As we move into the colder months of the year, oatmeal increasingly becomes king of the breakfast table. Often, its warm, satisfying, and hearty touch is enough to carry us through to lunchtime. However, oats is much more than a hot bowl at breakfast, it can show up in pancakes, muffins, cookies, granola bars, and so much more.
All oats start off as oat groats, which are the whole, unbroken grains. Before being processed into any other variety of oats, the unbroken grains are usually roasted at a very low temperature. This not only gives the oats their nice toasty flavor, but the heat also inactivates the enzyme that causes oats to go rancid, making them more shelf-stable.
For preparation, the groat grains are cleaned, sorted and peeled before being husked. Additionally, they can be sliced on a ‘Groat Cutter’ which can be adjusted to cut fine, medium or coarse groats. Regardless, thereafter the groats are freed from any adhering parts of the shell by a brushing machine. In the case of cut groats their fragments are sorted by size by sieving. Groats are used in dishes such as soups, grain salads and porridges. They are nutritious but hard to chew, so they are often soaked before cooking.
The following are the different variety of oats that basically emerge from groats:
Steel-cut oats: Also referred to as Irish or Scottish oats, this variety is made when the whole groat is cut into several pieces, rather than rolled. Steel-cut oats look almost like rice that has been cut into pieces. This variety takes the longest to cook, and has a toothsome, chewy texture that retains much of its shape even after cooking. In addition to being used for porridge, steel-cut oats can also be used to make meatloaf or add texture to stuffing. Because of its toothsome texture, rolled or instant oats do not make a good substitute for steel-cut oats.
Rolled oats: Also called as old-fashioned or whole oats, rolled oats look like flat, irregularly round, slightly textured discs. When processed, the whole grains of oats are first steamed to make them soft and pliable and then pressed to flatten. Rolled oats cook faster than steel-cut oats, absorb more liquid, and hold their shape relatively well during cooking.
Instant oats: Also referred to as quick oats, instant oats are the most processed of the three oat varieties. They are pre-cooked, dried, rolled and pressed slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook more quickly than steel-cut or rolled oats, but retain less texture, resulting in a mushy oat feel. Rolled oats can be substituted for instant oats, although the cooking time will be much more and the final dish will have a much desired texture.
Oat bran: Highly insoluble in fiber, oat bran is prepared from the outer casing or layer of the oat kernel and can be used as a hot cereal or in quick breads, casseroles, and pancakes for extra fiber.
Oat flour: Oat flour is prepared by grinding and sieving oats. It is mainly used in baking bread or cakes.
Try this recipe:
Oatmeal cookies: In a medium bowl, cream together one cup butter, one cup white sugar, and one cup packed brown sugar. Beat in two eggs, one at a time and stir in one teaspoon of vanilla extract. Combine two cups of all-purpose flour, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon salt, and one and a half teaspoons ground cinnamon and stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in three cups of quick cooking oats. Cover, and let the dough chill for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease the cookie sheets. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls, and place them two inches apart on the sheets. Flatten each cookie with a large fork dipped in sugar.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven and then allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.