My wife has been under a lot of stress at work and our traditional breakfasts – oatmeal or yogurt, granola and fruit – haven’t appealed to her.
I wanted to bake something (to get away from the similar texture of either yogurt or oatmeal) and naturally thought of bran muffins first.
Bran muffins might make for a good breakfast, but they are notoriously dry and dense. I’ve baked my share of disappointing batches of muffins. I went looking online for inspiration.
I found it in a 1985 Los Angeles Times archive story, publishing the bran muffin recipe from a coffee shop in Cambria, Calif. Giving the recipe a quick scan, I knew it had potential – I loved the idea of using buttermilk, yogurt and applesauce to keep the muffins moist. I also liked the idea of using dried apples instead of raisins, the traditional bran muffin addition.
There were two things that gave me pause, however. First, the yield was enormous. The recipe said it made more than 24 muffins, with the muffin tops running together. Second, the preparation method didn’t seem right. The recipe called for mixing everything together, then letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Thanks to the buttermilk and yogurt, the batter would be fairly acidic. The chemical leaveners (a combination of baking soda and baking powder) would lose a lot of their lifting power as they sat with the acids.
Still, the overnight soak was a great idea. It would soften the rolled oats and wheat bran and make the muffins more tender. I just needed to keep the leaveners out of the mixture. I had other changes I wanted to make to the recipe, too. To enhance the apple flavor I used boiled cider instead of molasses. I reduced the amount of vegetable oil, trusting more applesauce would be a decent substitute. I used whole wheat pastry flour and increased the amount of spice. I messed with the measurements of each ingredient considerably to reduce the yield yet preserve the moisture level.
I was glad I reduced the yield; even after approximately halving it I still baked 18 muffins. After one bite I knew I had a winner. Most notably, I was finally eating a moist bran muffin. The dried apples and walnuts provided a mix of textures. The melding of flavors is what really struck me. Within the combination of orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, honey, apples and wheat bran, not one taste stuck out.
After patting myself on the back for making a fantastic muffin, I calculated the nutrition statistics. My breakfast benchmark is a bowl of oatmeal with fruit and nuts; it delivers 300 calories, 7.5 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. I was shocked to see the results for my apple bran muffins (serving size two muffins): 287 calories, 8.9 grams of protein and 5.5 grams of fiber. Hot damn! I had baked a nutritionally competitive muffin to boot!
- 1 1/4 cups wheat bran
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup boiled cider
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Zest of half an orange
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup dried apples, diced
- 1/2 cup walnuts, diced
Step 1. Stir together the bran, oats, buttermilk and applesauce in a medium glass bowl. The mixture will resemble a thick paste. Cover and store in the fridge overnight (or eight hours). The oats and bran will soften considerably.
Step 2. The next morning, prepare the muffins. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line muffin tins with 18 cups. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, brown sugar, honey, boiled cider, vanilla and orange zest and beat together until well mixed and uniform.
Step 6. Spoon batter into the muffin tins. Note: Don’t worry if it feels like you are filling the tins too full – 18 really is the perfect number of muffins. These guys don’t rise that high. I actually made 20 muffins and wished I had divided the batter in the extra two muffins to make each muffin top a little rounder.