Creamy, fruity, and satisfying, this Apple Bircher Muesli is an updated version of the original overnight oats (Swiss muesli), a fantastically flavourful and highly nutritious breakfast that can be made ahead and enjoyed for days. It's highly customizable, too. What a boon for busy mornings! (Skip to recipe.)
Thanks to Cosmic Crisp® Apples for sponsoring this post so I could share this tasty recipe with you and tell you about my new favourite fruit for snacking, cooking, and baking.
It's comforting, hearty, and creamy-crunchy delicious. Whether you call it Swiss oatmeal, Swiss Müesli, overnight oats, or Bircher Muesli, it's all the same tasty dish: the forerunner to today's popular 'overnight oats'. This nutritious breakfast consists of shredded apples, rolled oats, and nuts soaked overnight in a liquid to make the oats and nuts more easily digestible. In the morning you can add whichever toppings your heart and taste buds desire. Or just grab and go and eat it as-is. What an easy and tasty way to have a 'fast food' breakfast that'll keep you filled up until lunch time!
Why use a Delicious Cosmic Crisp Apple in this Muesli?
The biggest single tip I can give you for making a great Bircher Muesli is to use a great apple. Cosmic Crisp® Washington apples are crispier and sweeter than other varieties, and naturally slow to brown. This keeps the muesli fresh and appealing even after several days of refrigeration - a great boon for make-ahead convenience - and means the muesli tastes great even without added sweetener. I have been so thrilled to discover this new variety of apple.
The Cosmic Crisp® was classically bred at Washington State University and is non-GMO. It took decades of careful cross-pollinating, tasting, and testing, to develop this marvelous apple with naturally higher levels of acidity and sugar - a cross between the ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Honeycrisp’. This sweet, large, juicy apple has a remarkably firm and crisp texture, 'snapping' when you bite into it.
I am happy to now find Cosmic Crisps in our local supermarket, and they are available across Canada at most major retailers. These apples are naturally slow to brown when cut and maintain their crispy texture and flavour when stored in your refrigerator's crisper drawer. They are the perfect apple for snacking, cooking and baking - my new favourite (check out their delicious crispness in these Shrimp and Apple Summer Salad Rolls).
What's the Difference between Muesli and Granola?
Granola is a mixture of oats, nuts and/or seeds, and fruit (dried) and it's got some sort of added sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc.) and fat (butter, oil, coconut oil). The mixture is baked so the ingredients get toasted and the sugar and fat caramelize and get crunchy.
Muesli is basically raw granola without added sugar or fat. That's it. Simple and healthy.
And to clarify further, regular muesli is the dry cereal (combined with milk at serving time), while Swiss muesli is soaked overnight in a liquid (like fruit juice, milk, cream, yogurt, or water) and fresh fruit (usually apple) either soaked with it or added at serving time.
What's the Story of Bircher Muesli?
In the late 1800s, Dr. Maximillian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician and pioneer of the raw food and vegetarian movement, opened a medical clinic and sanitorium in Zurich. He developed a case of jaundice, and after experimentation with a raw diet, claimed he cured himself by eating raw foods, mostly apples. He then developed a dish he called Apfeldiätspeise (apple diet dish) in German, or simply d'Spys (the dish) in Swiss. It was a mixture of a small amount of soaked oats, a large amount of shredded apple, some nuts, lemon juice, and sweetened condensed milk (unusual, but it was to avoid any contamination in milk to keep it safe for patients). Patients at his medical sanitorium were fed a portion of this raw apple dish before every meal in order to strengthen their digestion, provide nutrition, fiber, and energy.
This apple muesli combination spread outside of the sanitarium and has become a beloved dish in Switzerland, originally served as an evening meal (called Birchermüesli Complet or Schweizer Znacht, Swiss supper), but now generally having evolved into a popular breakfast item the world over. It's simply known as Bircher Muesli (Bir-ker-mew-slee), and has been customized to include as many variations as there are cooks who prepare it.
Muesli has become the ultimate healthy fast-food breakfast - easy to prepare ahead so there's no preparation time needed in the morning, and convenient to take on-the-go if needed.
What's in Bircher Muesli?
Dr. Bircher-Benner's original recipe was simple:
- 1 tablespoon rolled oats, previously soaked in 3 tablespoons water for 12 hours
- 1 large raw apple, shredded, peel, core, and all
- 1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts
- juice from half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk (or a mixture of cream and honey)
As you can see, the ratio of rolled oats to apple was originally very low. This dish was intended as an appetizer before the meal. Bircher Muesli has now become a hearty breakfast (or Swiss dinner). It has evolved to include more oats and a host of other ingredients.
Muesli can be soaked in apple juice, other fruit juice, nut milk, yogurt or cream, or the original water. Some versions add dried fruits like raisins, apricots, dates, etc. or fresh fruits or berries. All kinds of nuts or seeds can be added. The muesli can be soaked with the added fruits and nuts, or they can be added in the morning. It can be topped with additional yogurt, fruit, nuts, seeds, cream, honey or other sweetener of choice at serving time.
The base of oats, apple, and nuts is traditional - after that, the choices are endless and they're yours.
Using large-flake, old-fashioned rolled oats provides a nicer texture to the muesli. You can use quick oats, which are smaller flaked, but you'll have a bit mushier texture, more porridge-like (which may be to your personal taste).
A Sweet Way to Start Your Day
The natural sweetness of a Cosmic Crisp apple means you don't need to add much sweetener, unless you wish to. Because this apple stays crisp and doesn't brown when cut, you can add the shredded apple the night before, saving you time in the morning.
I like the slight sweetness provided by using apple juice or another fruit juice (pineapple juice is nice), but you can reduce the sweetness even further by soaking the muesli in nut milk, dairy milk, or water. You can also increase the sweetness naturally by adding chopped dates or other dried fruits, either before soaking or at serving time.
This classic Swiss breakfast is a winning way to start your day!
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The rosewater and cardamom can be omitted, if desired, or replaced with a small splash of vanilla.
Apple Bircher Muesli with Rose and Cardamom
for the Bircher Muesli:
- 1 large crisp, non-browning apple (preferably a Cosmic Crisp)
- 1 cup (100 g) large-flake, old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten free, if necessary)
- ½ cup (120 g) plain, natural yogurt
- ½ cup (120 ml) unsweetened apple juice, pineapple juice, nut milk, dairy milk, or water
- ¼ cup (35 g) chopped raw almonds or hazelnuts
- ½ teaspoon rosewater
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- maple syrup or honey to sweeten to taste, if desired
optional, to serve:
- drizzle of maple syrup or honey
- a dollop of plain yogurt or cream
- additional chopped raw almonds, hazelnuts, or seeds
- additional chopped or sliced apple
- a scattering of dried edible rose petals
Shred the whole apple, with the peel, on the large holes of a box grater, until you get as close to the core as you can. Discard the core.
Combine the shredded apple with the remaining Bircher Muesli ingredients in a bowl or container. Divide into two smaller containers or jars for individual servings, or leave in one larger container. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight for the oats to soften.
In the morning, stir before serving, then eat the Bircher Muesli as is, or stir in additional plain yogurt or liquid of choice if you prefer a wetter mixture. If desired, top the muesli with additional yogurt, maple syrup or honey, chopped nuts, seeds, diced apple or fresh berries, and/or a scattering of dried rose petals.
If using a Cosmic Crisp apple, this muesli will keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. If using a different variety of apple, it will keep for 2 to 3 days (the apple may soften somewhat).
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