Sunday, November 7, 2010

Muffin of the Week 11/7

I almost didn't make these muffins this morning. They sounded, quite frankly, a little weird and a little too healthy for today's self-indulgent foodie mood, but then I thought, "Well, I have all the ingredients on hand, and I do love a good bran muffin, and Mollie hasn't let me down yet, so why not?" Like the last two muffins I've posted, these are from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café, a lovely cookbook devoted to breakfast - and I do love breakfast.
Buttermilk Bran Muffins from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Café (p. 69)

This recipe makes 12-14 muffins, according to the book, but since I added some of the options (3 cups of bran flakes cereal, 1 cup of minced almonds, and 1 cup of dried apricots, cut into raisin-sized bits--actually about 2/3 cup dried apricots with raisins added to make 1 cup) I got 17 muffins. If you go to the book you'll notice it calls for unprocessed wheat bran rather than the oat bran so many recipes use. There is a difference and since Joe and I are both delighted with the texture of these, it's worth seeking out the wheat bran (usually available in the bulk bins at natural food stores). I used Trader Joe's Bran Flakes (not raisin bran as the recipe specifies), which are particularly good bran flakes without the icky stuff that so many cereals, even the allegedly healthy ones, contain. I also want to put in a plug for the organic brown sugar from Trader Joe's; it's moister and has a richer molasses flavor than what you'll get from C&H or other bigger or store brands.

Mollie writes, "After years of searching for a bran muffin I could truly adore and not just eat dutifully, I'm pleased to report that my quest has come to a happy conclusion in this recipe." I totally agree, and so does my live-in taste tester. Actually, Joe said "These may be as good as atomics, maybe even better."

Atomic Bran Muffins have been my go-to bran muffin recipe for years, since I first tasted them at the Northcoast Co-op in Arcata, California. The Co-op published the recipe, but I had encountered it before, and I really don't know where it originated. My friend Linda back in Idaho contributed it to a church cookbook under the name "6-week Bran Muffins" (not sure about 6 weeks!) and I've seen it elsewhere under other names, so I guess I'm not violating any copyright regulations by publishing it here.

1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs (at room temperature)
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. oat bran (or use part oat and part wheat bran)
1 c. All-Bran cereal
1 c. wheat germ
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. raisins
1 c. chopped walnuts

In a large bowl, combine the boiling water, oil, and baking soda and let the mixture stand until it becomes lukewarm. Beat in the buttermilk, brown sugar, and eggs. In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the flours, oat bran, All-Bran, wheat germ, and salt. Add them to the liquid ingredients, stirring only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently add the raisins and walnuts. Before baking, let the batter stand in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. You may also keep this batter, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Spoon the batter into well-buttered [or sprayed] or paper-lined muffin cups and bake at 375 F. for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

When I make these, if I want them for breakfast, I mix up the batter the night before. Unfortunately, Mollie Katzen doesn't post the recipe for her Buttermilk Bran Muffins on her website ( and copyright considerations prevent me from posting it here, but the book should be easy to find, and the recipe is well worth trying. Her website is very nice, and she has posted many of her other recipes there.

Finally, as Richard Brautigan wrote, "the earth [is] beginning to cool off in the correct manner of eternity"; still in the 80s today and tomorrow but by Tuesday we'll be in the low 70s and, I hope, staying there or even getting cooler. So I've been pulling out sweaters and sweatshirts to wear on our morning walks. I got this sweatshirt more than 20 years ago at the Hallmark store in Arcata (it's a morning for Humboldt County nostalgia, I guess) and I've almost given it away several times but I just can't. Opposed as I am in general to bumper-sticker style rhetoric, this one does seem to say it all. Such a simple message. How come so many of us still don't get it? How have we let so many things get so out of hand? So here's my advice for today, directed as much toward myself as to anyone else.

Stay home sometimes. Make muffins and then enjoy one with a nice cup of tea. Look out the window and watch the seasons change. Read some poetry, or any book, for that matter. Be like Candide and just cultivate your garden, literal or metaphorical. Slow down. Use less. Save the world. We may need it later.

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