I’ll admit it. I’m a bit weird when it comes to food cravings. This week I had a tremendous craving for two types of muffins, bran and morning glory. The former are dark and rich with molasses. The latter are typically lighter, filled with carrots, raisins, coconut and chopped nuts. Wanting both and having neither on hand, I decided to create Morning Glory Bran Muffins.
Although I glanced at quite a few bran muffin recipes, none struck me as the right base. What I did find – in a 1972 copy of James Beard’s American Cookery – was one excellent idea.
If you don’t know him, Beard is a foodie icon. After he died in the 1980’s his friends started a foundation that now gives out the James Beard Awards for excellence in the food, beverage and related industries.
Beard suggested soaking the bran in liquid for 10 minutes before adding it to other ingredients. That was definitely a good move. It helped keep the morning glory bran muffins moist, and allowed the bran to meld well with the flour.
Still, it’s amazing that I even got to that idea, given Beard’s attitude toward muffins. Consider that he includes only three muffin recipes in an 800+ page book on American food. Plus, he introduces those muffin recipes with this:
[M]uffins have been inordinately popular for years. I for one, have never been able to understand why. They must be eaten piping hot and are not very good when warmed over. An exception might be made for bran muffins, but then we could get along just as well without them, too.
As far as I’m concerned, Beard is dead wrong for three reasons.
- First of all, in my humble opinion, muffins freeze just fine and taste pretty darn good re-warmed.
- Secondly, muffins are an American institution. It’s practically unpatriotic not to like them. Did Beard hate Oreos and 4th of July fireworks too? In fact, quick bread muffins (using baking powder or baking soda for leavening rather than yeast) were invented in America.
- Finally, they are the perfect hand held breakfast food, especially if they contain healthy ingredients.
Anyway, I love these Morning Glory Bran Muffins and so did my family.
Before we get to the recipe, a word about wheat bran. It’s the outer layer of a wheat kernel and is high in dietary fiber. Wheat bran, which looks flaky, is often found in stores near where flour is sold. By contrast, wheat germ, the inside of the kernel, is typically found near cereals. I found coarse wheat bran (unprocessed, organic and non-GMO) at a store with a good supply of bulk and packaged grains. You can also buy it online.
The other ingredients are straightforward and readily available.
Morning Glory Bran Muffins
- 1 1/2 cups wheat bran 2 1/2 ounces
- 1 cup buttermilk, preferably full fat As an alternative to store-bought buttermilk make your own by stirring 3/4 cup plain yogurt together with 1/4 cup milk.
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose white flour 4 1/2 ounces
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 3/4 ounces
- 1/4-1/3 cup unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses I used 1/3 cup. For a less strong molasses flavor, use 1/4 cup.
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil I used canola
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots 1 1/2 ounces. About 1 large carrot.
- 1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut 1 3/4 ounces
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts and/or pecans 2 ounces
- 1/2 cup raisins 3 ounces. I used a combination of dark and yellow raisins.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Oil muffin tins or use liners.
- Combine wheat bran and buttermilk. Mix and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.
- Mix together the add-ins (carrot, coconut, nuts, and raisins) in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Mix together the molasses, oil, and egg. Add in the bran and buttermilk, combining until the ingredients are a uniform, dark mixture.
- Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones, just until they are barely combined.
- Gently mix the add-ins into the batter. Scoop out the batter by tablespoons full into the prepared muffin tins.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. If possible, put a rimmed cookie sheet under the muffin tin so the bottom of the muffins do not get too dark.
- Cool for 10-15 minutes in pans before removing muffins.