While I was leafing through Farmhouse Cookery the other day, I noticed several recipes calling for oatmeal of varying coarseness. I was a bit mystified. All of a sudden I had no idea what oatmeal was. Maybe I could just crush up some rolled oats? I really didn't know, but was seriously considering attempting digestive biscuits made with rolled oats given a spin in my Cuisinart when I came across a recipe call for porridge oats. Now I was doubly confused, but two things came to mind:
all the oat groats that had ever passed through my check out line and the KitchenAid grain mill attachment a friend had been given for her last birthday or Christmas or something. At this point I was determined to make digestive biscuits and flummery and most probably oatcakes and to grind my own meal for all of them. I immediately texted S. about her mill. I had borrowed her KitchenAid ice cream maker a couple weeks before, so figured she'd be willing to let me use her grain mill.
Three or four texts later I had bought the never-before-used mill for 40 bucks. Lucky me! I wouldn't have the mill for five days or so, but the anticipation was killing me so I bought a sack of groats anyway. At long last (a day late) I got my grain mill attachment. I actually sat down and read the instructions before attempting to grind my oats and was dismayed to learn that it didn't particularly like whole oat groats. It wanted them hulled first. I didn't have hulled oats. I didn't have access to hulled oats, but I wasn't going to be put off so easily.
My compromise to the mill was to put the groats through on the very coarsest setting and then run the resulting meal through on finer settings until I had what I thought resembled "medium oatmeal" having no point of reference other than all the McVitties I have ever eaten. The mill co-operated and if the digestive biscuits that came out of the oven are any indication, I seem to have judged the coarseness pretty well. The grind could have been a fraction finer, but I quite liked the extra roughage. (The user manual also suggests using rolled oats, which might be easier to grind more finely. I'll try that next time and let you know.)
makes about one dozen
- 4 oz. medium oatmeal
- 4 oz. wholemeal flour
- 2 oz. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3 oz. butter
- 1 small egg, beaten
- Mix together the oatmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and soda. Rub in the butter with the fingertips, then add the egg and mix well.
- Place the dough on a working surface sprinkled with oatmeal. Roll out to 1/8-1/4 inch thick, and cut into 3-inch rounds. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 10-15 minutes.
- Replace the wholemeal flour with plain flour if you prefer biscuits with less roughage. (I can't recommend this, personally, but if you must...)
Excellent plain, dipped in chocolate, or with butter and cheese.
The benefits of grinding one's own grains are many. There is, of course, the pure satisfaction of making something from scratchier than scratch. There's the assurance that nothing has been added to your flour--or taken away. There's knowing your flour isn't rancid. But, perhaps most importantly, there is the flavor. A nuttier digestive you have not had. Not the cardboard McV, whose saving grace is its dubious chocolate coating, but a nutty, buttery, flaky biscuit excellent plain, but worthy of being coated in the finest chocolate or of sandwiching a velvety ganache, and simply crying out to be dipped in a dead milky cup of tea. So raise your mugs to the oat groat, Farmhouse Cookery, and the grain mill that could.