It was finally time to make Bran Muffins, ten days after New Year’s Day, ten days since I told myself it was time to eat more healthy food after all the holiday excess. After the fruitcake, eggnog, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, chocolate cookies, chocolate truffles, chocolate. More chocolate. After all of that, we had to start eating like it wasn’t Christmas anymore.
Bran muffins are one of the few baked goodies one can eat and feel like it is a step forward, instead of a step back, nutritionally speaking. I have made many different recipes over the years, but always go back to the standard bran muffin recipe in the old Joy of Cooking. When I read the recipe on David Lebovitz’ forum, it was different and looked liked it would taste great. I wasn’t disappointed.
One thing different about the recipe is that part of the raisins are soaked in hot water and then pureed. The pureed raisins add even more sweetness to the finished muffins than they would have if used whole. There is so much more sweetness, that I decided to omit the brown sugar in subsequent recipes. The American palate is so accustomed to sweetness and sugar in abundance that often the home baker does not know that she or he can greatly reduce the sugar called for and still have a wonderful cake or muffins or cookies. With time, the palate becomes used to less sugar and if the usual amount is still used, the item tastes too sweet. Try it. Use half the sugar called for in a dessert recipe and see if you don’t like it just as much, if not more.
Anyway, I omitted the brown sugar — about 200 grams of sugar — and still had almost 240 grams of sugar contributed by the raisins. (Go to Nutrition Data, — you can find its link on the top of this page — to check out the nutritional analysis of thousands of food items.)
In addition to omitting the sugar, I also used all whole wheat flour, instead of part white flour, and added vanilla. I never understand a sweet recipe that doesn’t use vanilla, surely one of nature’s most underrated flavors. And David’s recipe calls for a “few swipes” of orange zest. I used the zest of a whole orange and it was still a subtle note. A final change is that David’s recipe calls for one and one half eggs. What do you do with the unused half egg? Invariably, I put it in the fridge where it gets lost and is then thrown out a week later. My solution is to double the recipe and use three whole eggs, making twenty-four muffins. They freeze very well. If you think of it, take two muffins out of the freezer the night before. The next morning, they will be just right with coffee or tea. If this is still too many muffins for you, and you know how to deal with the left-over half egg, just halve the recipe.
Here is my recipe, adapted from the one by David Lebovitz, which is in turn adapted from Pastries from La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton.
Good For You Bran Muffins
makes 24 muffins
- 4 cups ( 250 g) wheat bran
- 2 cup, plus 1 cup raisins (380 g. total)
- 1 cup, plus 2 cup (740 ml. total) water
- 1 cup (240 g.) plain, unsweetened yogurt
- 2-3 tablespoons of organic orange zest
- 1 cup (250 ml.) vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups (210 g) whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). Grease and flour muffin pans.
- Heat 2 cups of raisins with 1 cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Purée in a food processor or blender.
- In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients.
- In a second bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients, including the orange zest and the 1 cup of unpuréed raisins.
- Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing only until everything is evenly blended.
- Spoon the batter into muffin papers or greased muffin pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until the muffins are firm in the center.
- Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. With the tip of a butter knife, gently release and lift each muffin to cool at a slight angle in the pan. This does away with the need for a cooling rack.
Split a bran muffin open while still warm and eat with a slice of sharp cheddar. Mmmm…