When I was a little girl in Canada, there was a restaurant in Preston, Ontario called The Knotty Pine. They had a fancy steak house downstairs (I still remember the first time I was taken there - I felt SO grown up!), and upstairs there was a more relaxed restaurant that served lunches. There was also a lunch counter, where you could get a quick snack or a coffee. My Dad used to stop in there a couple of times a week for one of their famous bran muffins. And once in a while, he’d bring a half a dozen of them home for a treat. We loved them. They were seriously, seriously yummy - not too sweet, not too savoury, and full to the brim with raisins. One day Dad came home with the secret recipe. I don’t know how he managed it, but somehow he got the restaurant manager to part with it. Half expecting it to have somehow been altered, as secret recipes often are, my Mom and I were delighted when the muffins we made using the recipe came out every bit as nice as the ones Dad brought home. I’ve been making them every since - in fact, for over thirty years now.
Although I rarely deviate from the original recipe (which you can find here, complete with video instructions), in recent years I formulated a sugar free version on request for a sugar replacement product, and occasionally I make them with mixed dried fruit instead of just raisins. My family never liked these variations as well though, so I didn’t feel terribly inclined to experiment. Indeed, I was discouraged from doing so! (“I don’t know why you mess around with these muffins Mom, they taste good just as they are!”)
However a while ago, my curiosity got the better of me, and I began to play around with the recipe again. This version my family absolutely loved... and I was seriously pleased with how they turned out. It makes about 12 large muffins, and they freeze beautifully. (In fact, I normally make a double batch so I can do just that!) Unlike many other types of muffins, these will keep for a couple of days in a sealed container at room temperature, or for three or four days in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature, or warm for 15 to 20 seconds in the microwave before eating.
1 cup brown sugar
(I know this is a lot, but it works. You can reduce it to ¾ cup if you are worried. It does affect the flavour a bit, but they are still very good.)
2 large eggs, free range or pasture raised if possible please
½ cup sunflower oil (You can use mild olive oil 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. Buttermilk gives the best flavour though.)
1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
2 cups bran (available in the cereal aisle in most grocery stores – you want bags of real bran, not bran flakes cereal)
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)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
grated rind of one orange
2 medium (or one large) carrots, peeled and grated
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375℉ (that’s about 170℃). Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease and flour them. I recommend large muffin 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.
Add flour mixture to the bran mixture alternately with the buttermilk, stirring well between each addition. Gently fold in the orange rind, grated carrot and the walnuts.
Spoon mixture carefully into muffin tins. I use an ice cream scoop for this. Fill about half full. (Be careful not to overfill.)
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. I sometimes put them frozen in a lunch box and they thaw in time for lunch while helping to keep everything else cool too.