Different Types of Oatmeal and Why it Matters

Different Types of Oatmeal and Why it Matters

Steel Cut vs. Traditional/Old Fashioned vs. Quick Cook/Instant

Oatmeal starts off as oat groats. Groats have a protective outside and a spongy inside–the inside is the white-beige part we’re most familiar with. The difference in types has to do with how they’re processed. Simply put from least processed to most processed:

Steel Cut: Whole groat sliced straight across
Old Fashioned: Whole groat pressed or rolled flat and steamed
Quick Cook: Whole groat pressed or rolled flatter and steamed longer

(Some other variations on the processed spectrum for reference: Steel Cut, Scottish, Rolled, Old Fashioned/Traditional, Quick/Quick Cook, Instant)

Types of Oatmeal

Okay, so now you’ve learned that I have (at least) three different kinds of oatmeal in my pantry. So what? Continue reading Different Types of Oatmeal and Why it Matters

Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

A whole long weekend has passed and all I have to show is lots of not-good bread. I mean it’s edible. But it’s not good. …And in some cases it may not have been all that edible. In the hope that some of my baking-inclined readers might be able to dole out some advice and to prevent similar mistakes, here’s a rundown of What Went Wrong This Week (another potential title for this post).

Lessons from Garlic-Rosemary Buns
Inside is better than outside.

Clearly not enough garlicAgainst my garlic-loving inclinations, I followed a version of a garlic-rosemary bread recipe that calls for the garlic and rosemary to be brushed on the outside of each bun. I reasoned with myself. Perhaps the strong garlic flavor and impossible-to-wash-off rosemary scent will penetrate the bun during the magical baking process. The recipe was on a BBC website and the ingredients were listed by weight–surely such precision wouldn’t be wrong about something as important as the flavor!

Utter nonsense. You can be bet version two is going to be literally rolling in garlic.

Baking temperature matters. A lot.

Garlic Rosemary Buns in the OvenI made a lot of changes to the original recipes I found. Mostly because they all seemed to call for a more rustic bread, and when I picture Garlic Rosemary Buns, I always think of something soft and moist and begging to be gobbled by the half dozen (then regretted–but not enough to prevent it from happening again). You just can’t do that with rustic bread which is designed to withstand rain and the Middle Ages and the French. As a result, the make up of the flour mixture changed pretty significantly, but I kept the baking temperature for a bread that is basically all crust. Instead of soft, fragrant bread pillows I ended up with dry flour cakes.

Garlic Rosemary Buns Crust
It’s like a bad dinner roll.

Lessons from Jamdandies: Attempt II

Believe it or not, but the fact that Jamdandies are mentioned in this post means there will be a third attempt. I am beginning to think I should have picked the larger bag of flour at Costco. I’m going to be one of those people that has to use those flatbeds because all her stuff can’t fit into an over-sized cart. Like a business or someone building a shed at Home Depot.

Jam is awesome.
Cookie Moat Jamdandies
If I wanted a jam-less bite of cookie I’d eat shortbread.

Continue reading Lessons in Baking Vol. 1 or Shit Real Bakers Already Know

Introduction to the Undertaking

Just in case there’s any confusion, this is not officially affiliated with Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. This is just the ill-conceived idea of a (probably too-intense) fan. There is an official Robin McKinley blog and there’s an official Robin McKinley recipe blog. There’s even an actual post from the authoress herself on the subject of a recipe collection for everything delicious from Sunshine. (Spoiler: There isn’t one) And thanks to the contents of that post and the diligence of a fellow reader who compiled all the baked goods to be found in Sunshine, I had myself a Julie and Julia moment. Only instead of butter I have Buttermost Limit and instead of Julia Child, I have Rae and Mel and Charlie.

It was Sunshine that got me into baking in the first place. It’s the first book I reach for when I’m sick or when it rains or pretty much any time I have a blanket and tea and a spare afternoon. And every time I blink up from the pages desperately craving pillowy cinnamon rolls, indulgently dramatic desserts or just a really well made chocolate striped cookie. Every. Single. Time.

