Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Irish Oatmeal Cookie Muffins for St. Patrick's Day from Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle, who is a wee bit
Irish every March 17, is also
author of The Coffeehouse

On March 17, everyone is a little bit Irish, at least here in New York City. Our St. Patrick’s Day parade is one of the biggest of the year.

Hot coffee is a must for me and my husband on those cold March mornings when we line up with our fellow New Yorkers to applaud New York's Finest (of the NYPD) and its Bravest (of the FDNY) as they march up Fifth Avenue.

If you've never been to the NYC parade, allow me to take you. (I shared these photos last year, as well, but we have so many new site visitors and followers, I thought I'd share them once again...)

Portable food is always a good idea for St. Pat's Day parade watching, especially when it’s green. Last year, I baked a special batch of St. Patrick’s Day Shamrock Pistachio Muffins, using ricotta cheese. To get a PDF of that recipe, click here or on the photo below.

This year, I have something as delicious and even more nutritious: an oatmeal muffin that tastes like a fresh-baked oatmeal cookie, redolent with the flavors of brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins.

A few notes on the recipe
before we start cooking...

You may wonder why I'm calling these "Irish" Oatmeal Cookie Muffins. Don't worry, you don't need any special oats to make these muffins (I use plain old Quaker brand "old fashioned" rolled oats). One reason I call these muffins "Irish" is because I soak my rolled oats in buttermilk overnight, which is a technique borrowed from the directions of McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal.

So what's the difference
between steel cut oats and rolled oats?

Steel cut oats (right), such as McCann's Irish Oatmeal, are whole oats that have been chopped up a bit. Rolled oats (left), such as Quaker Old Fashioned, are whole oats that have been literally rolled flat. "Quick cooking" oats are rolled oats that have been chopped up even further so they'll cook faster.

(Click here to visit McCann's site. Again, you don't need these oats to make my muffins, but if you're curious about trying them, and they're not in your local grocery, you can always use their online store.)

There is no significant difference in nutrition or dietary fiber between these different types of oats, simply taste. When you cook the steel cut oats (right), they're chewier and nuttier in flavor and texture than rolled oats (left).

For my own recipe today, if you use rolled oats, your muffin will be tender and cake-like in the crumb. If you use the steel cut version, you'll get a chewier texture with a slight nutty flavor, as if you've added chopped walnuts to the muffin. So it's your choice! Have fun!

To learn more about the difference between these two oats, click here or on the photo above and you'll jump to a web page with more info.

And now for the recipe!


So what’s the big-deal benefit about eating whole grains like oatmeal? For one thing, fiber-rich whole grains take longer to break down in your body, which means your glucose levels will remain more constant instead of shooting up and crashing down (so you won’t be craving another snack an hour later). Paired with a warm cuppa joe or freshly brewed tea, one of these muffins is deliciously filling, easily curbing the appetite between meals. Eat with joy! ~ Cleo

To download a free PDF of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes 6 standard muffins


1 cup buttermilk (low fat is fine or make your own, see how at end of recipe)
½ cup rolled oats (old fashioned, not quick cooking, I use Quaker brand; for a chewier, nuttier texture use steel cut, such as John McCann's Irish Oatmeal)
1 egg
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola (or vegetable) oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup raisins
1 cup all-purpose white or “white whole wheat” flour (see note below)*
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda

*On the “white whole wheat” flour in this recipe: The King Arthur brand is especially nice. It's a lighter kind of whole wheat flour that gives you the fiber and nutrition benefits of whole grain but with a taste and texture closer to white flour. According to the King Arthur web site, you can substitute "white whole wheat" flour for all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. While this won’t work in an angel food cakes or puff pastry, you can get good results using it in cookies, muffins, brownies, quick breads, and yeast breads. Learn more by clicking here.

Step 1 – Soak oats overnight: Very easy. Combine the buttermilk and rolled oats in a bowl or plastic container. Cover and place in refrigerator overnight (or at least six hours before making muffins). This soaking will soften the rolled oats, giving your final muffin a tender cake-like crumb. (If using steel cut oats, the muffin will be chewier and nuttier, but the soaking is still necessary to soften the hard grain.)


Rolled oats combined
with buttermilk.

Photo above is before soaking.
Photo below is after soaking overnight.
To make the same day, soak 6 hours.

Step 2 – Make batter: Crack egg into a mixing bowl and beat lightly with a fork, add buttermilk and oat mixture (from Step 1), dark brown sugar, oil, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, raisins. Stir well to combine. Add flour, baking powder, and baking soda and stir to create a lumpy dough. Do not over-mix at this stage or you’ll create gluten in the flour and your muffins will be tough instead of tender.

Step 3 – Bake: Pre-heat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Line muffin cups with paper liners and lightly spray the papers and top of your muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray. (This dough is low in fat and may stick to your papers otherwise.)

Using two tablespoons, drop the sticky dough into the muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake in a well pre-heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until top of muffin is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with no wet batter on it. Remove pan from oven.


NOTE: If muffins remain in the hot pan, the bottoms may steam and become tough. Remove muffins from pan as soon as possible. Finish cooling on a rack and . . . Eat with joy!


Buttermilk adds a wonderfully bright tang to recipes, deepening the complexity of flavor beyond plain milk. To make your own "sour milk" replacement for buttermilk, simply place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or white vinegar) into a measuring cup and fill it with milk until the liquid reaches the 1 cup line. Allow this mixture to sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then use as you would buttermilk in any recipe.

Drink with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.



