How an 1883 Pudding Recipe Turned Me on to Baked Oatmeal

Who knew? You can bake oatmeal! Okay, lots of people know that, as a Google search for “baked oatmeal” reveals. But it somehow escaped me all those years when my daughters were growing up and I was making oatmeal the old-fashioned way, by stirring it in a pot.

My serendipitously failed experiment with a vintage recipe for baked apple pudding

Leave it to H.J. Clayton, an acclaimed caterer who lived and worked in San Francisco in the late 19th century, to bring me up to speed. As I noted in a previous post, he was the first cookbook author to label recipes “Californian,” as in, for instance, Clayton’s Celebrated California Salad Dressing. Another of the recipes from his 1883 book, Clayton’s Quaker Cook Book, that I reprinted in Vintage California Cuisine is called Baked Apple Pudding.

In retrospect, in my test of Clayton’s pudding recipe, I probably erred when I used rolled oats instead of a more finely ground flour where he called for “oat meal.” Which is how I ended up with a baked breakfast dish instead of something that more closely resembled what we call pudding. It was perfectly good, for what it turned out to be, but next time, I might try it with rolled oats that have been pulverized in a food processor or I will look for oat flour in the supermarket.

Clayton did not specify how much sugar to use, so I went with just half a cup, and ended up with a dish that was plenty sweet enough. I used the grater blade on my food processor to “reduce the apples to small pieces.” I did not have any suet on hand, so I left that out, and it wasn’t missed. I used one teaspoon of cinnamon in the dish and sprinkled more on top for decorative effect. In the absence of a specified cooking temperature, I went with the catch-all 350 degrees. After about an hour in my oven, the “pudding” was “well set.” The sauce I served it with is strawberry puree blended with yoghurt and maple syrup.

It was great straight out of the oven piping hot, and great the next day straight out of the refrigerator. Next time, I might toss in some cranberries, blueberries, raisins, walnuts, almonds or a combination thereof.

Here’s Clayton’s basic recipe:

 Baked Apple Pudding

 Two cups oatmeal or cracked wheat; 2 eggs; 1 tablespoonful butter; 1 pint milk; three medium sized apples; a little suet; cinnamon to flavor; sweeten to taste. Beat sugar, eggs, and milk together; stir in the meal, and then add the other ingredients, the apples last, after reducing to small pieces. Bake until well set. To be eaten with or without sauce.

Source: Clayton’s Quaker Cook Book,
Being a Practical Treatise on the
Culinary Art Adapted to the Tastes
and Wants of All Classes

About Mark

Mark Thompson, who currently resides in Philadelphia, writes about law, history and food, among other topics. American Character, his biography of Charles Lummis, an Indian rights activist who lived in California and the Southwest from the 1880s through the 1920s, was honored by Western Writers of America in 2002 with a Spur Award for best biography. His second book, Vintage California Cuisine, traces the origins of the state's unique culinary sensibility to the earliest cookbooks published in California. Thompson also publishes a web site called, about farmers markets and seasonal produce. He has written for dozens of publications including the Atlantic, The New Republic, the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.
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One Response to How an 1883 Pudding Recipe Turned Me on to Baked Oatmeal

  1. Oh this apple pudding sounds so delicious!!

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