Gingerbread Sticky-Date Caramel Pear Baked Oatmeal+ Organic Burst Baobab

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HELLO. I am back! On my holiday resolution to post more! And I am here with a breakfast recipe. Something to ring in the season, now that it’s officially November and we now have calender-certified license to aggressively Christmas all over our food. Something that you can start colder mornings with, since seasons are changing at different parts of the globe. Of course, it’s still sunny here, hotter than Hades’ armpit and with haze to boot, but I can always pretend.

Flashback to my first experience of gingerbread…it wasn’t a pretty one. It was Christmas itself and the adults decided to give us all a gift of a gingerbread cookie–nutty dark dough cut into reindeer heads and Santa heads and I think a snowman, decorated with crumbly Royal icing in vibrant shades and little pearly hundreds-and-thousands and sprinkles. It looked promising–I mean, how bad can anything covered in 1000 different forms of sugar be, right?–but the moment we bit into it everyone kind of made a little wrinkled moue of distaste. I think only my brother managed to finish his–my cousins lost interest in the cookie over the allure of wrapping paper and ribbons under the Christmas tree, and I couldn’t really stomach the pungent, funnily spiced biscuit, which was awfully weird to my young tastebuds. Perhaps it was because we were raised on predominantly Oriental flavors and the sudden train of noxious spice barrelling into our mouths was too much to handle and a sensory overload, icing and hundreds-and-thousands or no. But that was my first gingerbread brush, and it wasn’t the best!

Now, however, I’ve developed quite a taste for it. There’s something oddly comforting and ancient about the mix of spicy ground ginger, allspice, sweet cinnamon, roasty cloves and toasty nutmeg combined with the dark, fruity, fermented sweetness of molasses and rich, buttery brown sugar. It brings a spiced, woody, nutty warmth and a bittersweet richness to a normal biscuit and makes me think of forests and pinecones and dark, rough wood and golden gilt. Yeah, I’m a weird person. But isn’t it funny how people develop flavors? Who decided to first dump all these different spices together into a biscuit? Who decided to take a weird looking black pod from a tree and scrape out its claggy, crumbly wet-soil insides, discovering vanilla? Who decided to take a knobby scaly thing they dug out from the ground and take a tentative bite of its pale yellow insides, discovering the fiery kick and subtle heat of ginger? I always think about these things…it must have been an awfully confusing time for our very early ancestors. Did they go around tasting different things and plucking oddly shaped fruit off trees? Or did they just observe what animals ate all day long to prevent any of them kicking the bucket from some toxic berry? At any rate, I’m very much grateful that they did that for us, and we no longer have to worry about whether raspberries would give us the runs, or something similar.

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Baked oatmeal is incredible. Oats are incredible. They are the best little grains ever. They obediently soak up liquid and flavor, fluff up under heat and expand to form puffed softness but still with lovely texture, and can be used for so many things. This was like a massive gingerbread muffin, stuffed with soft juicy chunks of roasted pear and plump morsels of caramelly, sticky sweet dates. And it has a very special ingredient–baobab!

If you’re scratching your head going “bao-wHAT?” at your screen, have no fear. Remember this post, which featured a superfood called maca by the lovely company Organic Burst? Now here comes another of their lovely superfoods and it is baobab! Baobab, firstly, comes in this light orangey-brown powder. When you open the cap and give it a whiff, it has a sort of slightly sour-plum sweetness in its scent, and a hint of tropical fruitiness. Its original form is a sort of smallish watermelon-shaped fruit, with a long rod-like stem. You can view a video of the harvesting process here–the baobab powder is quite simply the raw, naturally occurring contents of the baobab pod. This 100% pure, nutrient dense powder is not heat treated in the process of manufacturing, so all the Vitamin C and enzymes are preserved–bonus points for baobab! Nutrition-wise, it packs quite a hefty punch–it has double the antioxidants than acai, making it an unsung powerhouse of antioxidant goodness, and has a lovely amount of ultra-healthy, soluble fibre. It is also the planet’s highest plant source of calcium, which makes it great if you don’t quite fancy cow’s milk or cheese or other animal sources to get your bones well fed and strong! Your immune system and nervous system also get some extra support from the Vitamin C and potassium that can be found from the baobab, and it gives a powerful iron and magnesium boost to boot. And–very importantly too–it is ethically sourced, and Organic Burst supplies the baobab whilst keeping in mind both the welfare of the local village communities where it is sourced from and the protection of the baobab trees themselves as important components of the biodiversity of the world.

