What's for Breakfast?

Oatmeal brûlée, just one of many reasons why you should buy a kitchen torch

Oatmeal month continues. See also: overnight oats and baked pumpkin pie oatmeal.

The first time I had oatmeal brûlée was at a restaurant in Portland, Oregon called Gravy. I wouldn't have ordered the oatmeal if the friend who was treating me to breakfast didn't insist. I have this little rule where, when I dine out, I prefer to eat things that are outside my cooking skill/knowledge. So yeah. Oatmeal. Why pay for someone to boil oats for you? But the brûlée, my friend insisted, made it worth it. And true enough, I didn't own a little torch with which I could scorch the top of my food.

When my bowl of hot cereal came, sure enough there was a beautifully thick layer of burnt sugar on the top, thick enough that it took several hard whacks with a spoon to break through.

But then, underneath, of course, it was simply a bowl of oatmeal. It was fine, don't get me wrong — and if I recall correctly, it was full of berries and not raisins. (Raisins — another good reason to avoid ordering oatmeal in a restaurant.)

For the price of just a couple of bowls of oatmeal brûlée you can buy your own butane torch and then scorch the tops of all sorts of breakfast things: creme brûlée (made with 5 egg yolks, this certainly counts as a breakfast item, no?); macaroni and cheese (perfectly fine for breakfast); s'mores (eaten in honor of nineteenth-century health reformer Sylvester Graham, of course); and if you insist on some sort of "healthy" option in this list, how about brûlée-ing a grapefruit.

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Oatmeal Brûlée

Serves 4

This recipe was adapted from BellyFull. For a good instructional video on how to use a kitchen torch, watch this.


  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit, optional (apricots, cranberries, even raisins — your choice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Butter, softened (to grease the bowls)
  • 1 cup fresh fruit (bananas, berries — your choice)
  • 1 cup nuts, optional (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts — your choice)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar , divided


In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil; stir in the oats, dried fruit, and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat; stir in brown sugar and half of the maple cream mixture. Let stand, covered, for 2 minutes.

Grease 4 bowls with butter; divide fresh fruit and nuts among them. Spoon cooked oatmeal over this and gently smooth out the top; sprinkle evenly with the granulated sugar.

Using a kitchen torch, heat the sugar in a circular motion until caramelized (but not too close or it will burn.)

Serve immediately, with the rest of the maple cream as a drizzle.

If you don't have a torch, you can place the oatmeal under the broiler for about 5–7 minutes. (Make sure you've assembled everything in oven-safe bowls, of course.)