Friday, February 10, 2012

Raisin Bran Muffins

I might have resolved to bake more challenging things such as tarts, breads, and pastries.  However, that does not mean that I have decided to abandon the world of quick breads, and cookies.  After all, how could anyone leave behind something as wonderful, yet as simple as a muffin?

For the past five or six years, I have begun nearly every week by baking up a batch of muffins or scones for my husband and I to enjoy for breakfast throughout the week.  As far as I am concerned, only a croissant makes a better coffee companion than a muffin.

Now, there is one caveat.  While I do love to bake and while I enjoy my breakfast pastries, I have always been a very health-conscious eater.  Most of my meals are loaded with vegetables and I snack only on fruit and yogurt.  In my mind, this is the only way that I can justify a morning muffin or an evening dessert.  That said, I try my best to use either bran, oats, or whole wheat flour in my breakfast recipes, I tend to cut back on the fat by using unsweetened apple sauce, and I usually reduce the sugar in most of these recipes.  I know a lot of people are skeptical when it comes to such substitutions and reductions, but if done carefully and in the right types of recipes, neither flavor nor texture are sacrificed.  The trick is that you have to accept that a muffin is not meant to be healthy and that all improvements are at the margins.  So, while you can replace some oil or butter with applesauce, you can't use apple sauce to replace all of it.  Some fat, refined flour, and sugar must remain.

This particular recipe is one of my favorites.  It yields a tender, sweet, and hearty muffin, which goes perfectly with that morning coffee--especially during the cold winter months.  While the alterations I have made to this recipe means that the muffins clock in at approximately 170 calories each, you would never know it from the way they taste or feel. Unlike many other bran muffins I have tried, these ones are soft and moist through and through.

Raisin Bran Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup of buttermilk
2 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce*
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour**
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Grease your muffin pan or line it with paper cups
  3. Mix together the wheat bran and buttermilk in a large bowl.  Let it soak for at least ten minutes.
  4. While the wheat bran is standing, whisk together the egg, oil, applesauce, sugar, and vanilla extract.  In yet another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, with the exception of the raisins.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the wheat bran mixture and stir until it is thoroughly combined.
  6. Stir in the dry ingredients until just blended and fold in the raisins.  Be sure not to overwork the dough.
  7. Scoop batter into muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.

* You can always replace this with canola oil if you do not want to worry about cutting calories.
**I have replaced a third cup of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat flour and had good results.

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