Monday, February 11, 2008

The Oat Affair

I can’t even begin to explain it, but I have been completely obsessed with oats lately. I’ve been making anything and everything with them. This weekend alone I made oatmeal (a given), failed bar cookies (which got broken up and are currently being used as granola, and the recipe for them will be the foundation for my own granola recipe), and oatcakes. Still waiting in the wings are a baked oatmeal recipe, the aforementioned granola, and two loaves of oat bread (one maple flavored, one plain).

Oats are so friendly, so innocent. They can be sweet or savory, and are happy whole or chopped up. They’ll play a staring role, or share the limelight. Oats are just so darned nice.

This weekend I happened to remember an oat recipe from Jill Dupliex’s Simple Food (which is now sadly out of print). I was trying to think of snacks to take with me to work, and reading the ingredients on the box of Ritz crackers my children were consuming sent me running as fast as I could for a recipe that had as few ingredients as possible.

These little cakes take almost no time, are an excellent vehicle for cheese, and are buttery and nutty at once. The food processor does all the work. They could be jazzed up with some herbs or cayenne or even black pepper, but I like them plain. They make a wonderful blank canvas for anything you want to have stand out boldly. And they’re so forgiving—you can manhandle the dough all you like, kneading and re-rolling to maximize the output from the recipe, and they won’t toughen up or get in a snit the way biscuits will.

The original recipe was for oatcakes with tomatoes and goat cheese, which I’ve included below, but the oatcakes can be made and used as a base for just about any other snacky or nibbly thing you cared to top them with.

These don’t actually brown up in the oven. They’re a bit pale and wan looking, which is why they’re good topped with things. However, if you were concerned about appearances, you could add a touch of sugar to the dough, or paint them with a little cream or milk to help encourage them to color up. If you decided to add cayenne pepper, that would give them a bit of a tinge right there.

I can recommend these with blue, cheddar, and manchego cheeses. They also have my daughter’s seal of approval. It doesn’t get much more official than that.

from Jill Dupliex’s Simple Food
makes approximately 20 oatcakes

1 ½ cups rolled oats
2/3 cup all purpose flour
6T butter, softened
2-4 T cold water

Preheat oven to 350. Whiz oats, flour, butter, and salt in a food processor. Add water, 1T at a time until mixture starts to come together. Turn dough out onto a floured board, and push together into a mass. Gently roll or pat out to ½” thick. Cut into 2” rounds with a cookie cutter or glass. Re-roll scraps and cut out more. Bake on a baking sheet covered with parchment for 10-12 mins. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

For the original recipe:

Toss 20 cherry tomatoes with 1T olive oil and bake for 15 mins until soft and squidgy. Cool to room temperature.

Top each oatcake with one round of goat cheese (cut from a 7 ounce log) and one cherry tomato.

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