Homemade muesli has become a staple in our house year round. I love to keep quart-sized mason jars full of it in the fridge to have handy for a cold cereal breakfast or to sprinkle over yogurt. It’s so easy to make and so much tastier and healthier than commercially made muesli or cold cereals with additives. But what exactly is muesli, you may ask?
Muesli has Swiss and German roots, hence the decidedly non-english name. It is simply a dish based on raw rolled oats and other ingredients including grains, fresh or dried fruits, seeds and nuts, and is usually eaten for breakfast, but sometimes eaten as a light evening dish in Germany and Switzerland.
In the year 1900, a Swiss physician named Max Bircher-Benner first introduced muesli to patients in his hospital as part of a rich fresh fruit and vegetable diet that was an essential component of therapy. Evidently, he was inspired by a similar “strange” dish he encountered in the Swiss Alps while he and his wife were hiking. The original Bircher-Benner “fresh” muesli recipe consisted of all parts of a fresh apple including the seeds, pips and core, rolled oats soaked in water for 12 hours, nuts, lemon juice and milk or cream and honey mixed together and served immediately before the apple could turn brown. Today’s more commonly known convenient version of a dry or packaged muesli can be stored for months and served quickly with milk, nut milk or soy milk, or it can be soaked overnight and served with fresh fruit. Muesli first became popular in the United States during the 1960’s as part of the wave of interest in health foods and vegetarianism associated with the hippie movement and beyond.
An interesting history, but the bottom line is does it taste good? Why yes it does. And guess what? It tastes even better when you go a step further and make some of it into a streusel for this wonderfully moist and delicious Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread that I’m going to tell you about.
You see I had this idea while I was eating my muesli for breakfast one morning. I love cooking with oats and I love incorporating some of the ground oats as a substitution for flour in quick breads to add both flavor and texture, as well as a healthful aspect. So what if I created a bread like that and added a delicious ribbon of streusel made from muesli with all of its dried fruits and nuts…how could you go wrong? I decided to give it a whirl and here’s the result: A fragrant and delectable loaf of quick bread with a very moist crumb and a satisfyingly crunchy topping. It’s a great way to start off your day right or a lovely way to end it with a not too sweet dessert. The orange zest in the batter is key and provides a tiny hit of citrus essence to the bread, enhancing the fruit and nuts in the streusel.
Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread certainly is perfect for the fall season, but much like muesli, it’s also great for any time of the year. I’ll be making this bread over and over again and may even try adding some fresh grated apple to the batter (but not the core, seeds and pips) as an homage to the father of muesli. Thanks, Dr. Bircher-Benner!
This is a two-for-one recipe. Try the muesli on its own and experiment with your favorite ingredients, then make this bread and enjoy.
Makes about 10 cups, can be halved
(A variation on Mark Bittman’s recipe, you can use your own personal mix of dried fruit and seeds or nuts. This is what I used to make the muesli in this bread recipe.)
7 generous cups dry, raw rolled oats (not quick cooking or steel cut)
1 cup total mixed raw nuts and seeds (I used sliced, skin-on almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin (pepita) seeds and golden flax seed
1 1/4 cup mixed dried fruit (I use cherries, cranberries and currants)
1/2 cup unsweetened, dry grated coconut
1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
In a very large bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in airtight containers in fridge for up to 2-3 months. To serve, put 1/2 cup in a bowl and top with 1/4 cup milk, nut milk or soy milk. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before eating and the oats will soften and absorb the sweetness of the fruit.
Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread
Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf
For the streusel:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup homemade muesli (see above)
2 tablespoons of chopped pecans
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of kosher salt
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted
For the bread:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats, processed to a fine flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups of granulated sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon high quality pure vanilla extract (I use Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
zest of one orange
1/2 cup 2% or whole plain Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup low fat milk whisked to combine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan by greasing it with butter and set aside.
Prepare the streusel by combining the brown sugar, muesli, pecans, flour, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir until well combined. Set aside.
For the bread, combine the flour, oat flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk. Using an electric mixer, in a large bowl, beat the 5 tablespoons of butter and the granulated sugar on medium high speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition until well blended. Add the vanilla and orange zest and beat on low speed until well blended. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture and yogurt-milk mixture alternately to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the loaf pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the streusel mixture. Spread the remaining batter over the streusel. Swirl the batter and streusel mixture with a knife or spoon and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining streusel over the top of the batter.
Bake at 350 F. degrees for about 50 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on top of a wire rack. Gently run the edge of a table knife around the edges of the loaf and carefully remove the loaf from the pan by slightly inverting it, trying to avoid losing any of the streusel topping. Cool completely on the rack, streusel side up. Cut into slices and enjoy.
What’s up next? My take on a sausage, pepper and onion favorite. Stay tuned…