April 24, 2011

Bircher Müesli

Oatmeal is a popular breakfast in our household, especially when my husband is training.  Not only does it have a multitude of health benefits, but is inexpensive and quick to prepare. It is also very filling and keeps me from snacking before lunchtime. My favorite additions are a sliced banana and a little drizzle of golden syrup.  

Once the weather starts to get a little warmer I find regular oatmeal a little heavy for breakfast so I start thinking about Bircher Müesli.  It is based on uncooked rolled oats, fruit, and nuts and was developed by Maximilian Bircher-Benner, a Swiss physician around 1900 to help improve the health of his patients.  I have heard a few different pronunciations of "Bircher" - BIR-ker-, BIR-chur, and BEER-chur, but I don't know anyone who is Swiss to confirm which one is correct.

The first time I ever tasted this müesli was at Bill Granger's restaurant, Bill's in Surry Hills (Australia) and I immediately fell in love with everything about it. Actually it isn't hard to love everything on his menu, but this just seemed so rich and creamy, but healthy at the same time.  At the restaurant the ingredients change with the season, and right now it is served with apples, dates, and almonds. 

For my müesli I decided to add half apple juice and half pear juice.  I really like the Kern's brand of nectar and usually have a few different flavors in my pantry.  This müesli is so versatile and can be adapted to whatever is in season, or just use the fruits and nuts that are your favorites.  I love the tartness of Granny Smiths so they were my apple of choice in this recipe.  I also had blueberries and almonds on hand so these provided my toppings.  Dried fruit or even a trail mix would be good too.  The varieties of this recipe are endless, all you need is your imagination.

The recipe below made about six servings.  It really depends on the ratio of the oat mixture you serve to the fruit you use on top.  It also lasts longer if you don't keep grabbing a spoon during the day for just another little taste.  I kept mine covered in the refrigerator for three days.

Bircher Müesli
(Printer Friendly Recipe)

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup pear juice
  • ¾ cup apple juice
  • 1½ Granny Smith apples, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ Granny Smith Apple, skin on and julienned
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • honey to taste
  1. Place oats and apple/pear juice in a bowl and soak for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  2. Add grated apple and yogurt to oat mixture and mix well. 
  3. Spoon into serving bowls and top with blueberries and apple.
  4. Sprinkle with almonds and drizzle with honey. 

Recipe adapted from Bill's Food by Bill Granger

    April 21, 2011

    My Guest Post at More Than A Mount Full - Dulce de Leche Cheesecake with Toffee Shards

    I am so thrilled to be doing my first-ever guest post on the amazing blog of Chef Dennis, More Than A Mount Full.

    Chef Dennis has over 35 years of culinary experience and is currently the Chef/Director of Dining Services at Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Flourtown, Pa.  It is clear from his posts about the school that the he is passionate about what he does and his students adore him.  The knowledge he is giving them is invaluable, and we should all have been so lucky to have someone in our lives teaching us how to eat when we were younger.

    Lucky for us we have Chef Dennis now who inspires us with delicious recipes and amazing photos.  He also shares his considerable knowledge with us via Ask Chef Dennis, his ongoing series dedicated to helping the blogging community through a sharing of knowledge. Whether you are new to blogging or a seasoned professional, it is so comforting to know that you have someone like Chef Dennis to guide you through the more challenging times.

    I want to say mahalo to Chef Dennis for having me on his blog today.  I invite you to head over to More Than A Mount Full and join us for a piece of Dulce de Leche Cheesecake with Toffee Shards.

    To Try Tuesday - Hot Cross Bun Muffins

    I am a little late again with getting my Tuesday recipe up online but I have a good excuse.  I am currently in Australia and feeling a little jet-lagged. I tried my best to get a few posts prepped and ready to go before I left, but unfortunately I just ran out of time.  Thank goodness the baking was done, and the photos taken, so now all I have to do if match the two together in a post.

    I really wanted to make some Hot Cross Buns but I saw this recipe and thought it would make a great alternative.  I decided to use raisins rather than currants, and I think that you could substitute any dried fruit that you preferred.  I also added some European mixed peel that I had purchased from King Arthur Flour.  Mixed peel (also known as candied peel) is made by steeping the chopped peel of oranges, lemons, and citron in a sugar solution for a few weeks and then draining off any remaining water.

    This recipe came from an Australian magazine, therefore it is in metric.  I would usually convert the measurements before putting it up on my bog, but I just did not have the time to do so this time.  Hopefully everyone has a scale and can flip the switch over to metric measurements.

    Somehow I managed to over-mix mine just a little bit.  I guess I forgot the cardinal rule when making muffins - mix only until a few streaks of flour are left.  I should have paid more attention to the fact that I needed to add the fruit as well, which resulted in even more mixing.  That being said, the muffins still had a wonderful flavor that really did remind me of the spiciness of a hot cross bun.