But all the nutrition and information aside, we know that the proof–and the selling deal–is in the flavor, and baobab has a lovely taste. Predominantly it is sweet with a hint of tang, and a sort of mango-reminiscent tropical freshness. It also has a sweet, caramelly fruitiness that reminds me personally of molasses. I used it in this recipe to support the blackstrap molasses for the gingerbread flavor of the baked oatmeal, and it gave an incredible body to the otherwise straight-and-true dark molasses flavor; it added an element of lightness and a sort of sweet spice of it’s own. Organic Burst has more about baobab here and how you can order it from them; it’s awfully fun to add to different dishes, incredibly versatile to both sweet and savory alike, and definitely worth a try. If you really can’t get it, the recipe will work just fine, but its a great addition that you shouldn’t pass up.

So we have baobab in the baked oatmeal party, and things are getting good.

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HAHA. Do you see it there? The melty chocolate, barely regaining it’s Lindt-stamped and four line pattern integrity above the molty, dark velvety goodness? It’s what every food photographer dreams of achieving, so I can waggle it in your faces and tempt you into making this, or at least consuming more chocolate. Dark chocolate has a lot of antioxidants. Nah, I’m not as mean as that. I promise. But it does make for a pretty shot!

The baked oatmeal comes out lovely deep golden, thanks to the baobab and the molasses. Crusty on top too, which is great. The texture is like a fluffy muffin–crumbs of fluffed oat kernels swollen with flavor and moist butteriness, with a burnished slightly crispy top. It’s like a massive, oaty, gingerbread muffin. You can taste the subtle fruity tang of baobab beneath the rich molasses and the warm toasty gingerbread spice, forming the classic gingerbread flavor, and a dark sugary hit from the brown sugar. Then, in case you get bored of all that goodness (which is virtually impossible, I promise), it’s studded with chunks of medjool dates, swollen and plump with caramel, sticky gooey goodness, for an even more decadent hit of sweetness–and also chunks of pear, baked till soft but not melty, mellow and creamy. So good. And if you put the melty Lindt chocolate into the equation, and some nutty tahini…I’m sold. Aren’t you?

This takes barely any time to come together, and takes a mercifully quick time to bake. Once you’re done with the dishes, all you have to do is flip through the papers, or do some morning stretching, and then brew your coffee or tea–and this will come out of the oven, nice and ready for a lovely spiced seasonal breakfast. You can dig in, and dig in, and it will be gone too soon. But it fills you up nicely, and makes for a wholesome start to your day.

And just in case those weren’t enough photos…

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Go forth and gingerbread.

gingerbread sticky-date caramel pear baked oatmeal

(possibly vegan and gluten-free)

You will need:

-1/2 cup rolled oats (you can use gluten free oats/quinoa flakes for a gluten free version)

-1 tbs coconut flour

-1/2 tbs Organic Burst baobab

-1/2 tsp gingerbread spice, or cinnamon+ground ginger+allspice+nutmeg+cloves to taste

-1 tsp fresh grated ginger (optional, for a little more kick)

-1/2 tsp baking powder

-1/4 tsp baking soda

-1 large banana

-1/2 tsp vanilla extract

-1/2 tbs molasses

-1/2 tbs dark brown sugar/coconut sugar

-3 tbs greek yogurt/coconut cream

-about 6 tbs plant based milk

-medjool dates, chopped

-about 1 ripe pear

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, mash the banana and add the greek yogurt, plant based milk, sugar, molasses and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Add the oats, coconut flour, baobab, gingerbread spice, and baking powder+soda on top of the wet mixture and fold in to combine. Add a little more plant based milk if needed–it should be a muffin/pancake consistency batter. Add your medjool dates, as much as you want, and about half of the pear diced into chunks. Fold the additions in and scoop the batter into a baking dish. Top with the leftover pear half, sliced, and/or banana coins. Bake for 20 minutes till golden and crusty; let cool 5-10 minutes before eating.

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