Rolled oats are the type of oats most often used in the American kitchen, often arriving in a cylindrical cardboard container.

The most nutritious of the cereal grasses, they’re often cooked into hot breakfast cereal by simmering with water or milk, or used as the base of a cold cereal, like muesli or granola.

When it’s not breakfast time, rolled oats are found in baked goods like breads, muffins, cookies and the toppings for fruit crisps and cobblers. Whether rolled oats are appropriate for the classic Scottish offal dish haggis depends on whom you ask.

Plain oat grains aren’t considered fit for human consumption until the tough outer hull is removed. Hulled oat grains can be prepared like rice, but they take a long time to cook. Chopped, they are known as steel-cut oats or Irish oatmeal. Rolled oats have been steamed and squished under heavy rollers into flakes that cook more quickly.

If rolled oats are pulverized into even smaller flakes, they’re known as quick oats, which lose texture for even shorter cooking speed. Instant oats, cooked, dried and flattened, have surrendered any pretense to texture but can be prepared with a dash of boiling water.

Fodder for thought: English writer Samuel Johnson defined oats as “a grain which in England is generally given to horses, but which in Scotland supports the people.”

Here, rolled oats are used as the hearty base of a ginger-spiced crumble that’s like granola, but richer and more intense in flavor. If you like eating a bowl of hot cereal for breakfast, doing the right thing can become bland after awhile. This one was designed by a gingersnap fan, but there’s no reason you can’t use your favorite sweet inspirations.


Cat’s Gingersnap Oatmeal Crumble

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

2 cups gingersnap crumbs

1 cup chopped pecans

2 teaspoons ground ginger (optional)

½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter. Stir in sugar and ginger until dissolved.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Pour in butter and mix well.

Spread on cookie sheet. Bake, turning over mixture and stirring every 5 minutes or so, until oats are golden and toasty and nuts have browned, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Let cool. Break up lumps as desired, and store in a covered container.

Serve over oatmeal, other hot cereals, ice cream or fruit.