Chips n’ Bran

Another bran muffin – with chocolate chips this time. We’re busting loose!

This weekend we had an old-timey nor’easter; snow, ice pellets, and hurricane-force winds for two days. By some miracle, we didn’t lose our power. We were, however, trapped in the house. Apparently being storm-stayed turns me into a 1950s housewife; I baked, cooked, and cleaned without indulging in much complaining at all.

The muffins got made on Sunday morning, and I then spent the rest of Sunday shooing the kids away from them – so I think we’ll call that a success.

The recipe

Sift together in large bowl

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

5 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1 cup white sugar

Stir into flour mixture

1/3 cup chocolate or butterscotch chips (note: I used dark chocolate chips)

1 1/4 cups natural bran

Mix together in small bowl

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Add egg mixture to flour and stir to blend.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.

The process

Easy-peasy, this one was. Nothing to it. Batter went together in a snap. Unfortunately it tasted nasty to me… all I could get was the chemical baking powder taste, and I was worried that this one wouldn’t turn out. I got even more worried when I realized it was going to make 18 good-sized muffins – what if I ended up with a huge batch of muffins that no one would eat? But I forged ahead.

Because my oven doesn’t heat evenly anymore, I rotated the pans at the 10-minute mark. One of the muffins fell as I moved it – just completely collapsed in the middle – so be careful when you’re baking them.

The result

Better than the Old-Fashioned Bran, not nearly as good as the Honey Bran. In fact I started imagining the Honey Bran with added chocolate chips and that seemed like a really good idea. These are quite light – not surprising given all that baking powder – and the taste is fine, although I suspect without the chocolate chips they’d be pretty bland and boring. However, 1/3 cup of chocolate chips spread out over 18 muffins isn’t what I’d call an excessive amount of chocolate, and I’d guess they are reasonably high in fibre thanks to all the bran.

The kids loved them, Michael approved, and these are a good go-to recipe if you need a largish batch of something for the week’s lunches. A nice alternative to, say, a chocolate chip granola bar.

Next week

The recipe is called “Health Food”, which I find simultaneously alarming and hilarious. You will need two cups of granola and 1/3 cup of molasses. Ah yes – this recipe dates from a time when ‘granola’ was automatically super-healthy hippie-feed.

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Carrot Pineapple

Michael has been waiting for weeks for this one, because carrot-pineapple were his favourite muffins as a kid. There was a lot of excitement around the kitchen today as I mixed this one up.

Because I have learned my damn lesson, I doubled the batch – twelve muffins lasts about a day around here. I’ll provide the recipe as Dorothy presented it, and you’ll end up with 12 large muffins, no problem. Doubling the batch easily yielded 24 large muffins, and if I had more oven space and/or an extra muffin tin I probably could have stretched it to 30.

The recipe

Sift into bowl

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

Beat in small bowl, then add to flour and blend:

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup vegetable oil

Add and mix well:

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice

Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

The process

I don’t have a food processor, so the worst part of this recipe was grating the carrots – and even that wasn’t so bad. The rest was very straightforward and it went together easily, even if I did cringe at the amount of sugar. However, this is a pretty forgiving batter, I’m thinking, so cutting back on the sugar or maybe subbing in some whole wheat flour wouldn’t be a problem.

You could also substitute applesauce for the vegetable oil.

In the interests of testing out the recipe, I didn’t make any substitutions this time.

The result

First off, the batter was oh-my-god-licking-my-fingers DELICIOUS. Creamy, spicy, sweet… so good. The smell while they baked was fantastic, too – the kids kept coming into the kitchen to check the oven timer to see when they’d be done.

They rose more than any other muffins of Dorothy’s I’ve attempted; this may have been because I doubled everything, I’m not sure, but they got bigger than I was expecting.

They were perfectly done in 20 minutes and WOW, these are just really good muffins. A little carrot cake just for me. The tops had a pleasing crunch and the pineapple broke down during the baking, lending moisture and sweetness. The kids loved them… the baby ate one in three alarmingly large bites and then cried when I wouldn’t let him have a second one immediately.

I can promise you, these are well worth making – and will definitely be going in my permanent rotation here.

Next week – Chips ‘n Bran

By ‘chips’ Dorothy means either chocolate or butterscotch chips – you’ll need 1/3 cup of either, as well as bran and a crazy amount of baking powder.

 

Old Fashioned Bran

Another bran muffin!

I love bran muffins. Last week’s honey bran were so good that it almost seemed silly to even bother with a different bran muffin recipe, but why not, I say? And this one was fun – the recipe reads like one that Dorothy must have made many times from memory, and felt compelled to try and write down.