  1. What a great idea for St. Patrick's Day. I love oatmeal cookies and the idea of having an oatmeal muffin is fantastic! Love the buttermilk in this recipe, too.

  2. Thank you Cleo for this wonderful recipe. They look delicious and can't wait to try them. I am going to have to make the pistachio muffins as they are my favorite. Logan thinks the only ice cream out there is Chocolate and Pistachio. I loved the video.

  3. You learn something new every day... excellent post. Now I have to hunt down Irish Oats... Any guess where a Kansan might find them??? I don't recall ever seeing them. Is that just a brand name, that any steel cut oats can be substituted?

    And yesterday I phrased my question wrong... Individually (although you should consider a group cookbook), when is the next scheduled book coming out? I know Avery has a Cheese Shop Mystery coming soon... Anyone has something hitting the shelves before then? I am getting ready to order something from Amazon and would add the next to the order.

  4. Cleo, your muffins look wonderful. Enjoy the parade!

    Dave, if I can find them here, I'm sure you can get them in Kansas. I think even our local Kroger carries them! If you can't find them in a regular grocery store, try your local health food store.

    ~ Krista

  5. Yum! Had some buttermilk left from a previous recipe....now I know how I can use it all up!

  6. Another great recipe, Cleo! I have both kinds of oats here. Which to start with? Choices. Choices.

    Happy St Pat's! from the O'Feeny's!

  7. Cleo, what great tips about keeping the muffins moist! Love it. Have a great time at the parade.


  8. These sound wonderful! And I think I have everything I need here in the house (I buy powdered buttermilk so I always have it on hand for baking "emergencies").

    I love the fact that this recipe makes a 1/2 dozen muffins -- for me and Mr. Wendy, that's a much more sensible number than a full dozen. :)

  9. I bought steel cut oats (also called pinhead, which is more fun). Didn't realize how much LESS you need to make breakfast oatmeal. Recipe called for 3 c water to 1 c oats. I soaked them overnight (having a daughter who lives in N. Ireland is helpful, because otherwise they would take all day to cook up here). I have enough oatmeal for a weeks' breakfasts. Now I might have to try this recipe.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  10. Thank you, Cleo, for explaining the difference in steel cut vs rolled vs quick cooking. I never knew the difference even though I've used them all at one time or another. Great photos, great recipe. Thank you!

  11. Top o' the afternoon to you, Lass!!! Each and every morning Mr. Nanc eats a bowl of pin head oatmeal...I actually make it in the crockpot overnight so by the time he is crawling out of bed at 3:15 a.m. it is ready to go...the beauty of it is that he gets his bowl and turns the crockpot to warm so by the time I get up (much later) I also have hot and tasty oatmeal!!

    I'm going to surprise him tomorrow morning with a batch of these muffins :-) I'm excited to use some of the new spices I just got from a local purveyor so this is a wonderful way to experiment!!

    Lovely recipe...thanks!

  12. Thanks to everyone for these wonderful comments...I have replies to each of you that I'll post shortly...

    Stay tuned!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. The perfect muffin for a quick grab n go brekkie! Looks fabulous. I will have to save this one!

  14. Just a quick note...I made the muffins just now and the house smells so wonderful!!! Totally for quality control issues I had one slathered liberally with butter (quality control requires the use of butter) and I will say this...I need to make about a dozen more because they are fabulous! I made 6 with raisins and 6 with cranberries...

  15. @Elizabeth/Riley: I’m so happy to know you’re a fan of buttermilk, too, and I shouldn’t be surprised. You’re our “Southern comfort” food expert and buttermilk makes everything better, doesn’t it? (Pancakes, fried chicken, biscuits...ahhh...)

    @Babs: Happy to hear it! This is the week for green, of course. And pistachio really is a fantastic flavor—one of my favorites, too. I hope Logan enjoys the Pistachio Shamrock Muffins. :)

    @Dave (Year on the Grill): My apologies for taking so long to reply. Any steel cut oats will work in this recipe (or any rolled oats). The only no-no in this recipe is quick-cooking oats, which won’t work. Steel cut oats are usually available in big supermarkets (same aisle as Quaker rolled oats). I live in an area of Queens with a large population of Irish émigrés so Irish Oatmeal is always easy for me to purchase. Krista’s advice is spot on, a health food store should have steel cut oats, as well. Finally, it’s easy to purchase McCann’s Irish Oatmeal online. Just visit their website: Click Here to Visit McCann’s Irish Oatmeal online.

    More replies to come…
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  16. @Krista: Thank you – and thank you especially for jumping in to help out Dave with an answer, too. Cheers!

    @Eileen: Another buttermilk fan, huzzah! I’m so glad to know this recipe will put your extra buttermilk to good use. Thanks for dropping by the Kitchen today, Eileen. :)

    @MJ “O'Feeny”: Well, you can always go with one batch of each. After all, some of us are only a wee bit Irish once a year. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, MJ!

    More replies to come…
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  17. @Avery: Thank you! Of course, my husband has an entirely different method for keeping warm muffins moist—he slathers them with butter. :)

    @Wendy: You know, I debated the 6-muffin recipe because it’s what I like to make, even though it’s not standard for recipe writing. But smaller batches made more often definitely means the muffins will be fresher and more tasty. (And it’s easy to double or triple the recipe when you need to.) Thanks for letting me know the smaller batch thing worked for you. :) Thanks also for the tip about powdered buttermilk. What a brilliant idea. I’m going to have to track some down for my cupboard staples.

    @Terry: Pinhead? *Love* it! I feel like a pinhead for not knowing that. :) And that’s a great tip about the ratios, too.

    More replies to come…
    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter