Ever since I started dating Phil he spoke fondly about a bran muffin that he enjoyed on a regular basis at Hans’ Danish Bakery in Berkeley (it closed years ago), during his grad student, “hippie days.”  At that time (while living in Brazil and not quite a teenager) I watched the hippie movement from afar, too young to embrace or fully understand it.  Never in a gazzilion years could I imagine that one of those long-haired, tie-dyed,  war-protesting, head-banded hippies would become my husband.   We didn’t meet until decades later, but the passion for peace and love,  tie-dyes, and hippie ideals are still in-force around our home, and that includes a fondness for  bran muffins!   No sense quitting what makes us happy. 😉

Nevertheless, my attempts to recreate the famous bran muffin from Berkeley were stuck on a road paved with failure and frustration, until this past weekend my luck began to change. I went to Dan Lepard’s collection of recipes at The Guardian in search of his take on the elusive bran muffin, and adapted his recipe to suit my favorite hippie’s finicky taste.

(adapted from Dan Lepard’s original recipe)

75g wheat bran
100g dark brown sugar
200ml milk (3/4 cup)
1 Tbs molasses
zest of 1 orange
150ml vegetable oil (1/2 + 1/8 cup)
2 large eggs
200g all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
75g sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup dried raisins and dried blueberries
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Heat the oven to 400F (200C)  and line the cups of 6 large muffin tins with paper.

Place the wheat bran and the brown sugar in a mixing bowl.  Bring the milk almost to a boiling point, and pour it over the bran. Mix to incorporate, and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.  Beat in the molasses, orange zest, oil and eggs until very smooth.

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt, then gently mix this through the bran mixture trying not to over-mix.  Fold in the blueberries, raisins, dried blueberries, and walnuts.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, and bake for about half an hour, until they get a dark brown color on top and feel firm to the touch.  Tip the muffins slightly off the pan to cool them without steaming the bottom.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Because some people find them too dense or dry, almost austere, bran muffins are not everyone’s favorite.  But, these muffins are different, starting with their nice texture, and finishing with a great balance of whole grain flavor and sweetness. I dare saying that they will please even a hard core anti-bran person.   They received a nod of approval from the resident muffin-connoisseur, who said the main difference between these and those in his memory was the orange flavor, which is pronounced in Dan’s recipe.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that… 😉  But my next batch will  omit the orange zest.

I already smell the fireworks…

ONE YEAR AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake (a chocolate lover’s dream come true)

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As far as baking is concerned, muffins are one of the easiest delicacies to make.  At least, that’s what I’m told… I still get nervous when following the only golden rule of muffins – minimize mixing, because I once wound up with some powdery flour dispersed in the crumb.   It was a disturbing experience.    But, in the name of bringing  sweetness to our lab meeting, I sucked it up and baked a batch.

(from Pam Anderson’s The Perfect Recipe)

3 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
10 Tbs butter, at room temperature
1 cup minus 1 Tbs sugar
2 large eggs
1 + 1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 + 1/2 cups fresh blueberries + 1 Tbs flour

Heat oven to 375 F.   Coat a 12-cup muffin tin (each muffin about 1/2 cup) with oil, or line it with paper cups.

In one bowl, mix all dried ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir to combine.

Beat the butter with the sugar and the lemon zest in an electric mixer in medium-high speed until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in half of the dry ingredients, then one third of the yogurt.  Beat half of the dried ingredients, alternating with the yogurt, until every thing is incorporated.  Do not overmix.  Add the tablespoon of flour to the blueberries, and fold them in the muffin batter.   Divide the batter among the muffin cups, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Set on a wire rack to cool, un-mold, and serve.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For reasons that escape me, I didn’t care for blueberries until a few years ago.  At home, the official pancake maker always had a  few blueberry-free flapjacks ready for me.  Suddenly, after a blueberry pie or other blueberry treat (I don’t exactly recall), I fell madly in love with them, and now indulge in every opportunity.  A  small bowl of blueberries topped with Greek-yogurt and a swirl of agave nectar is just dreamy, and perfect late in the evening while watching Law and Order (why, oh why did they can that show?).

Back to blueberries: these muffins are delicious indeed.   I still need to perfect the mixing, to make  them “light-as-a-feather,” but  I’m getting there.   The next batch might  be it!


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