You would think that the resulting Cinnamon Roll Crusade over Christmas break (the causalities were a dozen or so batches and hundreds of cinnamon rolls) would satisfy even the most curious mind, but foodstuffs like Triple Ginger Gingerbread and Bitter Chocolate Death still tug at my imagination until I can practically taste the sugar crash.

If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for? And if you’re here not because you’ve read and loved the book but because you know me and were curious, here’s a snapshot of Sunshine (and why you should absolutely read it): The book is a fictional first person story about a coffeehouse baker. It’s set in a reality where the most desperate patrons of black market anti-were drugs are not werewolves, but were-chickens. It’s my favorite kind of fiction, where life isn’t necessarily made better because of the fictional elements, just more complicated (the way life does). Yes, there are vampires; there is also cosmetic surgery to implant fashionable peri demon features, grotty homeless people, ultra hardy cockroaches, and a very real girl in unreal circumstances. With a healthy dollop of the warmth that can only come from freshly baked cinnamon rolls. If any of those elements appeal to you, read it. If not, sit back and enjoy the pictures.

So here I am, declaring to the intertubes (so I don’t chicken out) that I am going to try and make every food mentioned in Sunshine. This means testing, tweaking and inventing a bunch of recipes. By my count there are 54 food items. Many have delightful names, but not much else. If anyone actually ends up reading and/or following this blog, hopefully I’ll have some help. (Any ideas on what Glutton’s Grail might/should be?) If effort, sunk costs and potential public disappointment don’t prove my dedication, here’s my final gesture of good faith: I have cleaned my kitchen. Only those who have tried to cook in this kitchen and found more food on the counter than in the fridge will understand what a Herculean effort this was. The lack of a “before” picture was very, very deliberate.

Just look at all that baking space!

So now I look like I know what I’m doing, and I (allegedly) managed to produce cinnamon rolls, but there’s a lot of technique and skill in baking and I possess frightening little of ’em. There is also bound to be some stuff lost in translation, so if anyone from the UK wants to slap some knowledge on my profoundly American lexicon, please do. Master bakers, ditto. Any and all aboard, really!

Let’s begin with The List:


  • Banana-Nut Honey Bread
  • Maple Cornbread
  • Oatmeal Bread
  • Orange-Date Tea Bread
  • Pear Gingerbread
  • Pumpernickel Bread
  • Rye bread
  • Tea Bread (Category)
  • Yeast Bread (Category)


  • Chocolate chip Layer Cake w/Butter Icing
  • Ginger Pound Cake
  • Hell’s Angelfood
  • Honeycake
  • Lemon Lechery
  • Marbled Brown Sugar Cake
  • Triple Ginger Gingerbread w/ Cream Cheese Sauce


  • Brown Sugar Brownies
  • Butter Bombs
  • Buttermost Limit
  • Butterscotch Brownies
  • Cashew Turtle
  • Chocolate Butter Alphabet Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Hazelnut
  • Jamdandies
  • Killer Zebras
  • Scones


  • Blueberry
  • Bran and Corn and Oatmeal (separate or one whole muffin?)
  • Bran Raisin
  • Cranberry and Sprouted Wheat
  • Oatmeal Applesauce Allspice
  • Orange, Carrot and Oat
  • Pumpkin


  • Apple Pie
  • Cherry Tarts
  • Chocoholica
  • Cinnamon Rolls as Big as Your Head
  • Fig Bars
  • Glutton’s Grail
  • Lemon Lust Pastry Bars
  • Meringumania
  • Sunshine’s Eschatology
  • Walnut Sticky Bun


  • Caramel Cataclysm
  • Death of Marat
  • Indian Pudding
  • Rocky Road Avalanche


  • All Day Breakfast
  • Egg and Romaine Sandwich on Pumpernickel Bread
  • Garlic-Rosemary Buns
  • Hash
  • Chili
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Tweedle Dumplings
  • Succotash Pudding

Anything I’m missing?

And for the record, this is just for kicks and crumbs, with all the food names from the brilliant Robin McKinley. Mrs. McKinley, if you want it (read: depending on how this all turns out), there’s a bakery box with your name on it. Just say the word.