Homemade Muesli Streusel Swirl Breakfast Bread

cutloaf2Homemade 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.


Homemade Muesli
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. As a whole loaf or cut into individual slices and carefully wrapped, this bread freezes beautifully.

*****

What’s up next? My take on a sausage, pepper and onion favorite. Stay tuned…

 

Advertisements

New Year Baking: Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread

A loaf of bread, a spot of tea and thou.

A loaf of bread, a spot of tea and thou…the perfect combo for a damp January day. (The cat fetish was made by fellow potter and friend, Ana Vizzuraga.)

Happy 2014! I hope all of you had a joyful holiday season and rang in the new year with great gusto and style.

We enjoyed a lovely and extended holiday time traveling and visiting with family and friends, returning home just in time to say goodbye to 2013 (with a bit of good riddance, in my book.) Alas, 2013 wouldn’t quite let go of me in that immediately upon my return, I contracted a stomach flu-type bug, which was with me all week. Needless to say, being in the kitchen was pretty far from my mind.

As this first weekend of 2014 rolls past, I’m finally feeling much better and I think I’m ready for a little sweet and light in my cooking…something for my breakfast and dessert pleasure. So what’s in the fridge and cupboard? Pears, walnuts and lots of candied ginger left over from making  chai tea mix and chocolate hazelnut and ginger biscotti. Although I love pears, I hardly ever cook with them, usually preferring to eat them raw in salads or with cheese. But of course, they are so transcendent when cooked…the heat enhancing their natural sweetness, releasing their perfume and still retaining a most pleasant texture.

It's quite hard to sit and wait for this to cool off.

It’s quite hard to sit and wait for this to cool off.

This Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread was an experiment, and it came out even better than I had hoped. It has a very chunky fruit texture, which worried me a bit when I put it in the oven—wasn’t sure if I’d gone overboard on the pears—but the result is a moist, fruity, crunchy and incredibly flavorful loaf. You get a hint of the ginger and an essence of nutmeg in each bite. The tiny bit of lemon zest brings all the flavors together. I could eat the whole thing in a sitting, that’s how good it is…but I won’t. It is a new year after all, and there are all those pesky resolutions to be considered.

It’s been quite cold here this weekend, and even more so in other parts of the country (and world), which was all the more reason to enjoy a slice of this bread with a nice, hot cup of tea, coffee or cocoa.

Cheers, stay warm (or cool, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) and have a happy day!

loafsliced1Pear, Candied Ginger and Walnut Quick Bread
Makes 1-5″ x 9″ Loaf

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus a bit more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 (generous) teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup milk
2 medium pears, I used a Bosc and a Bartlett, peeled, cored and diced (about 2 full cups)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan with butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In another larger bowl, beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer until well blended, then add the egg and zest and beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and the milk in 3 alternate batches, alternating and beating each ingredient until just combined, do not over mix. Scrape the batter off the beaters, then add the pear, walnuts and ginger, stirring by hand gently until evenly combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan (it will be thick, fairly stiff and lumpy), spread it until it is evenly dispersed in the pan and smooth the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is shrinking from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on the rack until room temperature. Slice with a sharp serrated bread knife and enjoy plain, or with a tiny bit of sweetened whipped cream if you’re still feeling decadent after the holidays.

withtea2

Quick Loaf: Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start the day!

Eating a slice of this is a happy way to start, or end, your day!

For many, many years I used to run up to the local health food store and get one of their delicious muffins…well, maybe more than one…to have for my breakfast. They made a few different kinds, but the one I loved the best featured fresh cranberries, apples and walnuts in a dense, moist muffin that had some underlying spice to it. I became addicted.

Some years ago the health food grocery closed their little deli section and changed over to a deli case, one which unfortunately meant the end to those muffins. But I remember them so well, and I’ve always wanted to recreate them.

This is a very close representation of those flavors. It’s not a muffin, though you could certainly make some muffins out of this recipe. It does feature fresh cranberries, which I happen to have a lot of in my freezer at the moment. But if you can’t get them right now or at all, by all means substitute another cup of apple or some pear for the cranberries, perhaps in small chunks for contrasting texture to the grated apple. Or better yet, feel free to experiment and try your own favorite berry or fruit that you think goes well with apple.

I particularly enjoy the contrasting tart pop of fresh cranberry in your mouth against the mildly sweet background of the apple and walnut in this bread. This loaf isn’t an overly sweet thing…in fact I would venture to say it’s a pretty healthy entry into the quick bread category. But it does make a perfect slice for breakfast, and even has just enough sweetness for dessert, in my opinion!

Cranberry Apple Walnut Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 (generous) teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups grated Pink Lady apple (or other baking apple) with skin (about 2 medium apples)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/3 cup low fat milk
1 cup fresh cranberries, whole
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one standard loaf pan with unsalted butter and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the wheat flour, the white flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. In another large bowl, beat the sugar and the butter together with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended, then add the egg and beat until combined. On low speed, add the grated apple, dry flour mixture and the milk in about 3 alternating batches to the butter and sugar mixture, alternating each ingredient until just incorporated, do not over beat. Gently stir in the cranberries and walnuts with a spatula or spoon, then transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, the loaf is shrinking from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the loaf out of the pan and allow it to cool on the rack until just warm or at room temp. Cut into slices and serve. This makes a great gift, too!

Loaf1