Cold Comfort Ice Cream: Creative Ice Cream Recipes from Snowy New England

Steel-Cut Oats Ice Cream

Posted on: October 1, 2009

Steel Cut Oats

Steel Cut Oats


I adapted this from one of my all-time favorite ice cream recipes from The Ultimate Ice Cream Book. It might sound odd to eat an ice cream with cooked oatmeal in it, but I assure you that the flavor is phenomenal. It’s hearty, comforting and super creamy all at the same time. It also has one of the best textures out of any ice cream I’ve ever made. I’m no food chemist (I run in fear of chemistry!) but I have a sneaking suspicion that the starches released from the cooked oatmeal go a long way in creating an ice cream with such a sumptuous, creamy mouthfeel. The central flavorings of brown sugar, cinnamon and oats compliment each other beautifully in a big, freshly baked oatmeal cookie sort of way.

While the basic recipe is still the same, I decided to switch things up a little bit by substituting steel-cut oats for the regular, rolled variety. You see, I’m sort of in love with steel cut oats. When I discovered them, they were a revelation to me. My entire life, I’ve never been an oatmeal lover until I tried the steel cut variety. If you haven’t tried them already, please do! They’re flavor is nutty and wheaty with a pleasing and distinctive chew. And aren’t they pretty and interesting to look at? As you can see from the picture, in their natural state, oats really are a whole grain! 


Oats in their natural state.

Oats in their natural state.


One thing to remember when dealing with steel-cut oats is that they take longer to cook than the rolled or instant variety. When simply boiled, steel cut oats cook in around 30 minutes. But I think that’s too long to wait for breakfast (or in this case, ice cream!) so I take a shortcut. It involves a little planning, but it’s pretty simple. The night before you want to eat the oats, bring some water to a boil, add the oats, then turn off the heat. The oats soak all night long in the warm water and therefore greatly reduce the cooking time. When I prepare steel-cut oats this way they are usually ready in only 6-8 minutes.


Making the custard base.

Making the custard base.


This ice cream uses brown sugar as the only sweetener, which really stands up to the heartiness of the oats. Whisking the brown sugar into the egg yolks can be somewhat difficult, but it will all incorporate eventually. Such a healthy ice cream, what with oats being so good for you and your arm getting a work-out from all the whisking! Practically diet food. 😉


The oatmeal releasing its precious starches.

The oatmeal releasing its precious starches.


Once you’ve prepped your steel cut oats overnight, drain them of any residual water in the strainer. You’ll find that they no longer look like little wheatberries and have puffed up to double their original size. Then you simmer them in a pan with whole milk and cinnamon which finishes their cooking and gives the mixture a starchy, viscous quality. Then the mixture is slowly added to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisked until smooth. And that’s it, folks!  No further cooking or stirring. Just let the base chill out in the fridge for a few hours and then churn away.


The best bowl of oatmeal I've ever tasted!

The best bowl of oatmeal I've ever tasted!


The Breakfast of Champions.

The Breakfast of Champions.


This ice cream was, and is still is, in my top five all time flavors. The addition of the steel cut oats give it a little bit more of a nubbly chew, which was very pleasing. It also had all of the creaminess of the original. To be perfectly honest, I’d be hard pressed to decide which was better; my version or the original one. I guess I’ll just have to make them both and taste them together side by side. For science.

Steel Cut Oats Ice Cream


2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup steel cut oats
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisins
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

First, prep the steel cut oats by bringing 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Then add in oats, cover, and remove from the heat. Leave to soak overnight. When ready to use, strain oats through a fine sieve to get rid of excess water.

Bring the milk to a boil and add the oats, salt, and cinnamon. Cook for 10 minutes until thick and creamy, stirring often. While the oatmeal mixture is cooking, whisk the sugar into the egg yolks until light and fluffy. When the oatmeal is finished cooking, pour slowly into the bowl with yolks and sugar, whisking in thoroughly. Cool slightly, then whisk in cream. Chill in fridge. Freeze in ice cream maker.

Make it a Sundae!– Heated maple syrup with stewed toasted walnuts in it would be a natural on this ice cream, just like a bowl of oatmeal. Just add whipped cream and you’re set. You could also add chocolate or hot fudge sauce, similar to a delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookie.

Lighten Up!– You could easily swap light cream or half and half for the heavy cream to reduce fat and calorie amounts.


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