    Hot Cross Bun Muffins
    (Printer Friendly Recipe)

    • 100g dried cranberries
    • 150g currants (I used raisins)
    • 60g mixed peel (from King Arthur Flour)
    • 375g self-rising flour
    • ½ teaspoon baking soda
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg 
    • 165ml vegetable oil
    • 250ml buttermilk
    • 2 eggs
    • 200g sugar, plus extra 2 tablespoons
    • 80g powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    1. Preheat oven to 390°F.
    2. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper liners.
    3. Soak dried fruit in just enough boiling water to cover for 10 minutes.
    4. Drain well, then pat dry with paper towel.
    5. Sift the flour, baking soda, and spices into a large bowl.
    6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, and sugar until combined.
    7. Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. 
    8. Gently stir in the fruit.
    9. Divide the mixture among muffin liners, then bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
    10. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
    11. Meanwhile, place the extra 2 tbs sugar in a pan with 2 tbs water and simmer over low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Brush the glaze over the muffins. 
    12. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl. Add lemon juice and just enough hot water to make a thick, pipable icing. Use a piping bag or drizzle from a spoon to draw a cross on each muffin, then serve.
    13. Makes 12.
    Source delicious magazine (April 2010 - recipe by Kylie Walker)

    April 20, 2011

    The Cake Slice April 2011 - Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake

    It is time for another cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman. This month the Cake Slice Bakers chose a Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake.  I think that what I enjoy most about being part of this group is the friendship and how much I have learned from this wonderful group of bakers.  It challenges me not only to try new recipes, but to look at them in a different way.

    My first thought when I saw this this recipe had been chosen was "well, this sounds interesting".  My second was "holy cow, am I going to be able to follow the directions and not open the oven door".  I am notorious for needing to check on things whilst they are baking.  It doesn't help that the light in my oven doesn't work very well.  It is what you would call, temperamental, to say the least.  However, I am a big fan of the pound cake so I was looking forward to it.

    This cake has such a rich and creamy batter.  It really is quite golden in color, and I loved the addition of the lemon and ginger.  I like both flavors so much that I added a little more of each than what is called for in the original recipe.  This couldn't be any easier to put together.

    I did what I was told and did not open the oven during baking, but I have to say that the suspense nearly killed me.  I was in for a big surprise when I did finally open the oven door - my cake had really risen and formed a weird-shaped top.  It didn't mater nearly as much when I realized that the top of the cake was actually going to be the bottom when I turned it out of the pan.  Once I turned it out of the Bundt pan I did have to trim the cake, but what a bonus this was because I got to snack on the cake early!  It was good, really good.  Everyone kept coming into the kitchen to grab one more little piece.

    This cake is gorgeous on its own, but I decided that I would reinforce the ginger a little more and make a drizzle for the top.  To do this I simply sifted some powdered sugar, added a little warm water and some ginger paste to taste.  Once the cake was cool I simply drizzled it over the top.  It really did add a nice finishing touch to the cake.

    I realized one funny thing about the book Cake Keeper Cakes.  Most of the cakes I make from it don't make it to the stage where I need a cake keeper - they are eaten before then.  Links to all of the members of the Cake Slice Bakers blogs can be found here.  Please take a few minutes to check out what they thought of this cake, and to get some wonderful new ideas.

    Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake
    • 3 cups cake flour
    • 1½ tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • 2½ cups sugar
    • 6 eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • 1½ tbsp grated fresh ginger
    • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest


    1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower – middle position.
    2. Grease a 12 cup Bundt pan and dust with flour (I sprayed with Baker's Joy). 
    3. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
    4. Combine the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
    5. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. 
    6. Beat in the vanilla, ginger and lemon zest.
    7. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, half a cup at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Then mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.
    8. Spread the batter into the Bundt tin and place the cake in a cold oven.
    9. Turn the oven to 325F and bake, without opening the oven door, until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 65 to 80 minutes.
    10. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.
    11. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

    Makes one large Bundt cake

    (Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

    April 12, 2011

    To Try Tuesday - Challah

    Wow, I really feel as if I have neglected my blog.  I decided at the last moment to travel with my husband to the Big Island and watch him compete in a triathlon, and I have been playing catch up ever since.

    My computer went with me on the trip, and I did try to keep up with some blogging (and my Foodbuzz inbox-I still came back to well over 500 messages!), but it just did not happen.  I guess that is what happens when you are staying with good friends, cooking together, watching the race and taking a gazillion photos, and just relaxing.

    As I was checking in with various blogs one recipe jumped out at me, challah made easy.  I found this recipe on Samantha's blog, Madison Ave Musings.  She found the recipe in The Kosher Baker by Paula Shoyer, and I am so glad that she did.

    For a couple of years my bread maker sat on the counter gathering dust, and sometimes acting as a means of drying a tea towel.  I decided that it was just taking space and I put it away a couple of weeks ago.  I was even thinking of giving it away.  Then I found this recipe.  This could be one of the easiest recipes ever, but it delivers big-time on the taste scale.  Everything literally gets thrown into the bread maker, making sure that the yeast is last, and then you push start.  I kept peaking in the little window at the top to see how it was going, and my mouth was watering because it smelled so good.  Honestly, I don't know if there is a better smell in the world than bread baking.

    Once the cycle was complete I was all over that machine.  I could barely wait to get the hot loaf out, take a couple of quick photos, and then slice into that soft goodness.  Warm bread, a little butter and I was in heaven.  We will enjoy the rest of the loaf with dinner tonight.  Needless to say, my bread maker will now be out on the counter again and put to good use.

    (Printer Friendly Recipe)


    • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon canola or vegetable oil
    • 1/2 tablespoon salt
    • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 cup boiling water
    • 1/4 cup cold water
    • 1/4 ounce (1 envelope) active dry yeast
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 1/2 cups of bread flour
    1. Pour all ingredients into the bread pan, making sure to add the yeast last.
    2. Insert the bread pan into the bread maker and choose the proper settings. (Settings are listed in the recipe book that comes with the bread maker.
    3. Wait about 3.5 hours for the challah to finish baking. Without fail you are guaranteed the perfect loaf of bread to enjoy.

    Recipe from Madison Ave Musings.

    A few photos from the Lavaman 2011 triathlon: