Applesauce Bran

This marks the first time that I deviated a bit from the recipe as written, for expediency and practicality. I’ll reproduce the recipe as written, but indicate where I made changes.

The recipe

Stir together, let stand for five minutes

1 cup All-Bran (I refuse to buy a box of All-Bran just to use for a recipe. Yerk. I bought a box of regular ‘Wheat Bran’ instead.)

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

1 1/4 cup smooth unsweetened applesauce (I used homemade applesauce, with cinnamon & a small amount of brown sugar)

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup oil (as the type of oil was not specified, I used canola)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

Stir together

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

Add wet to dry. 

375F, 20 minutes. Makes 19 regular-sized muffins.

The process

I was super-organized this weekend, thanks in large part to Michael, who has been helping me make-ahead three weekday meals on Sundays as an experiment in making our evenings less hectic (and it’s been working great). Because of this, I was able to start the muffins even before the kids went to bed, so I had a couple of enthusiastic helpers. Plus, I was listening to Randy’s Vinyl Tap on CBC Radio Two while I worked, and it turns out singing along to The Doors and Nirvana while baking makes everything run more smoothly. This is a scientific fact.

This is a nice simple recipe. It goes together quickly and leaves you with a very liquid batter that pours easily into muffin cups. It’s a good one to make with kids who want to help out.

As always, I rotated the pans halfway through the baking time to make sure they were done evenly. They took 20 minutes, as advertised. Simple. Brilliant.

The result

They smelled really good – the molasses / apple / vanilla combination is a winner. Because these are leavened with sour milk and baking soda, they only rose slightly, and are almost flat across the top thanks to the very liquid batter. They are also quite a dark colour, partly because of the molasses and partly because of the homemade applesauce I used.

Michael tasted them first and was very enthusiastic, so I tried one as well. These are a nice muffin; sweet, dense, quite moist. A good breakfast or snack muffin, and with a more pleasing texture than I was expecting, what with all the bran.

The apple flavour is very subtle, so next time I would probably use commercial applesauce; the homemade stuff I used is delicious for eating just as it is, and my test kitchen has advised me not to ‘waste it’ as a baking ingredient. I do think that the cinnamon in the applesauce added something to this recipe, so you may want to consider adding a half-teaspoon of cinnamon to your dry ingredients if you are using plain, unsweetened applesauce.

All in all, an easy muffin that you can feel good about eating and serving to your kids with breakfast or as a snack.

Next week, applesauce oatmeal.

Apple Cinnamon

OK, I know, I’m a day late and a dollar short. This weekend was dedicated to advance meal preparation for the week – with Christmas coming, there is a massive decluttering & cleaning effort that needs to happen on a sustained basis, and so I’m experimenting with different time-management strategies to try and get everything done.

This meant that “bake muffins & then blog about it” was penciled in for 9PM yesterday. And by then I also had to climb Mount Laundry. So the muffins got baked – eventually – but I’m only getting around to writing about it today.

I’ll make every effort to get back on schedule for next week.

The recipe

Blend until smooth

1/2 cup butter or margarine, slightly softened

3/4 cup white sugar

1 egg, beaten

Add and mix well

1 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk, soured with lemon juice)

1 tsp.  salt

1 1/2 cups diced apples

Stir together. Add, stirring to moisten

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix 1 tsp cinnamon with 2 – 3 tbsp. white sugar. Sprinkle on muffins before baking.

375F, 20 minutes. Made 17 muffins.

The process

I never buy buttermilk for baking; soured milk works just as well, it’s cheaper, and you never then have the problem of what to do with all the leftovers. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to 1 cup of milk, stir, and let sit for five minutes. It will curdle and become acidic, which is just what you want. The acid in the soured milk will react with the baking soda to help your muffins rise.

I used an electric mixer on low to blend the butter, sugar, and egg – the butter was at room temperature so it went together quickly. The rest of the batter was a snap to assemble, although it didn’t look very appetizing, and it didn’t taste very good, either. I was a little concerned.

There was enough batter for 17 good-sized muffins. I shoved them in the oven and commenced cleaning up the kitchen… realizing five minutes later that I’d forgotten to sprinkle the tops with cinnamon & sugar. I always have to rotate the pans at the halfway point when I’m baking anyway, because I have a finicky Kenmore stove. I sprinkled at the ten-minute mark and it turned out fine.

The result

The muffins were done at 20 minutes, although be careful to lower your oven rack to the middle, as the cinnamon-sugar was just starting to brown when I pulled them out – too high in the oven and it would definitely scorch.

These muffins are… adequate. My first comment when I bit into one was “this tastes healthy”, and it does – the whole wheat flour gives them that grainy texture that says “you are not enjoying a sinful pleasure right now, you are having a Nutritious Muffin.” Although the sweet topping offsets that a little.