The recipe

Cream together

1/4 cup shortening (the size of an egg)

pinch salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

In a measuring cup, dissolve

1 small tsp baking soda into 1/2 cup soured milk

Add milk mixture to butter & sugar.

Add to mixture

1 cup cooking bran

Add to mixture

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

As a variation, you can add cooked dates with the flour.

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Makes 12 small muffins.

The process

I love this recipe because it uses one bowl. Just one! And you fling everything in and mix it by hand. Clean up was a breeze. For sheer ease of assembly, this reminds me of the Basic Muffins from week one. This took next to no time to throw together.

Next time I would double the recipe, though. In this house, 12 muffins don’t go very far at the best of times, and these are quite small.

I would also try adding different types of fruit – I bought a bunch of dried cranberries on a two-for-one sale this weekend, and they would be a lovely addition to this very simple recipe.

The result

These are very basic, utilitarian muffins. Perhaps a trifle dry – these would benefit from a little smear of butter or even peanut butter for a protein hit. If you don’t like bran muffins, steer clear; they taste like bran and have the slightly grainy texture I think of when I remember healthy bran muffins from my childhood.

As cheesy perhaps as this sounds, these are retro. No fuss, no muss, will not set the world on fire, but easy, healthy, and tasty.

Next week

Carrot pineapple! Michael’s favourite kind of muffin. You will need carrots and a can of crushed pineapple.

Honey Bran

Sunday has become ‘cook day’ around here – with extra-curricular activities starting for my older boys on Mondays AND Tuesdays by 6PM and us not off work until 5:30, pre-prep is key to family harmony (and not eating grilled cheese sandwiches for supper). Between Michael and I we made a batch of spaghetti sauce, a shepherd’s pie, and a crab quiche. I also did a squillion loads of laundry, policed the boys while they cleaned their room, and took the family to the local wave pool for an hour.

Needless to say, by the time the lunches were packed, all the pots & pans were washed, and the dishwasher had been loaded & unloaded for the third time, I just couldn’t imagine making yet another kitchen-related mess.

So! I’ve baked the muffins, and I’m getting the recipe up on time, but I won’t have a review of the results until this afternoon. That said, they smell really good, look quite nice, and had a let’s-have-some-more batter, so I’m thinking we’re good.

The recipe

1 cup buttermilk or soured milk

1 cup natural bran

Soak the bran in the milk.

Cream together

1/3 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup brown sugar

Beat into butter mixture

2 tbsp. honey

1 egg

Add bran mixture and stir to combine.

Sift into wet ingredients & stir until moist:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Bake at 375F for 15 – 20 minutes. Makes 12.

The process

Another straightforward recipe, resulting in a fluffy batter with lots of air pockets – I did let it rest for a couple of minutes after all the ingredients were combined, and noticed that the leavening agents were reacting to create that puffy texture. So that’s going to be standard practice from here on in. (Related: I don’t recall my junior high home ec teacher pointing that out, nor have I ever read it in a cookbook – this all comes from one remark I happened to catch on a Jamie Oliver Christmas special while he made waffles. Brilliant tip, so simple, and it brings better results.)

The muffins were still wet in the middle at 15 minutes, so I let them go the full 20.

The result

See above. They certainly made a very tasty batter, and honey bran is one of my favourites, so I’m very much looking forward to my afternoon tea break.

Besides, no raisins! I’m ecstatic.

UPDATE: These muffins are SO GOOD. The brown sugar gave the exterior a slight, sweet crunch, the inside texture was silky-smooth, and man oh man, fabulous. These are definitely going in the regular rotation.

Next week

Old-Fashioned Bran. You’ll need yet more bran (I actually have to buy more. I don’t think I’ve ever used up an entire box of bran before it lost quality before.) Also shortening.

I myself will also need to buy more muffin cup liners – I bought 200 (!!) during a buy-one-get-one sale, thinking they would last me a long time. I can almost not believe that I’ve baked 200 muffins in four months. Ye gods.

Chunky Bran

All day yesterday I was putting off baking these muffins.

They just didn’t sound appealing. I like bran muffins, but as we’ve discussed, “chunky” is not an adjective I like applied to my baked goods. And I dislike raisins.

And DATES!! I do not enjoy dates. Or ever have them on hand, so 7PM on Sunday was not the best time to realize I needed them.

And there were just weird instructions too, which made me kind of hesitant.

On Twitter I was ranting about dates, and raisins, and frankly whining a bit, when my lovely friend Nicole pointed out that really, I could make changes to the recipe and the world wouldn’t end.

