"Mom. After I'm in bed, can you please make Bircher muesli? I would really love to have it for breakfast. Please don't forget to make it."
Over the last few years, I've really started to embrace routine and the liberation that comes from having fewer options. For example, having fewer breakfast options, especially when a child is involved, is really liberating. At our house, if we have to make decisions about what to have for breakfast on a weekday, or discuss how many blueberries or raisins a certain four-year old may have on his yogurt, things will fall apart. As a result, we take a streamlined breakfast approach. And because it's just too much to ask of us, we don't usually cook or reheat food for weekday breakfasts.
So what do we eat? We always have homemade kefir blended with fruit, and I also make yogurt. We eat the yogurt with fresh or dried fruit and a drizzle of honey. A certain four-year old always gets the same amount of fruit, in the same cup, that he may put on top of his yogurt. As I said, we're into streamlining.
But when it's apple season, it's time for Bircher muesli. And serving Bircher muesli is even easier than assembling a cup of fruit and bowl of yogurt every morning. I make a big batch of it on Sunday, and we eat it for most of the week.
There seem to be infinite variations on muesli. Bircher muesli is named after Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician, who created a recipe to help his patients consume more fresh fruit. If you search for Bircher muesli recipes online, you will find slight variations, but all seem to include oats, apples, milk and an overnight soak.
The recipe I settled on was:
- 2 cups of rolled oats
- 2 cups of whole milk
- 1 cup of plain yogurt
- 1 or 2 grated unpeeled organic apples
- 1 cup of raisins
- Juice of half a lemon
- 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup
Combine all of these ingredients into a bowl with a tight fitting lid, and put it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the muesli is ready to eat. Simple and delicious.
But we have Bircher muesli really often. We have it so often that I've started to wonder how wrong it is to eat exactly the same thing for breakfast for weeks on end. Part of this concern stems from my being a first-class worrier, and part of it stems from my understanding from Nourishing Traditions that to maximize nutrition, oats should be soaked at least overnight at room temperature before eating. Traditional Bircher muesli doesn't allow for this step.
Fortunately, Amanda at Phickle came to my rescue this past week with her post on how fermented oatmeal is better than regular oatmeal. I asked her how she would incorporate fermented oats in a Bircher muesli preparation. She had a fantastic suggestion: soak the oats in kefir. This weekend, I made an extra batch of kefir, soaked the oats in it overnight, and then added the rest of the ingredients. The resulting Bircher muesli has a better flavor--more complex and slightly tangy--with all the benefits of the oats having been soaked.
And now that the nutrition issue has been resolved, I am suddenly less concerned about breakfast monotony. Bring on the fermented Bircher muesli!
Fermented Bircher Muesli
- 2 3/4 cups plain kefir
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 3 tablespoons raw buckwheat groats
- 1 cup yogurt
- 2 organic apples, unpeeled and grated or shredded
- 3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 cup raisins
- Combine the oats and buckwheat with the kefir in a bowl, preferably a glass bowl with a fitted lid.* Leave the covered bowl in a cool place overnight. I left it for 10 hours and that length of time gave me a flavor and texture we like.
- Refrigerate the covered bowl of kefir-soaked grains in the morning to dramatically slow down the fermentation.
- Whenever you're ready, or the night before you plan to eat it, add the yogurt, apples, raisins, and maple syrup. Stir it all up, cover the bowl again, and put it in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight to let the flavors come together and the raisins get plump. Then eat!
*As Amanda explained in her fermented oatmeal post, you can improve nutrient absorption by reducing phytic acid in oats. You can reduce phytic acid in oats by adding about 10% of a grain rich in phytase, like buckwheat, to the oats during soaking time. Check out phyticacid.org for more details.