I’m willing to slave over salads, pies or cakes. I’ll happily give in to the diva-ish triple rising of a focaccia, or conjure up a bubbling beast of biga overnight for the perfect ciabatta. But breakfast needs to be quick. Otherwise, I slip into the precarious lunch/brunch territory where savoury reigns more strongly, and hunger diminishes, before sweet baked goods (no matter how delicious) can get a look in.
Not to undermine the status of these berry vanilla oatmeal loaves, though – they can hold their own on any table, and probably at any meal (although traditionalists may prefer them for breakfast or afternoon tea). However, the problem I used to encounter with these is that they took so damn long. I’d bake and bake, crank up the oven, cover with tinfoil to prevent burning, and poke away like an unskilled phlebotomist, hoping they would reveal a cooked interior. And yet the batter would remain wet while stomachs growled in moody anticipation. And often I would just give in to people’s hunger and serve it undercooked – so often, in fact, that my brothers have now developed a preference for the gooey middle. Of course, if you want the gooey oatmeal-y centre, by all means under-bake, but I wanted to make something without any molten controversy. Another sore point is that though in practical terms there was always enough, in testament to the deliciousness, there was always a scramble for the last slice and discussion as to who had had the most.
To counteract all those problems, I now make mini loaves – you can use a mini loaf tray or a cupcake tray, whichever you prefer. They’re way faster to make, easier to whip up more of (if supply fails to meet demand), and any debates as to who had more are eradicated.
So, what are they? Well, they’re the ideal combo of oatmeal, pancake and muffin. They’re protein and fibre-full and naturally sweet (no refined sugar), bursting with berries (zero dryness here) and filling. They’re quick to make, and super convenient as they can be made in advance, frozen and defrosted when cravings strike. They also look rather irresistible on any breakfast table, so great for when you have guests.
Ingredients (makes 9-12 depending on size of muffin/mini loaf)
300ml hot milk (I use almond, but you can use either dairy or plant-based)
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
50g coconut sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g white spelt flour (or all-purpose plain flour, if more readily available)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp grated orange zest
¼ tsp salt
200g frozen berries (any)
12-hole muffin (or mini loaf) tin, either greased with butter and dusted with flour, or lined with cases.
1) Preheat oven to 190C. Place the oats in a small bowl and pour over hot milk. Set aside to cool slightly.
2) In a stand mixer fitter with a paddle (or by hand with a wooden spoon), beat together the butter and coconut sugar for a couple of minutes until fluffy and the sugar has dissolved into the butter – you can feel between your fingers if it is still gritty or not. Beat in egg, vanilla, honey and orange zest.
3) Drain any remaining liquid from the oats (they should have absorbed most of it), and stir the oats into the rest of the wet ingredients.
4) Into the same bowl, sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt. Gently fold the mixture together until just combined.
5) Spoon the mixture into the individual cases or greased and floured hollows (it should come ¾ of the way up the sides). Scatter the berries evenly over the top of the batter. Place in the oven and bake for 15-25min until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool slightly before serving. These can be served warm or cold, and can be frozen and kept in an airtight container for up to 3 months.