I’d love to tell you all that I sit out on my deck each morning, savoring a steamy cup of coffee with frothed milk, leisurely reading the newspaper, thoroughly enjoying a three-course homemade breakfast on good china. But the truth is, I usually run out of the house with my hair still wet and scarf down breakfast at my desk.
Which is why I have a bit of an obsession with hotel breakfasts; they are a calm, pleasurable, and relaxing way to start the day. And I especially love European hotel breakfasts. A basket of flakey pastries, a big pot of coffee, and a buffet of flavorful cheeses, fresh fruits, and, best of all, bircher muesli.
The Intercontinental in Bucharest, Romania makes a lovely, creamy bircher muesli. So does a tiny Bed and Breakfast outside Bansko, Bulgaria. A little Inn near Toulouse, France serves a version so wonderfully rich that no amount of tiny, fresh, sweet strawberries can turn these cream-laden oats into a healthy breakfast.
I’ve been experimenting for years, trying to recreate my favorite European breakfast experiences. The very best traditional bircher muesli is usually made with oats, nuts, dried fruit, full-fat yogurt and heavy cream. Perhaps it’s a difference in the yogurt, or my discomfort using more than a splash of cream in what should be a healthy breakfast, but I have never quite mastered bircher muesli.
I’ve tried combinations of yogurt, milk, apple juice, soy milk, and cream, some better than others. In fact, soy milk was a surprising front runner. And then last weekend, I was wandering around Whole Foods with my friend Laran, who happens to be allergic to soy. We were chatting about the merits of a portable breakfast when it occurred to me that, instead of soy milk, almond milk might just be the thing to elevate my muesli. And I was right. All the creaminess, and no off flavor. It may not be quite the traditional European bircher musali, but it is certainly a delicious, healthy, portable breakfast.
I love that I can make this the night before, and then grab it out of the fridge as I start my mad dash to work in the morning. It would, of course, be just as tasty were I to spoon it into a pretty glass and savor each bite while admiring my sunny flower beds.
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoons oat bran
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup dried fruit (such as chopped apricot, cherries, raisins, etc)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 cups fresh mixed berries
Stir all ingredients except the berries together in a bowl until well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, stir well and then spoon the muesli into bowls and top with plenty of berries. This recipe doubles easily, and keeps well in the fridge for up to three days, but be sure to wait until the last minute to add the berries.