Pear and Dark Chocolate Baked Oatmeal

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Inspired by my favorite decadent cake, this baked oatmeal with caramelized pears, bittersweet chocolate and toasted nuts is perfect for a potluck brunch. 

Five years ago I hosted my very first Thanksgiving. At the time, I was living at the beach, renting a cute little two bedroom apartment with a lake view. Savannah, my Berner, was a year old, meaning I had successfully taken care of a living thing and kept it alive for an entire year. I was working my first real job, hence me being on call at the hospital rather than traveling home for the holiday. Basically, I felt like a real grown up (HA!).

My mom delegated the task of appetizers, side dishes (except the gravy and stuffing - ain't no way I'm messing with that!), and dessert. Having just started cooking "for real" the year before, I was eager to show off my new found skills in the kitchen. The appetizers and side dishes were easy, but dessert made me nervous, since with baking, you actually have to read the directions and measure ingredients (HA!). After scouring dozens of cookbooks and blogs, I settled on this bittersweet chocolate and pear cake with browned butter from Smitten Kitchen.

The meal went off without a hitch, cementing my entry into adulthood. Despite my baking induced panic attack, my favorite dish was the one I was most nervous about - the pear and chocolate cake. The cake was perfectly moist with intoxicating flavors. The bittersweet chocolate was perfect pairing for the pears. And that browned butter is some good stuff!

When Scott asked me a few weeks ago what my all-time favorite dessert was, I quickly responded with this cake without a moment of hesitation. Then I got a little sad when I realized I hadn't made it since that Thanksgiving. There are so many healthy and delicious desserts, that I rarely make anything that's full on sugar and white flour except for holidays. And when I do, I've got a long pinterest list of worth it splurges to work through!

I was trying to think of a way to recreate in a healthy way when this baked oatmeal suddenly occurred to me. My banana and raspberry baked oatmeal was such a hit, and I thought the combination of flavors would work perfectly with oats. Yum, and I was right!

Normally I'm not a big sweets person for breakfast, but I loved this baked oatmeal so much I made it again last night. Lightly sweetened with pure maple syrup, which has more flavor and less of a glycemic effect than regular sugar, it has just a hint of sweetness. If you do batch cooking on Sundays, baked oatmeal is a smart one to make in advance for a quick breakfast. It's super portable as well, making it the perfect dish for a potluck brunch or tailgating for an early football game. Since it's nutritious, but feels decadent thanks to the dark chocolate and browned butter this dish would be a huge crowd pleaser.

Pear and Dark Chocolate Baked Oatmeal
Author: Rachael Hartley, RD, LD, CDE
Serves: Serves 6-8
I adore the combination of hazelnuts with browned butter, since browning butter gives off a subtle hazelnut scent, but I only had a small amount left over, so I used a combination of them with almonds. Feel free to use one or the other, or even walnuts would be a good addition. The browned butter is optional, but not really once you've tasted it. For a vegan version, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with the almond milk and let it sit 5-10 minutes before pouring over the oats. Instead of browned butter, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil over the top, which will give a nice, caramelized crust over the top.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond, coconut milk, or organic 2%/whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large or two small pears
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, cut into tablespoons
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, nuts, baking powder, spices, salt and chocolate. In a medium bowl, mix almond milk, egg, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
  3. Cut the pear(s) in half. Scoop out the seeds and core with a corer. Slice into 1/4th inch slices and layer in the bottom of an oiled baking dish. It's fine to overlap. Spread the oat mixture evenly over the pears. Pour the almond milk mixture evenly over the oats. Place in the oven and bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and side aside to cool slightly.
  4. While the oatmeal is cooling, make the browned butter. Place the butter in preferably a light colored pan (so you can see the color). Place the pan on medium heat and stir the butter constantly so it doesn't burn. It will bubble and foam, then the foam will start to subside (keep stirring!). Afterwards, you'll start to see it change in color to a caramel brown. Once it looks light brown and caramelized, pour the butter over the oatmeal. Slice and serve with plain yogurt and fresh fruit.