Saturday, February 05, 2011

January 31, 2011: Sweet'n'sour bircher muesli (breakfast serial part II)

Thanks to y'all for your positive and helpful responses to my new breakfast serial!  (I would never have predicted that avocado on toast would elicit so many comments, while my last icecream post attracted a single astroturfer.)  I figured I'd keep the momentum up with a second entry right away.  AnneTreasure and GemCarey both recommended bircher muesli, with Anne specifically mentioning Neil Perry's recipe (which I tracked down on LifeStyle Food).

Before commencing I also wanted to consult my friend Dylan, who's been a resident of die Schweiz for a number of years.  He knows his way around a traditional Swiss bircher.  I was particularly interested in whether I could soak the oats for many days, and/or mix in the yoghurt and apple in advance, such that I could prep a week's worth of muesli over Sunday night and Monday morning.  Here's his advice:
I find that if you have a fully-made bircher muesli, then the day after it starts to separate out a bit — I think it's an issue of having the yoghurt and the juices from the fruit together. I think you'd be safe to mix all the dry ingredients (if you want more than just oats) and soak in milk and yoghurt for the week, then add the fruit just before eating each day. I've never kept the soaked oats for so long, and it could be that you'll need to add some extra milk to make the muesli a little more liquid for each morning's serve.

My preferred mixture of fruit is berries, banana and a little apple. Crushed roasted hazelnuts are a superb addition, and I would add a little honey or maple syrup if it's not sweet enough. Especially if the berries are not sweet, or if you use bornhoffen (sp?) yoghurt!
Like me, Dylan is a scientist by training and always up for an experiment.  In a subsequent message he also said:
Actually, you could try adding some cream to one -- Swiss yoghurt is super creamy compared to Australian.
I've left some of his tips for future replications.  I did, however, have a go at stretching my bircher further than a day with good results.  Setting my oats to soak at night then stirring in yoghurt, honey and grated apple in the morning, I didn't detect any changes in the flavour and texture of my muesli between the first and third days.  I'm game to try for a full working week next time.

This recipe is quite different to the bircher Dylan would typically eat (and the ones I remember sharing with him almost five years ago).  The oats are soaked in lemon juice and water, and then I used a just-barely-creamy low-fat yoghurt that's a far cry from European dairy.  I'm not much of a honey fan, and I was sceptical of the quantity used in this recipe, but it actually provided the ideal balance to the lemon.  (I'm keen to try agave or maple syrup in future.)

My muesli wasn't all that thick; more like a summer porridge, just as nutritious and almost as filling.  While a bit of advanced planning is required, this doesn't require excessive effort and most of it can be done before the working week has even commenced.

Sweet'n'sour bircher muesli
(contributed to LifeStyle Food by Neil Perry, who credits his friend Greg Fraser)

2 cups rolled oats
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples
2 cups yoghurt
6 tablespoons honey
fresh or poached fruit, to serve
4 tablespoons hazelnuts, roughly chopped

In a medium bowl, mix together the rolled oats, lemon juice and water.  Cover the mixture and allow it to soak overnight.

Stir the yoghurt and honey into the oats.  Peel and grate the apples, adding them to the muesli.  Serve the muesli in bowls, topped with extra fruit and sprinkled with hazelnuts.


  1. Looks gorgeous! Funnily enough, I had bircher muesli myself this morning, but alas! I used a mixed muesli that had psyllium husk in it, which meant that when I got up this morning to eat it, the bircher muesli had the texture of gloopy mucus.

    Not entirely pleasant, I must admit. Shall try your version soon instead!

  2. Yes - try it out, Hannah! I'll be trying one or two versions more of bircher myself before this serial is done. :-)

  3. I make the bircher in the following link with bought OJ and mix everything but the fresh fruit up in a big enough quantity for the week and just add fruit/honey in the morning. By day 3 it needs a quick stir before serving but stays yum all week long!

  4. Thanks, Madkap! I'll add it to the list. :-)

  5. I use that recipe too and eat it all week. It's so ace!

  6. Hi! I put cubes of avocado into my bircher muesli together with the fruit! My mum's Filipino and in the Philippines they have avocado with milk and sugar as dessert, or with condensed milk! So it's a tweek of that and it goes particularly well if the muesli's quite sweet! Also soaking in apple juice (the cloudy type like coppela) makes it sweet that I didn't need honey / syrup. Will definitely try the avocado on toast!! Thanks!

    1. Welcome, Maria! Wow, I would never think to add avocado to bircher (though I have heard of people adding grated carrot to porridge!). It makes a little more sense once you draw the link to Filipino desserts. :-)