Pioneer

No, I’m not dead. Yes, I’m back. I could list all the reasons why I haven’t updated in a couple of weeks, or I could just say that life happened, and life didn’t involve muffins. I’m going to do my level best to keep up with the schedule from here on in. I feel like I’ve let Dorothy down by slacking off. I don’t get the sense, from what I know of her, that she would ever have said she was too busy (or tired, or bored, or full of existential angst) for baking.

Anyway, I’m back on the horse. Here we go!

The recipe

Beat in large bowl

3 eggs

Add to eggs and mix well

1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups natural bran

1 cup grated carrots

1 cup applesauce OR mashed banana OR pureed fruit (Note: I used mashed bananas)

1 1/2 cups liquid – water OR milk OR apple juice (Note: I used milk)

Mix in medium bowl

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. powdered milk

Add dry ingredients all at once to wet ingredients, and mix well

Option # 1: Stir in 1/2 cup raisins (I didn’t because raisins, no thanks)

Option # 2: Add 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1 cup walnuts (Dorothy suggests this option only if you use applesauce for your fruit)

Bake at 375F for 20 – 25 minutes. Makes 23 muffins using 1/4 cup batter per muffin.

The process

Grating the carrots was as usual a messy icky task, but overall this was a pretty easy recipe thanks to my stand mixer. Side note: I love my stand mixer. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before just how much I love my stand mixer. It really does take a lot of the effort out of baking.

They were baked perfectly at the 20 minute mark, so check them – as always, your oven’s actual temperature will make a difference to the final cook time.

The result

They smelled SO GOOD while baking. My 7 year old insisted on taking several deep sniffs before bed. They rose just enough and are a pleasing molasses colour.

The first bite was almost disappointing, because my first thought was “oh damn, these are bland, AGAIN” but then I took another bite and before I knew it, the muffin was gone. The mouth feel is actually quite good, and I was surprised, because between the bran, whole wheat flour, and wheat germ, I figured these would be kind of grainy – but the texture is lighter than I expected.

I think the kids are going to enjoy these, and they are very healthy so hey kids! You’ll be having muffins in your lunch all week. Enjoy!

Next week

Another version of Carrot Pineapple. You’ll need a cup of finely-grated carrot and a cup of drained crushed pineapple.

Date

I’m committed to the process of muffin-making. I really am! But last week’s Date Sonja fiasco derailed me a little bit. The muffins took bloody ages, and yesterday I threw ten of them away, covered in mould, a dismal failure.

Turns out there is a kind of muffin my family won’t eat. Bran with stewed dates? That was it.

Because of the disheartening feeling I got from chucking out the muffins, I haven’t actually baked this week’s recipe as of yet. However, it’s only 8:30AM, and with any luck I’ll get to them later today. In the meantime, I know there are some of you who start your week with muffins, so here’s the recipe. It still has dates, but it looks a lot easier to put together.

If you’re doing this as a project with kids, rehydrate the dates ahead of time, as they need to be completely cooled before you can use them.

Enjoy!

The recipe

Combine in large bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water:

1 cup chopped dates

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup margarine or shortening

In small bowl, beat well

1 egg

Add to egg and mix well

1 small cup brown sugar (Note: I take this to mean that you don’t pack the sugar or worry about a level measure)

Add the egg & sugar to the cooled date mixture and stir until blended.

To this add & stir to moisten

1 cup bran

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup all-purpose flour

Bake at 375F for 15 – 20 minutes.

The process

Looks pretty simple, although chopping dates is a damn pain in the neck. Makes me wish I had a Slap-Chop.

The result

I’m so convinced that the result is going to be just as unappetizing as last week’s that I’m kind of hesitant to even make the effort. I will! But I am very skeptical.

I daresay if you were constipated, these would be a boon, however.

Next week

Honey Cornmeal! I’m excited to try these. You’ll need buttermilk or soured milk, honey, cornmeal, and raisins (I’m using dried cranberries because YUCK RAISINS).

Date Sonja

Today I baked first thing in the morning, which proved to be a smart decision; as the day progressed I started feeling more and more unwell, and suddenly while I was making supper my 13 month old wandered into the kitchen, asked to be picked up, and promptly vomited all over his father, the floor, the dishwasher, and the fridge.

Two of us are now sick and I suspect the other two kids might be brewing something. My middle son is moodier than usual and my eldest has been yawning since dinnertime.

At  least tomorrow if we’re convalescing we’ll have nice, non-contentious muffins to eat.

The recipe

Simmer over medium heat until thick (this is your date filling)

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice

***

Beat in large bowl until smooth

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. melted shortening

1 cup date filling

Add and stir to blend

1 1/2 cups bran

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

Add and stir until well-blended

1 cup sour milk or buttermilk

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and let stand for three minutes.

Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Makes 12 large muffins.

The process

This was by far the most complicated recipe yet. Chop the dates. Make the date filling. Sour the milk. Melt the shortening. It just seemed like an almighty fuss and bother for muffins, which are meant to be easy.

By the time I was done I had dirtied a lot of dishes, and the batter was runny and unappetizing. Also – did I mention – I hate dates?

The kids, however, asked to taste the dates and then promptly ate a couple handfuls each. Weirdos.

I was terribly afraid that a solid half-hour of effort was going to result in nasty, date-tasting muffins.

The result

You can’t even taste the dates, nor do you find pieces of them in the muffins. What you end up with is just a plain bran muffin – one with extra fibre, certainly, but a bran muffin just the same. Dorothy has given us easier bran muffins already, and so I very much doubt I will make this one again. It’s just not good enough to make it worth the extra effort.

Next week

Another date & bran muffin, although with a much easier method and fewer ingredients.

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.

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!