shake before pouring - don’t be alarmed if it settles a little over the course of the day, that’s normal. But wait! Don’t throw the oat goop out! You can still use it to make…
Oatmeal cookies have an unearned bad reputation. People get all upset at them because they’re not chocolate chip cookies, to which I say: bullshit. You can enjoy multiple types of cookies. There’s no need to be all hetero about it. Oatmeal cookies are tasty and good and you should let yourself enjoy something for once in your goddamned life. Let’s do this.
Preheat your oven to 350. Do it. Don’t forget. I see you forgetting. Stop that.
Step One: Dry Stuff. I like to make this recipe with ground almonds in addition to flour - I think the flavor is good and the texture is nice and also sometimes I run out of flour when I’m figuring out a recipe and I wing it and it turns out well. Did I steal that substitution idea from a long-ago cookbook? I sure as hell don’t remember. It was probably someone else’s idea first.
Anyway, you don’t have to do that substitution if you don’t have ground almonds. You can just use flour. I’ll never know.
Anyway, combine .5 tsp baking powder with .25C ground almonds, and 1.25C flour plus an extra tablespoon or so. Or, just use 1.5C flour plus a tablespoon.
Step Two: Cream it. The bafflingly-named “creaming method” is the process of whipping sugar and fat - for instance, butter - together before incorporating more ingredients into a recipe. This one is really important in baking. It accomplishes two big things on a microscopic level:
- Sugar crystals are sharp assholes and they ruin stuff. They’re also hydrophyllic, so they can cause structural problems by sucking up water - for instance, the water in eggs, which tend to curdle if sugar looks at them funny. Creaming coats the sugar crystals in fat, which keeps those sharp edges blunted and prevents the sugar from hogging water.
- Fat is dense and it’s tough to get it to stay light and fluffy, because that dense structure doesn’t want to make room for air pockets. Sugar crystals are sharp in uneven ways; they can barge their way into butter and force space for air pockets. A finer grain of sugar will make more tiny air pockets. When liquid gets into those pockets and heat is applied, the liquid turns to steam, expanding the air pockets and allowing for a fluffier result.
So, take 2 sticks of cool to room temperature butter. Don’t try this with melted butter, it won’t work. Add 1C each white sugar and brown sugar. Now use a spatula or the paddle attachment on your stand mixture to just whip the crap out of them, until what you’ve got in the bowl is very fluffy.
Step Three: Egg time. Now that the sugar won’t be able to do any damage, beat in two eggs.
Step Four: Bring it home. Add 3 cups of rolled or instant oats. If you made oat milk, you can use your 1 cup of Oat Goop here, as long as it’s pretty thoroughly squeezed out.
Add whatever spices you like - I’m a big fan of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, clove, cardamom, and black pepper. Add a healthy pinch of salt, too.
Add fruit or nuts if you want or if you’ve got ‘em. If you decide to add chocolate chips: go with god and accept the consequences of your actions.
Add in your dry ingredients from Step One.
Now, gently fold everything together just to combine.
Step Five: Roll ‘em if you’ve got ‘em. Take about 2 tbsp of dough, roll it into a ball, and put it on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Do that again, placing the balls 2” apart, until the cookie sheet is full.
Step Six: Get baked. Pop those bad boys in the oven for about 11 minutes. Rotate the pan, then let them go for another 11-15 minutes, depending on how capricious your oven might be.
If you like a good crisp bottom on your cookies — which you should — let them cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring them directly into your gullet.
That’s it! You did it! You made cookies!
Step Seven: Do everything you can. Go to protests and stand up for change. Sign petitions, as many as you can. Text, call, and email demanding justice — there are templates at that link. Donate money, and if you don’t have money, click here to donate just by watching a video playlist, or click here to donate by playing a game. Subscribe to Fiyah, a brilliant speculative fiction magazine that features stories by and about Black people of the African diaspora.
Care for yourself and the people around you. Believe that the world can be better than it is now. Never give up.
Just the recipes:
5-minute Oat Milk
- Put 1C rolled oats in a blender or food processor and pulse to pulverize.
- Add 3C water and pulse for a total of 30 seconds.
- Strain thoroughly, gently squeezing out excess liquid. Store in an airtight container.
- Combine 1.25C flour with .25C ground almonds and .5tsp baking powder.
- Cream together 2 sticks softened butter with 1C each brown and white sugar.
- Beat 2 eggs into the creamed butter and sugar.
- Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients with 3C oats, spices of your choosing, fruit/nuts/bits to your desired level of chaos, and a pinch of salt. Gently fold together until just combined.
- Roll into balls, about 2tbsp each. Place 2” apart on a greased or lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for 22-26 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing.