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You may or may not know this about me, but I’m really not a doughnut or muffin kind of girl. If I’m choosing breakfast food or even sweet food – muffins and donuts and most bakery products are just too sweet and they rarely satisfy me. Give me a bowl of crunchy granola or creamy oatmeal any day!
The one exception – bran muffins. So a few months ago I began to search for a good, solid bran muffin recipe that met my personal prerequisites: not too sweet, hearty and filling. No dry-as-wood-shavings, heavy-as-a-rock muffins for me. Then I remembered a honey-infused bran muffin from a tiny coffee stand many years back before there was a coffee stand on every corner. I became a little obsessed with that bran muffin … and thankfully my research and trials and errors came to fruition. Well… the result isn’t really the same as the original muffins. They are BETTER. Really!
Warning: they are a pain to prepare. You’ll need several bowls so there’s a lot of cleanup. And the ingredient list is loooong. But they are so worth it! Especially if you add dried cherries instead of the traditional raisins (I’m not a huge fan of raisins… not very exciting). You won’t be surprised to learn that I made a few other changes to the Cooks Illustrated original recipe. I added more cinnamon and nutmeg instead of allspice (full disclosure – this was mostly due to laziness since I don’t have allspice in my spice cabinet).
I even bought a brand spanking new muffin pan – my old pan was most likely 41 years old and just didn’t cut it.
This recipe makes 12 generously-sized, hearty muffins. Once cooled, I freeze them in a sealed container and take one out in the morning, defrost it and then zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds. Oh, and then I slather it with softened, whipped cream cheese. Heaven on earth!
When you are in a baking mood and you want a sure-fire, beloved recipe, try these. You won’t be sorry! Have a nice fresh fruit salad topped with vanilla yogurt alongside and you’ll almost feel virtuous about your breakfast selection.
The Best Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
- 1 1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur white whole wheat flour)
- 1 1/4 tsp. non-aluminum baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. table salt
- 1 ½ generous tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 7 Tbsp butter, softened
- 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp unsulphured molasses
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups wheat bran* (Bob’s Red Mill is my favorite)
- 1 cup dried cherries**
*Wheat bran is available at health foods stores or at supermarkets in boxes labeled Quaker Unprocessed Bran.
**I order 5 lb boxes of these online. They do have added sugar but lots less than craisins or other cherries I’ve found, and I keep them in my freezer for at least six months.
Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix flour through nutmeg in medium bowl; set aside.
Beat butter in large bowl with a handheld mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, one to two minutes. Add brown sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until combined and fluffy, about one minute longer. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly before adding the next. Beat in vanilla, molasses, and sour cream until thoroughly combined and creamy, about one minute longer. Reduce speed to low; beat in buttermilk and half the flour mixture until combined, about one minute. Beat in remaining flour mixture until incorporated and slightly curdled looking, about one minute longer, scraping sides of bowl as necessary. Stir in bran and raisins.
Spray a twelve mold muffin tin (each muffin mold measuring 1/2 cup) with Pam or shmear well with butter. Divide batter evenly among molds using a spoon or ice cream scoop. I spray the ice cream scoop with Pam and this makes the batter slide out easily. Even out the tops of the muffins, and bake until a toothpick inserted into center withdraws cleanly or with a few moist particles adhering to it. I baked mine for about 22 minutes in my oven.
Set the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool slightly, about five minutes. Lift each muffin and place it on its side in the tin. In another five minutes remove muffins from the tin and cool completely.
Serve warm with whipped cream cheese (beat 8 ounces of plain cream cheese with a couple tablespoons of milk and store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks).
Enjoy! And remember, these are addictive.
PS – I have made mini bite sized muffins as well and they are great – you need to reduce the cooking time (obviously) if these are made into minis – start checking them at 12 minutes. But I don’t bother with the minis any more – who am I trying to kid…I need a whole muffin!