Mais quelle horreur! I got home and opened the box to discover a vaguely rancid, dusty, dessicated-fruit-pocked cereal which no amount of milk could redeem.
It was years later, on a ski trip to Canada, that I discovered what real muesli is, and it was a revelation. Featured every morning at the hotel breakfast bar, I was surprised to learn that the toothsome concoction went by the same moniker as that store-bought wanna-be of yore. This one was creamy, nutty, slightly chewy, delicately honeyed and garnished with fresh fruit.
It turns out that the original recipe, devised by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner in 1900, starts with an overnight soaking of the oats in water. More contemporary recipes call for soaking the oats in fruit juice, cream, soy milk... whatever sounds good, really. Nuts, dried fruit and yogurt may be added, and fresh fruit is typically tucked in just before serving. Once you've made your first batch of muesli you'll think of all kinds of variations. I have used peach juice, soy milk, almond milk and yogurt, all with tasty results. In summertime, berries and stone-fruit are irresistible additions. However, autumn brings its own rewards, like fresh apple cider, pears, apples and pomegranates. I employ them all in the following recipe.
Simple Autumn Muesli
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup cider
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (Fage brand is less tart than others and very creamy)
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I use a mix of almonds and walnuts)
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1/8 t. cinnamon
generous pinch nutmeg
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith; peeled, quartered and cored
1 pear, ripe but firm; peeled, quartered and cored
Optional garnish: pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds
Mix oats, cider, yogurt, nuts, cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Coarsely grate apple and pear into bowl and mix well. Cover tightly and let sit in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir muesli and adjust spices to personal taste. Scoop into bowls. Top with pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds. This muesli does not need sweetening.
Makes 2 servings
Note: Although fresh fruit is usually added just before serving, I have found that apples and pears may be added the night before; if anything, it allow the flavors to meld.
Tip: The best way to seed a pomegranate is to cut it in half and then break the halves apart under water in a large bowl. The seeds sink to the bottom and the membrane floats to the top for easy skimming. This saves your kitchen from red splatters everywhere.
Original Bircher Muesli
While the original recipe varies slightly depending on the source, the following appears in "The Breakfast Book" by Marion Cunningham.
1 heaping tablespoon rolled oats
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small apple
1 tablespoon blackberries
Soak the oats and water in a small bowl overnight.
Just before serving, stir the cream, honey and lemon juice into the oat mixture. Grate the unpeeled apple and quickly mix into the oats. Add the blackberries. Serve with brown sugar and cream.
Makes 1 serving