What is it about certain foods evoking a memory that you can remember the exact details that surround the particular food? Your mind trails off to when you last ate it, the event you were celebrating, the location, or - in my case, a happy memory from long ago.
As a child, my father would go out very early on August Saturday mornings to buy The Racing Form to study the horses running that day at Saratoga Race Track. He would always return home with his Racing Form, and a white paper bag filled with bakery fresh bran muffins. My mother would have a cookie sheet ready, cut the bran muffins in half - and with cut sides up, slip them under the oven broiler so they were lightly browned, with a crispy top! My three siblings and I would watch the pat of butter my mother added, melt beautifully into the lightly browned nooks of the hot bran muffins, and dive in! Delightedly eating our Saturday morning treat, I can still see a hot bran muffin sitting on a plate in front of my father, with his steaming coffee next to it - as he studied the Racing Form on his lap. To this day, when I go home to Saratoga, there are always bran muffins sitting next to the toaster oven! (By the way, the jockey silks tea towel seemed so fitting for my photos, while thinking of Saratoga! :))
I was long overdue to bake a batch of my best ever bran muffins, and share this wonderful recipe with my readers! Over the years, I'd tried so many bran muffin recipes, including every recipe on bran cereal boxes - bran buds, bran flakes - always trying to re-create those true, authentic bakery bran muffins from childhood. None of the recipes ever lived up; that is, until I found Nancy Silverton's - Pastries from the La Brea Bakery, featured by David Lebovitz a few years ago. My search ended.
Toasted wheat bran, simmered and pureed raisins, and freshly grated orange zest, are some of the lovely ingredients that make this real bran muffin the best ever - not to mention its moistness and delicious flavor! Using mainly whole grains and very little sugar, but still the perfect sweetness, make this a wholesome muffin as well!
With a touch of fall looming in the air, there is something comforting about a freshly baked muffin and a hot cup of coffee. Why not give these a try - I'm confident you will never use a bran cereal box recipe again!
Until next time - mangia! xox
The Best Ever Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
2 cups (125g) wheat bran
1 cup, plus 1/2 cup (190g total) dark raisins
1 cup, plus 1/2 cup (370ml total) water
1/2 cup (120g) buttermilk or plain low or non-fat yogurt (I use buttermilk)
a few swipes of fresh orange zest
1/2 cup (105g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (35g) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking solda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Create the muffins:
1) Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin (1/2 cup size indentations) with paper liners.
2) Spread the wheat bran on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for six to eight minutes, stirring a few times so it cooks evenly. Let cool.
3) While the bran is toasting, heat 1 cup (135g) of the raisins with 1/2 cup (120ml) of the water. Simmer for ten minutes, or until the water is all absorbed. Puree the raisins in a food processor or blender until smooth.
4) In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bran, buttermilk or yogurt, 1 cup (250ml) water, then mix in the raisin puree, orange zest, and brown sugar.
5) Stir in the oil, egg and egg white.
6) Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and sift directly into the wet ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are just combined, then mix in the remaining 1/2 cup (55g) raisins.
7) Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, making sure the batter fills the tin, and is mounded slightly in each one. Because muffin tins can vary in size, if your tins are larger, make fewer muffins.
8) Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins feel set in the center.