SHOCK! SACRILEGE!! I CAN’T MESS WITH DOROTHY’S RECIPES!!!

Then common sense and a lack of certain ingredients prevailed, and I did alter the recipe. I’ll reproduce it here as written, and explain in “the process” where I made changes.

If anyone does bake these following the original instructions, please let us know in the comments how they turned out.

The recipe

Combine, set aside

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. baking soda

Stir together

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

Cream together

1/2 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup brown sugar

Add to butter / sugar mixture and beat in

1 egg

Add buttermilk & soda to egg mixture, then add and blend

1 tbsp. molasses

1 cup natural bran

Stir in flour mixture, then fold in

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup nuts

1/4 cup dates

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Makes 12.

The process

OK! Commence the changes!

First, I used soured milk instead of buttermilk – soured milk is just one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk; let it sit for a few minutes and voila! I was pretty nervous about putting in the baking soda, because we’ve all make soda / vinegar volcanoes for a science fair project at some point, right? It did bubble a bit but nothing crazy, so I put that  aside and moved on to the next step.

Creaming the butter & sugar was a flat-out joy in my new KitchenAid mixer (and no, I have not been compensated in any way for this post, sadly). I didn’t need to soften the butter first; I just broke it up a bit with my hands and the mixer took care of the rest. If you do a lot of baking, a heavy-duty stand mixer is worth the money. If you, like me, have been eyeing one for years and wondering if you really need to spend that much on a kitchen appliance – wonder no more. You do. You can thank me later.

A quick Google search convinced me that “natural bran” just means plain old bran flakes, as opposed to “All-Bran cereal” which is an ingredient in some of Dorothy’s other recipes. I’ve only ever used bran flakes anyway, because of cost, so that was an easy one.

I didn’t want to use dates, and as it turns out I’d used up all the raisins, too – so in the end I used 1/2 cup of frozen wild blueberries and 1/4 cup finely-chopped walnuts. Nicole suggested dried cranberries instead of raisins, which would also be delicious, especially when combined with the blueberries. They’d be safe for school lunches then, too, because you could leave out the nuts.

As bran muffins always do, it made a rather unappealing-looking batter. However, I forged ahead. Using 1/4 cup of batter per cup yielded 12 good-sized muffins.

The result

Confession time: I haven’t actually tasted these yet. I’m saving them for morning snack and once me and my test monkeys well-compensated focus group captive audience of preschoolers & toddlers have voted, I’ll let you know. Michael had one last night when they were still warm from the oven and commented that they didn’t need additional butter, thanks to the rather vast quantities baked right in. He also said that he “really enjoyed that muffin” – although both of us are being much more ascetic than usual now in a serious bid to finally lose some weight, so he may have been biased by the taste of buttery goodness.

I will say that they look very tasty, with the classic bran-muffin dark honey brown colour, and dark purple spots from the blueberries.

Next week

Honey Bran. You will need bran flakes, buttermilk or soured milk, and honey. I’m looking forward to those. No fruit! No chunks!

 

 

 

Chunky Apple

All yesterday evening, I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something. Chores? No, they were as done as they needed to be. Lunches packed? Yup. Kids to soccer on time? Done.

I finally shrugged it off and spent two hours texting back and forth with my youngest sister, only to have a Twitter friend point out that what I’d forgotten was muffins.

Oops.

Anyway, I think I’d forgotten them accidentally-on-purpose, because I was not looking forward to this recipe at all. It just didn’t sound very good from the recipe, and I wasn’t really motivated to try them.

However, I got back on track this morning, making them in my new KitchenAid stand mixer named Igor, which is like taking a bazooka to a knife fight but whatever, the wire whisk attachment for beating eggs makes me happy.

The recipe

Beat

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tbsp. cream (the recipe didn’t specify so I used 10% – blend or half-and-half)

Stir into oil mixture

1 1/2 cups peeled chopped apples

1/2 cup raisins

Sift into oil mixture and stir to blend

1 cup all-purpose OR whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat)

3/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Top with cinnamon-sugar.

375F for 20 minutes. Makes 10 muffins.

The process

Because I left this until this morning, and because I really needed something for dayhome snack, I ended up doing this one with an almost-5yo, an almost-3yo, and a 2.5yo helping me. They promptly got incredibly bored and fidgety while I peeled and chopped three medium-sized apples. The whole time I was peeling and chopping, I was thinking of last week’s Blender Apple recipe and wondering why in god’s name anyone would make a muffin with apple chunks when they could whiz their way to happiness in their blender.

