Sunday, April 13, 2008

The ultimate, perfectly textured bran muffin.

I happen to love bran muffins - actually, I love bran. It adds a nice texture to baked goods, and the nutty flavor and healthy omega three's are added bonuses. But, good muffin recipes are hard to find, and I've been looking for a long time. Traditional muffins are easy to toughen by over-mixing; bran muffins are almost always flat and heavy. Sometimes you can rescue a bran muffin's texture but adding lots of oil to the batter or butter to the final product. But what's the point of making a muffin out of something healthy if the flavor and texture is completely overwhelmed by oil? I'm not opposed to full fat bran muffins - they're delicious - but that's not that recipe I'm looking for.

That is, the recipe I was looking for... see, I found the bran muffin recipe of my dreams. It's basic. The flavor is the teensiest bit bland, but in a good way, because the muffins call you to play with all sorts of exciting add-ins. If you're anything like me, the ingredient list is going to strike you as fussy and when you mix it all together the batter will just see too liquidy. You might scoff at the idea of 1.5 tbsp in 12 muffins. But when you watch these glorious - repeat, glorious - muffins puff up into golden domes as they bake, your mouth will start to water. And then when they've cooled down and you take your first bite - you will be happy and saitsfied: healthy, tasty, perfectly textured bran muffin at long last.

This recipe is dead on for texture. I made some slight flavor modifications based on what I had in the pantry and epicurious recipe suggestions. Here are some ideas for what you could add to it:

Fresh or Dried fruit, like blueberries, cranberries, bananas, apples, raisins, figs, etc

Grated zucchini or carrot

Chocolate chips, toasted walnuts, pecans

Coconut flakes, shredded coconut or coconut milk to replace the oil

A variety of flavored jams, preserves or sweet things to tuck inside

Spices... cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, something spicy


I have made this recipe four times already. Twice, I used a mixture of yogurt and milk (turned out fine), once I used buttermilk (turned out better - the butermilk regulates the acidity and moisture level perfectly), and a fourth time I tried using all whole wheat flour (too sour). I have also played around with the sweetener part of the recipe and decided on a mix of sugar, honey and molasses. As I said, fussy! But tasty. My suggestion to simplify the sweetener step is to take a 1/2 c. measuring cup and fill it with whatever sweetener you want to. Just make it a 1/2 cup and you'll be fine. I tried both oat bran and wheat bran and do not have a preference; use whatever you wish (wheat bran is lighter).

Ultimate Buttermilk Bran Muffins

Adapted from the Healthy Oven Baking Book by Sarah Phillips, recipe here

Makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf

In my favorite batch, I chose to add chunked (chunked, not mashed) banana and coconut flakes. It was a wonderfully moist, barely sweet breakfast treat.

Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a muffin tin or loaf pan. If using the loaf pan, cut parchment to fit the bottom, and butter that too. Sift together:

1 cup wheat bran

2/3 cup (80g) unbleached all-purpose flour

2/3 cup (90g) whole wheat flour

1 1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

In a medium bowl, blend together:

1 1/4 low-fat, cultured buttermilk (can substitute yogurt with milk or soy milk)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp molasses (see, 1/2 cup total)

1/4 unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in:

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

A banana, sliced into 1/2" chunks

Pour into prepared muffin tin or loaf pan. Bake until the tops spring back when pressed gently in the center, about 20 minutes for the muffins and about 30 minutes for the loaf. Do not overbake. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.


liz said...

Yum -- I can't wait to try this. Good thing I have a carton of buttermilk in the fridge I need to use ...

Jessi said...

Thanks for posting the recipe Rach! I've been really excited to try it since you told me about your perfect bran muffins.

liz said...

finally made this one (with buttermilk, grated coconut, a bit of ground flax to replace some of the oil, marzipan chunks, and dried cherries). It was really, really good -- I really see no reason to try any other bran recipe ever again. :)

Randi said...

Hi! I just tried this recipe in loaf form, since I don't own muffin cups. 30 minutes was kind of a conservative estimate at 350. The center was still liquid, in fact. It's covered in foil right now, still baking at 350. I can't wait to try it.

Rachael said...

Liz - so glad it worked out for you!!

Randi - ooh, yikes, sorry the timing was off. I hope that the loaf ended up okay!! (And to note, it definitely wasn't liquidy when I have made it... a toothpick or knife comes out crumb-free)

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