In our house Birchermüesli is part breakfast and part sanity savior. That is to say, it's a sure thing. And sure things when it comes to feeding a toddler are worthy of a pedestal and entire shelf in the refrigerator. I know, it sounds like I'm at risk of feeding her peanut butter and jelly until she goes to college, but don't worry, I won't let it come to that. I offer her new food and lots of vegetables everyday, but it's just that on any given day I don't know what she'll eat and what she'll spit out. Peas can go either way, so can broccoli, and oatmeal, and even toast. There's no logic to it and it's maddening. I try to check my hope and frustration at the kitchen sink with the dirty dishes, but it's tough when you're feeding a child who recently developed a stubborn streak. And besides, feeding her is a big part of being her mom, and it has been from the beginning. Back in those itsy bitsy days it felt like it was all I did, but I did it well, we made a good team. Now, not so much. And what am I supposed to do? Stop trying? No, obviously not, and that's where the Birchermüesli comes in, because on any given day, whether she eats everything or spits everything out, I know that at least she'll have a good breakfast and that's a place to start.
I've been meaning to tell you about Birchermüesli for awhile now. Really ever since we discovered it four years ago. At one point there was a grand plan in place sample all the muesli in town to find the best one, but that never transpired and I'm certainly not about to schlep a wiggly toddler all around town anytime soon. And besides we've settled on a favorite and it happens to be from the bakery a few blocks away from our apartment. It is so easy to pick it up on our walk to or from home that I rarely make it and I don't actually know if many Swiss do make it at home because it's so readily available out, perhaps a bit like the baguette in France - why bake it when you can buy it better? However, recently the price has been getting to me as has the fact that it has cream mixed in, which seems like a bit of a luxury for everyday consumption, especially since I have no idea how much, so I started making it at home. And it's good. We all agree. Or at least Zach and I agree, and Alice eats it.
Before we get under way I think it's important to note the differences between Birchermüesli and it's close relative müsli; Birchermüesli is a mixture of oats, yogurt, and fruit soaked overnight to create a creamy and dense yogurt oatmeal of sorts and müsli is a dry mix of cereal grains, seeds, and dried fruits that is eaten with milk or sprinkled on yogurt. You can use a müsli mix to make Birchermüesli, although I don't. Birchermüesli can take on a lot of different variations, and there are more than a handful of different ways to prepare it, but I'm partial to the way the bakery down the street makes it so that is the route I've taken at home.
So what it is about the neighborhood bakery's Birchermüesli that we like? Well it's thick and hefty and packed with fruit. It's also relatively simple, with a base of plain yogurt, rolled oats and grated apple. From there fruit is added, whole blueberries and raspberries, and sliced pear and banana. A sprinkle of seeds and nuts is added with a delicate hand and then a dash of milk, or in their case cream (maybe even whipped cream because it's so lofty and airy) it is all mixed and then left to mingle together while the oats absorb the liquid from the yogurt and fruit. It's a complete breakfast, healthy and fortifying, and delicious.
There's a bit of history around Birchermüesli, which is that it was developed by a Swiss physician, Max Bircher-Benner around 1900, in an effort to get his patients to move away from the overly heavy meat and potatoes diet of the day and towards one based on raw fruit. During that time Switzerland was well known for it's sanatoriums and wellness retreats that offered fresh alpine air, sun, and healthy food. From what I can tell Benner-Bircher's original muesli was made with water instead of yogurt, but based on all the Birchermüesli we've sampled at hotels and cafes while living here, it seems as though yogurt is a more common base these days.
Birchermüesli is adaptable to your preferences. You can adjust the amount of fruit or oats, or add nuts and seeds. (I don't add nuts because Alice isn't a fan, but hazelnuts and sunflower seeds are common additions.) The yogurt could also be replaced with milk or almond milk for a soupier variety. It's up to you, but I think the recipe that follows is a good place to start and then you can change it up.
2 cups plain yogurt
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen, if frozen defrost)
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon maple syrup.
Dice the pear, slice the banana, and grate the apple with the skin on and put them in a big bowl. Mix in the yogurt, oats, raspberries, milk, and maple syrup and stir until combined. Pour the mixture into a container and place it in the fridge to sit overnight, or at least six hours. Enjoy within a few days.