By Meghan Splawn

Tribune Content Agency

Baked Oatmeal Cups

Makes 12 muffin cups

Cooking spray

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk (any kind)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (or other fruit puree, such as mashed banana or canned pumpkin)

1/4 cup nut butter or 2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or coconut oil

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey, or 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, or chocolate chips (optional)

1/2 cup raisins or other chopped dried fruit (optional)

1. Heat the oven and grease muffin pan: Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350 F. Coat the wells of a standard 12-well muffin tin very well with cooking spray.

2. Mix the wet ingredients: Place the eggs, milk, applesauce, nut butter, maple syrup and vanilla in a medium bowl, and whisk until smooth.

3. Add the dry ingredients: Mix together the oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt; add to the wet ingredients and fold with a rubber spatula until combined.

4. Fill the muffin tin: Divide the oatmeal mixture among the muffin wells, filling each one up to the top.

5. Top the muffins: Sprinkle the muffins with the nuts and dried fruit if using. Gently press the toppings into the batter.

6. Bake until golden: Bake until slightly risen, dry on top, and golden-brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

7. Cool for 5 minutes: Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Run a knife around each muffin and remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe notes: Muffins can be kept an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Individually wrap any muffins you won’t eat within a few days in plastic wrap and freeze. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Once defrosted, they can also be reheated in the microwave for about 45 seconds if you prefer them warm.

These baked oatmeal cups are not your average oat muffin. Crack into the thin, crispy exterior of these muffin pan masterpieces and you’ll find a moist, creamy interior brimming with breakfast-friendly sweetness and warm spices. One taste and you’ll wonder where these hearty, portable breakfast bites have been all your life.

Tender baked oatmeal cups are all about taking the things we love most about baked oatmeal, customizing it for every eater in your kitchen, and turning it into a grab-and-go breakfast or snack. This recipe is pretty basic and easily adaptable, so I bet you have everything you need to make them in your kitchen right now. While you’re checking, preheat the oven; you are going to want to bake these ASAP.

Baked oatmeal cups are essentially a hearty oat muffin, so you’ll see that the recipe below is mixed via the muffin method: Wet ingredient and dry ingredients are mixed together in separate bowls before they’re combined. However, baked oatmeal cups do not include flour, so the mixture is held together with a combination of egg, dairy and applesauce. Nut butter is added to the wet mixture for flavor and texture. Portion the batter into a muffin pan and top the cups with your favorite oatmeal toppings before baking.

Here are some pointers for making tender and tasty oatmeal cups that never bake up dry.

• Use cooking spray, not muffin liners.

Coat a standard 12-well muffin tin with cooking spray instead of using muffin liners. The baked oatmeal cups benefit from direct contact with the baking pan, resulting in a thin, crisp outer layer. Plus, this means you won’t have to fight the finished cups out of the paper liner.

• Make them gluten-free (if you want).

These baked oatmeal cups do not require any flour, so use gluten-free oats to make these truly gluten-free. You can also omit the nut butter if you have a nut allergy at home.

• Use your favorite combination of sweeteners.

Baked oatmeal cups get their sweetness from a combination of applesauce and maple syrup, but you can easily swap the applesauce for another fruit puree: Try mashed bananas, canned pumpkin puree, or even one of your kid’s vegetable squeeze pouches. The same goes for sweeteners: Maple syrup can be replaced with honey, or you can use a few tablespoons of brown sugar instead.

• Top the oatmeal cups with add-ins.

Instead of folding the nuts or dried fruit into the baked oatmeal, sprinkle them on top. This makes it easy to make a batch with several different flavors and customize cups for picky eaters.