May 29, 2011

Really Good Bran Muffins with Prune Jam

It's hard to believe that before I went to college, breakfast used to be my least favorite meal. (Dinner was my favorite, specifically if it consisted of spaghetti bolognese.)  It's not that breakfast in college was so stellar, but when I moved off campus junior year, I started cooking for myself much more.  I also started reading food blogs and, soon, a whole new world of breakfast possibilities existed.

One thing I love to eat for breakfast is muffins.  I love muffins with coffee; I love them toasted with a smear of butter or coconut oil, and I even love them crumbled over yogurt or oatmeal (muffin-top oats, literally).  They're also one of my favorite things to bake.  (I've got tons of recipes here on the blog).

I think my most beloved (really trying not to say favorite again...) muffin would have to be the bran muffin, and that's not at all due to it's guise of healthfulness.  Don't get me wrong, some bran muffins are actually healthy (these, for example, are pretty virtuous), but most bakery varieties are LOADED with sugar to make up for the "blandness" of the bran.  Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I love the hearty texture and deep yet subtle wheat-y sweetness of a good bran muffin; when done right, they're really the bomb.

This particular bran muffins recipe is definitely done right.  It's from Good to the Grain, which I previously reviewed.  If you remember in my review, I was sadly unable to provide recipes from the book, but this time, I did some internet sleuthing and found the reprinted recipe online in The Washington Post.  So this time, you're in luck!  Enjoy these muffins lightly toasted, with smear of good quality salted butter and some of the remaining prune jam-- you'll have yourself the makings of a "favorite" breakfast, trust me.

Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

When the batter is ready, fill alternate wells in the muffin tin so each muffin has room to spread out and bake evenly. When greasing the pans, make sure you grease outside the rim of each muffin well so the muffin top does not stick. [As usual, I didn't see this notation til it was too late so my muffins came out less-than-rounded on top-- doesn't take away from their deliciousness though!]
Adapted from Good to the Grain, reprinted via The Washington Post

For the jam*:
3 large oranges
1 1/2 cups pitted prunes

For the muffins:
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
2 cups buttermilk or almond milk with a squeeze of lemon
1/2 cup whole spelt flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons muscavado or dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 large egg


Finely grate the zest of 1 orange to yield 1 tablespoon; reserve. Squeeze enough juice from the oranges through a sieve (to catch the pulp) to yield 1 cup.

Combine the juice and prunes in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for about 30 minutes, then use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the mixture until thick and smooth. The yield will be about 1 cup; 1/2 cup will be used for this recipe. Reserve the rest for another use.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a litte butter to grease 12 alternating muffin wells in the muffin pan or pans (see headnote).

Measure the wheat bran into a medium bowl. Warm the buttermilk or almond milk in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat setting; it will separate if overheated. Pour the milk over the bran, stirring to combine.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon adding any bits of grain or sugar that remain in the sifter.

Whisk together the molasses, melted butter, egg, the 1/2 cup of prune puree and the orange zest in another bowl, making sure the egg is well incorporated. Add the mixture to the milk-bran mixture, stirring, then add the resulting mixture to the flour mixture and mix well to form a batter.
Use an ice cream scoop to portion the batter evenly among the 12 prepared muffin wells. The batter should be slightly mounded. Bake for 30 to 34 minutes, rotating the pan(s) halfway through, until the muffin bottoms have darkened (twist a muffin out to check) and 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; that will help keep them from becoming soggy.

These muffins are best eaten when fully cooled. If baked in the evening for the next morning, cool completely, then cover with a clean dish towel.

*Only half of the prune puree is used in this recipe. The remaining puree can be refrigerated or frozen and used for a jam or for another batch of muffins. The muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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