Do you have a favorite cookbook?
(This post may contain affiliate links)
There aren't many things I enjoy more than talking about food and nutrition with them. We're all passionate about feeding ourselves well, though at the same time, defining what feels right for each of us
I couldn't resist posing my favorite question, “What are you cooking out of lately?”
“A couple of garage-sale finds; they're amazing!”
An Amazon order later, and the same cookbooks lay on our kitchen counter. I can't help but smile and wonder if this is a recipe she's tried; deciding there's more than one way to cook with someone you love
If you're like me, there are a couple of types of muffin recipes in your repertoire; those that we make for special occasions and those that are consistently put to use.
Around our house, bran muffins fall into the latter category.
They're an easy and healthy breakfast treat; ready-to-go on a busy work or school day (don't forget to have yours with some protein on the side). The trouble is that even the best recipes for bran muffins produce something wonderful the day they're baked and not so much the next.
No matter how streamlined you make the process, there's nothing quick or relaxing about baking from scratch on a busy weekday morning. I've always wanted something I could bake ahead and look forward to.
One can never go wrong with molasses, and also the tang from the buttermilk
A neighbor long ago always added raisins to hers, and they quickly become an essential part. Although, when surrounded by cake-like crumbs, they're often more distracting than comforting
The real revelation, the key to the bran muffin puzzle, came from a recipe in one of the cookbooks on the kitchen counter and Nancy Silverton.
To make her muffins better than ordinary, she simmered raisins in water before pureeing them. The step stopped me in my tracks and reminded me of Kim Boyce's recipe, which uses a prunes/orange juice combination instead
The processes reminded me of a family recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies, made legendary my grandmother. Everyone always asks what makes them extra chewy? Raisin purée
Raisin purée may not sound particularly thrilling in and of itself. But I'm here to tell you that in baked good, especially those containing molasses, it will make a world of difference.
These aren't just any bran muffin. They're hefty, hearty, and barely sweet. A muffin that's likely to prompt nostalgic memories all of its own. A breakfast bread that's not only relatively quick and easy; it holds up for several days in the bread box (or fridge).
My favorite way to eat them is straight out of the oven, with the slightest drizzle of honey or maple syrup. I love to break them open and watch the little curl of steam come out
A quick side note on the subject of favorite cookbooks: this month's Food Network Magazine has such a fun article about Ina Garten's collection, and she shares her favorites
What a treasure; a glimpse into where a culinary icon turns for inspiration.
( ** Note from Ali: This post originally appeared on September 5, 2014 .. back when The Veggies was just getting started. I originally set out to update the photos .. but decided an updated post was in order for those who maybe haven't ventured through the archives)
Molasses Bran Muffins
- 3 large oranges
- 1 ½ cups pitted prunes
- 1 ½ cups wheat bran
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 2 cups whole-wheat pastry (or spelt) flour
- 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp fine grain sea salt
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ cup molasses (I probably wouldn't use blackstrap)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 large egg
Prune/Orange Juice Puree
- Finely grate the zest of 1 orange to yield 1 Tbsp and set aside
- Squeeze enough juice from the oranges to yield 1 cup
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the prunes and juice. Bring to just barely a boil, then cover and turn off the heat.
- Let sit for about 30 minutes, before blending the mix into a smooth puree. The yield will be about 1 cup; with ½ cup being used for this recipe. (Reserve the rest for your next batch)
- Preheat the oven to 350° F
- Use a little butter to grease 10 alternating muffin wells in the muffin pan or pans
- Measure the wheat bran into a medium bowl.
- Warm the buttermilk in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat setting ( it will separate if overheated). Pour the warm buttermilk over the bran, stirring to combine
- Sift together the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl
- Whisk together the molasses, melted butter, egg, the ½ cup of prune puree and the orange zest in a medium bowl, making sure the egg is well incorporated.
- Add the mix to the buttermilk-bran mix, stirring, then add the resulting mixture to the flour mixture and mix well to form a batter.
- Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to portion the batter evenly among the 10 prepared muffin wells. (The batter should be slightly mounded)
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes before rotating the pan(s) front to back (and top to bottom as needed). Bake an additional 15 to 17 minutes, or until the tops spring back to the touch.
- Place the muffin pan(s) on top of the stove and gently twist out the muffins, letting them cool on their sides halfway out of their individual wells (this will help keep them from becoming soggy)