Oatmeal is well known as a hot breakfast cereal, but it is also a common ingredient in granola and many baked goods. Toasting oats is really all you need to do to them when making granola, but adding oatmeal to baked goods gets more complex because of the variety of ingredients involved and how they come together. The instant oatmeal packets from your grocery store are one way to try to add oatmeal to your baking, but they may not yield the same results as other varieties of oatmeal.
Types of Oatmeal
When looking for oatmeal at the store, you'll come across regular, quick cooking and instant oatmeal. Regular oatmeal usually refers to the whole rolled oats. Quick cooking oats have been chopped up into coarse little pieces, and instant oatmeal has been processed so it's even finer. Sometimes, the oats in an instant oatmeal package are like a powder. It's also common to find different flavors added to instant oatmeal packets to make the whole preparation process as "instant" as possible.
Checking the Extras
In most cases, the oats inside instant oatmeal packets will contain ingredients besides oats. The flavored packets will include sugar and ingredients that create the apple-cinnamon or maple flavor in the finished cereal. When you consider using an instant oatmeal packet in your baking, also consider how those extras may affect the flavor of the finished cookies, muffins or cake. While you may be able to find packets with no extra ingredients, but when using packets with extras, you may end up having to just try it and hope for the best.
One thing that you will have to sacrifice when using an instant oatmeal packet over regular or even quick oats is texture. Oats that are larger and less processed will add a chewier texture than the more processed packets. If texture and a more rustic look is an important factor to you in your oatmeal-based baked goods, opt for regular oats or quick oats. If you are interested in the oatmeal flavor, but the texture isn't such a big deal, instant oatmeal packets may work fine.
In most cases, it makes sense to follow the instructions for whatever baked goods you are making. If the instructions call for rolled oats or quick oats, they are likely mentioned for a reason, and substituting instant oatmeal packets could result in a baked product that is lacking in quality. Most baked goods rely on mouth-feel as part of the overall appeal, and instant oatmeal may not offer the same texture as other oat varieties.
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