Hot cereal is a great way to start your day, especially with the variety of styles available: flakes, farinas, grits and meals. The possibilities of whole grain goodness are almost endless. But, have you ever thought about making something other than your usual hot pot of breakfast cereal for you and the family? If not, then you should. Hot cereals are so much more than just for breakfast.
Our flakes and rolled cereals (think oats, barley, rye, spelt, triticale and wheat) are perfect candidates for home-made granolas, crisps, and cookies. Try swapping out the usual rolled oats in your favorite fruit crisp topping or oatmeal cookie with barley or wheat. If you want to take it a step further, try incorporating rolled flake cereals into biscuits or breads. Since the cooking time (think “how long it takes for the flakes to hydrate and soften”) is relatively short for rolled flake cereals, they are great candidates for additions to quick cooking items like biscuits and scones and they work great mixed-in and sprinkled-on yeasted breads and rolls. The texture and décor they provide when incorporated into a loaf of bread or sprinkled on the top of rolls is an excellent way to personalize a recipe. I like to add up to ½ cup rolled flakes into my single loaf bread recipes. As a topping décor, anywhere from 2 Tbsp to ¼ cup usually gets the job done.
If you are aiming for a muffin or bar with a more delicate and chewy texture, farinas, grits, and meals are what you are looking for. The amount of liquid necessary to fully hydrate the cereal will vary depending on the particular grain (wheat, corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, and many, many blends) so make sure to take note of the liquid amounts recommended in the basic preparation instructions before making a final choice. Adjust the liquids in your recipe accordingly (or try soaking and then draining the cereal before using) otherwise, you may find some crunchy bits in your baked goods!
Finely ground cereals like farinas, grits, and meals release more starch than flakes or larger grind cereals. This extra starch will contribute to softer textures and increased chew and also works well as a binder. Try using a starchy cereal like Brown Rice Farina in place of a panade in your next meatloaf or to help hold together a batch of veggie burgers.
When incorporating farinas, grits, and meals into baked breads, their small grind and subsequent starchiness can cause a significant effect on the crumb similar to flours. Using this style of cereal to replace some flours as opposed to “in addition to” will produce a better loaf. For satisfying texture and flavor, replace up to 20% of a recipe’s flour with cereal; anymore and you’ll be looking at a shorter, heavier, and dense loaf (which isn’t always a bad thing).
Now, let’s say you cooked a big pot of porridge for breakfast and there is still a fair amount left over in the pot. Did you know…you can bake that leftover hot breakfast cereal into your next loaf of bread? As if you were adding nuts or seeds to your bread dough, try adding some cooked flakes or granular cereals. Start small, about ¼ cup per loaf. Once you know what the outcome is, adjust the amount and type of cereal to your liking. I won’t go into specifics here and instead direct you to the master artisan bakers at Tartine in San Francisco, in particular their book Tartine Book No. 3. If you are serious about bread baking, this book and all their other bread books are a goldmine of information and creative inspiration.
If you are feeling totally overwhelmed by the myriad possibilities of incorporating cereals into your recipe repertoire, just step back and take a breather. Cook up a pot of good old-fashioned hot cereal and choose one of our unique topping combos for any easy and impressive spruce-up.