This brunch-friendly recipe is adapted from one developed by chef Katy Sparks.
Crumble brown sugar onto a baking pan or shallow dish; let dry overnight. Press through sieve or grind in spice grinder. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, bring milk and 3 1/2 cups water to a boil over medium-high heat; stir in oatmeal and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, 15 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until almost all liquid has been absorbed and oats are al dente, about 25 minutes.
Transfer oatmeal to a 6-cup shallow ovenproof dish with 2-inch sides; sprinkle with dried brown sugar.
Heat broiler, and broil oatmeal until sugar melts and forms a crust, about 2 minutes. Garnish with apple and pear chips, prunes, maple syrup, and cream, if desired.
Do not use old-fashioned rolled oats, instant, or quick-cooking oatmeal for this recipe.