"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The bran muffin, reinvented

Is there anything un-sexier than bran? Perhaps the effects of eating a lot of it, but I digress! Bran is an oft-disparaged food yet it's important to our diets. We could all use more fiber, but let's face it: it can be really freaking difficult to fill oneself with all that roughagey goodness.

And is there any muffin more un-thrilling than the bran muffin? I thought this, placing them in my head low down in the muffin pecking order below chocolate, blueberry, and corn. That's until I discovered the bran muffin recipe in Nicole Rees's absolutely fantastic Baking Unplugged (my new bible of all things baked). The woman makes them with bran cereal soaked in buttermilk. Wait. Read that line again. Buttermilk. YES. EVERYTHING is made better with buttermilk!

These muffins are delicious. They are filling, and yet they stay moist and fluffy, thanks to the buttermilk, and they also have a slightly sweet taste to them that isn't cloying or desserty. This ain't your typical dark brown, super dense, saw-dusty, jaw-workout bran muffin!

I made a batch on Sunday and tossed each muffin in a zipper-top sandwich baggie, keeping a few out for quick mid-morning snacks at work, and stowing the rest in the freezer. To serve, just pop the frozen muffin in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. No need to thaw.

Hurrah! Don't delay; make these muffins today. Your digestive system will thank you.

Bran Cereal Muffins by Nicole Rees
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups All-Bran cereal
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional; I didn't use them)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin pan. (I use the spray that's available now that's specifically for baking, that already has flour in it. It's good stuff.) In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, oil, egg, and sugar until smooth. Stir in the cereal and soak for 15 minutes; cereal will swell and soften in the liquid.

2. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Stir in raisins if desired.

3. Gently fold the flour mixture into the wet cereal mixture until just combined. The batter will thicken almost immediately as the baking soda reacts with the buttermilk. Do not stir after this point to avoid deflating the batter.

4. Get out your trusty ice cream scoop and dole the batter out into the muffin cups. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 2 to 3 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Bite into a warm muffin and revel in the goodness that is the bran muffin, reinvented.

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