Otherwise this was very straightforward. It made a tiny amount of insanely chunky batter. Like, scoops of it held their shape because it was half chunks. I ended up with more than enough batter for an even dozen muffins, too.

I baked these for the full twenty minutes… at least… because my oven is on another floor of the house and I’m pretty sure the timer was going off for a minute or two while I was trapped in the bathroom with a potty-training child.

The result

Because of the probable over-baking, these are very brown. They also didn’t get rise much at all, although given all the chunks this is hardly surprising.

I tasted one in the interests of science and I didn’t like it at all. The texture turned me off completely. It was granular (because of the whole wheat flour, no doubt); chunky (as advertised); with rather too-moist bits around the raisins. It was just… too much. This muffin was too much of everything, and I didn’t like it at all.

The kids, on the other hand, thought it was just fine. Apples! Raisins! IT’S A MUFFIN! And with the whole wheat this one is really pretty good for you, especially if you swapped the vegetable oil for canola or even applesauce.

I wouldn’t make this one again, but maybe it will work for you. If you make it with all-purpose flour, let me know in the comments what you think.

Blender Apple

Happy New Year!

Yes, this post is several days late. Both Michael and I were off work over Christmas and without all the extra-curricular activities and responsibilities of our normal, day-to-day lives, I promptly became a relaxed sloth who read several trashy novels and completely lost track of what day of the week it was.

It was nice.

But! Yesterday the dayhome reopened and I suddenly realized that I had not made muffins – my go-to snack solution for the kiddos. I spent half an hour painstakingly removing seeds from enough (discount) grapes to feed six kids – because today’s modern children are unfamiliar with the concept of fruit having seeds – and swearing that the minute they went to bed, I would get back on the muffin train.

The recipe

Sift in medium bowl

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix in blender

2/3 cup milk

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 medium red apples, cored, unpeeled

1/4 cup nuts

Add wet to dry. Sprinkle unbaked muffins with cinnamon-sugar.

375F, 30 minutes. Makes 14 muffins.

The process

Because I got caught with my pants down this week, the whole process was frustrating. I had to turn the whole wheat flour canister upside down and shake it to get the full half-cup. I kept getting the 1/2 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon measures mixed up (and I’m still not sure I didn’t put in double the baking soda by mistake). I had to send Michael to the store to buy milk. The only nuts I had available to use were peanuts.

I was very skeptical about the whole-apples-in-the-blender situation. I don’t have an apple corer, so I cut my apples in quarters, crossed my fingers, and threw them into the blender on the “mix” setting, which is one of the higher speeds. This part worked great – within a minute the apples and peelings were completely pulverized, the peanuts likewise, and the wet ingredients had pretty red flecks from the peelings. Clever! I like it!

Aside: This feels very much like the kind of recipe that comes with the instruction manual for a new appliance. Can’t you see the ad copy now? The Housewife’s Deluxe Super EZ Blender! Not just for drinks anymore!

I completely forgot the cinnamon-sugar, although given that these are meant to be healthy snacks for young children that’s probably not a bad thing.

Dorothy’s recipe said this makes 11 muffins, which is just wrong – I had enough batter to make 14 large muffins and one smallish one, and if I’d filled the muffin cups halfway instead of three-quarters I’d have had 16, easily.

All in all by the time these were in the oven I had very little faith that these would work out.

The result

These muffins rose a ridiculous amount, thus fueling my conviction that I put in too much baking soda. Other possibility: I saw on some cooking show over the break that recipes with baking soda / baking powder need to rest for a few minutes after mixing, to give them time to form the air bubbles that help the batter to rise. Because I couldn’t find the right size muffin cups at first, this batter did rest and maybe that’s why they rose so much. No idea, although I am going to try that trick again to see if it works.

Thirty minutes was way too long; at the 15 minute mark they were already risen and starting to develop a crust. At 20 minutes they were basically done; I left them in for a couple of minutes more to let them brown up a little. Bottom line – watch these carefully.

When finished, they tasted just fine, if a trifle bland. I like the blender method; you get the fruit & fibre content of whole apples without any chunks or tedious chopping. That’s pretty slick.

Turns out I just do not like the taste of peanuts in muffins. To me, it was too overpowering.

Michael liked these just fine, and the texture is nice. I think I’d make them again, leaving out the nuts but maybe adding another small apple, and bumping up the seasoning all around – more cinnamon would be nice, and maybe a touch of vanilla.

Next week: Chunky Apple

Ingredients you may not have on hand: 1 tbsp. cream, 1/2 cup raisins