I also find I can taste the baking soda. Michael didn’t mention it but I find it pretty off-putting.

There are so many better muffin recipes in Dorothy’s book, including last week’s delicious “Laura’s Apple Muffins“, that I don’t think I would make this one again.

Laura’s Apple Muffins

We say goodbye to the banana muffins and move on now to apple-based recipes. This is a good thing, as we have lots of apples on hand from our annual trip to the orchard and they are getting kind of mealy for satisfactory snacking.

A word about “Laura” – I have no idea who Laura was. It’s not a family name, so clearly she was a friend of Dorothy’s. There are no recipes that bear my name but I wish there were! A life goal – to invent something that will be named after me.

The recipe

Cream together in medium-sized bowl

1/4 cup shortening or margarine

3/4 cup white sugar

Add to above

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg, beaten

Stir together and add to above, then stir to moisten

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Add gently

1 1/2 cups peeled, chopped apples

1 tbsp. cream

350F, 20 – 25 minutes.

The process

Right off the bat, we had a discussion about what to use for the fat: shortening, margarine, or butter. For the sake of authenticity (ugh, that is an overused word, isn’t it?) I decided to go with shortening. Also I had some in the cupboard from my Adventures in Pie Crust Making, and really wanted to use it up.

I used an electric mixer to cream the shortening and sugar. Added the vanilla and oops – accidentally added a full teaspoon instead of a half. Bear that in mind if you decide to make these muffins; I cheated on the vanilla.

As I combined the dry ingredients with the wet, I started to worry – this is a thick, heavy batter. Sticky. And it seemed like a ridiculously small amount lying there in the bottom of the bowl.

A cup and a half of apples is about three smallish ones. I chopped them quite fine because I do not like big chunks of anything in baked goods. If you look back at the recipe, you’ll see that the muffins are almost equal parts flour/sugar and apples; now imagine adding the apples ‘gently’. I had a bit of a freakout at first, because it seemed like they would never combine; adding the cream (I used ‘blend’ or ‘half-and-half’) helped, and gradually it became a smooth batter studded with apple pieces.

The batter filled 12 muffin cups about 3/4 full.

The result

The muffins were not done at 20 minutes, so I put them back in for an additional five minutes, which did the trick. I was pretty skeptical when I took them out of the oven; they did not rise much at all, and were browner on top than I would have liked. But then I tasted one and WOW, these were really good.

Moist on the inside, with a slight sweet crunch on the top, these taste like the muffin version of apple pie, if that makes any sense. The spicing really shines through and the apples softened to a very pleasing texture.

Michael and I devoured the test muffin even though they weren’t cool enough to eat yet, fanning our mouths to keep them from burning.

Laura, whoever she was, knew how to make a muffin.

Next week, Apple Cinnamon. Yum.

Whole Wheat Banana

The last banana recipe in the batch. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this for six weeks already! And I’m sleepy from the time change, and very much looking forward to a cup of tea. Muffins go with tea! To the muffinatorium!

The recipe

Sift in small bowl

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

In large bowl, beat until mixed

1/3 cup oil

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup mashed banana

Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Add 1/2 cup nuts if you wish. Combine 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and sprinkle on top of each muffin before baking.

350F, 20 minutes.

The process

This recipe was another very simple one. No funny amounts or weird instructions here. Just straightforward dry ingredient / wet ingredient, combine, and go.

The batter was quite liquid. It made one dozen good-sized muffins. I could have stretched it to maybe 16 smaller muffins, had I been so inclined.

A word about the sugar & cinnamon topping: 1/4 cup of sugar makes way too much topping. I put a generous 1/2 teaspoon on each muffin and have loads left over. I’ll just pop it in an empty spice jar and use it for something else, but keep in mind that you will not need nearly as much topping as the recipe calls for.

I didn’t add any nuts; I have a new baby girl in my dayhome now, and her mom hasn’t introduced her to nuts yet. If I were to put nuts in this recipe, I think I’d chop them up fine and use them as topping with the cinnamon sugar rather than folding them into the batter.

The result

If anything smells better than sugar and cinnamon baking, I don’t know what it is. I would make these again for the smell alone.

The cinnamon-sugar topping adds a lovely sweetness and crunch. The muffin itself is surprisingly light given the whole wheat flour, and is moist with a nice banana flavour.

I quite like this one. It’s a good snack muffin, not as hearty & substantial some of the other banana muffins I’ve tried here, but very tasty and a lovely accompaniment to that cup of tea.

Next week: Laura’s Apple Muffins. I do not know who Laura was, but isn’t it fascinating to speculate? Also, Laura’s muffins call for shortening or margarine. Baker friends – will I be able to use butter instead?