Wednesday, 19 August 2009

An Oldie, But A Goodie - The 21st Century Housewife's© Bran Muffins

I have always loved bran muffins. It’s a family thing – we were all crazy about them when I was growing up. I especially liked the ones with raisins. Even today, I still love them.

I’ve been making bran muffins since the ripe old age of eight. The recipe I originally used came from a restaurant called “The Knotty Pine” in Preston, Ontario, Canada (back in the day when it was still called Preston, before the tri-cities were re-named Cambridge in the early 1970’s). My Dad used to go into the lunch counter there for a coffee and a muffin. He liked their bran muffins so much he managed to persuade one of the waitresses to share the recipe with him. Back then I followed it to the letter, but over the years it, like me, has evolved. Today it is much more my own recipe than the one my Dad brought home all those years ago. It first appeared on my website, as one of the first Recipes of the Week on 23rd July 2007.

These muffins make a super breakfast or snack. You can freeze them once they have cooled, so I usually double the recipe. If you take a packed lunch, try tucking a frozen muffin in it. It will help keep your lunch nice and cold, and by lunchtime, it will be thawed and ready to enjoy. This is a great recipe for tough economic times as all the ingredients are readily available and none are that expensive.

All in all, the recipe is pretty flexible. You can use either light or dark brown sugar, whatever you have to hand. Obviously the lighter the sugar the lighter in color the muffin will be, but it really does not affect the flavor very much at all. Lots of people love cinnamon, but some people really don’t like it at all. I’m one of the former, so my recipe calls for lots of this pungent spice. If you are one of the latter, feel free to reduce the amount or omit it entirely. As a cinnamon lover I wouldn’t like it, but honestly, I’ll never know, so do feel free!

It is wonderful when something that tastes delicious is actually good for you. Bran itself is very nutritious and is also a good source of fiber. If you use raisins you are getting a great iron boost as well. Yes, bran muffins do have sugar in them, but don’t feel you have to use the whole cup the recipe calls for. You can leave a couple of tablespoons out if it makes you feel better and it won’t affect the finished product much at all. I do use white flour in my recipe, having tried whole-wheat flour but finding it made for a much heavier muffin. However if you feel strongly about it, whole-wheat flour does work as well, so by all means use it instead.

My method in this recipe is very different than most muffin recipes that discourage any excessive mixing. This recipe benefits from adding the last ingredients alternately and from the stirring that requires. It is quite a heavy mixture, and the stirring helps to incorporate more air. Don’t worry; it won’t cause tunnels as it does in lighter muffins, but be sure not to beat the mixture. That won’t do it any good at all.

Unlike many muffins, these taste good for two to three days after you bake them. Do keep them in an airtight container though, in the fridge if it is very warm. This recipe makes about twelve muffins and is easily doubled if you like to freeze them as I do. Just make sure they are fully cooled first!

The 21st Century Housewife’s© Bran and Raisin Muffins

1 cup brown sugar, very loosely packed
2 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
(You can use Sunflower or Rapeseed (Canola) oil if you prefer.)
1 cup buttermilk
(You can use ordinary milk if you do not have buttermilk. Skim milk will work if you are watching your weight but the muffins will not taste as rich.)
1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
2 cups wheat bran
(available in the cereal aisle in most grocery stores – you want bags of real bran, not bran flakes)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
(or less if you are on a salt restricted diet)
2 teaspoons cinnamon (optional)
1 cup raisins, sultanas or dried mixed fruit

Preheat oven to 150 C (fan) or 170 C (conventional) or 375 F (North America). Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease and flour them. I recommend large “American muffin” size tins for these. You can use the smaller ones, but they will cook more quickly so you’ll need to keep an eye on them.

Beat eggs. Add brown sugar and oil; mix well. Add bran and cinnamon. Mix and let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt in a separate bowl.

Add flour mixture to the bran mixture alternately with the milk, stirring well between each addition. Gently fold in raisins.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins. Fill about half full. Be careful not to overfill. I find an ice cream scoop with a release button a really good tool for this process.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until a piece of raw spaghetti inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out without any batter clinging to it. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature. These are delicious with butter and / or jam. If muffins have cooled to room temperature, you can reheat them in the microwave for about 10 to 15 seconds on high.

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