Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Healthy Bran Muffins

First published Canberra Times 2nd February 2011.
For some reason, whenever I buy a muffin, no matter how good it is, I feel unsatisfied with both the quality and the flavour. I can’t help picking up on the faults and I feel compelled to say what I’m thinking. Mostly, it leaves me feeling that I could have made it better myself, which is pretty silly really, because the reason you buy a muffin is for the convenience of not having to make it yourself.  Whatever the case, this muffin obsession of mine has become a bit of a family joke, and I now feel slightly obligated to provide a regular supply of muffins in the pantry.
Photo by Steve Shanahan
These muffins are made with toasted bran and yoghurt, are lighter in texture and not as sweet as most muffins. They are a healthy alternative to the heavier Texas Muffins or cakes and make a virtuous snack for the kids. If your kids aren’t quite so virtuous and won’t eat anything that looks marginally healthy, you could smarten the muffins up by drizzling a tart lemon icing over them or sprinkling with a little cinnamon and vanilla sugar while still hot.
I used a 12-hole muffin tin, and this mixture made enough to fill 13 holes. When baking,, the muffin mixture doesn’t rise very high, so fill them almost to the top of each patty pan.
I have tried a number of variations with this recipe, including topping with a honey glaze, or a cream cheese icing, adding nuts to the mixture or spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, all of which work well with the bran flavours.
When cooled, wrap each muffin individually in plastic wrap and freeze. They will then be ready to stick in a school lunch box and thawed nicely in time for morning tea.
These muffins were adapted from the book, Pastries from La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton.

2 cups wheat bran
1 cup, plus ½ cup sultanas
1 cup, plus ½ cup water
½ cup plain low fat yoghurt
zest of 1 orange
½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup wholemeal flour
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn bicarb soda
½ tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with patty cups.
Spread the wheat bran on an oven tray and toast in the oven for about six to eight minutes, stirring a few times to get an even colour. Let cool. While the bran is toasting, heat 1 cup of the sultanas with ½ cup of the water. Simmer for about ten minutes or until the water is absorbed. Puree the raisins in a food processor or blender until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bran, yoghurt, 1 cup of the water, then mix in the sultana puree, orange zest and brown sugar. Stir in the oil, egg and egg white and mix through.
Mix together the flours, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt and sift directly into the wet ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are just combined, then mix in the remaining ½ cup of sultanas.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, making sure the batter is filled almost to the top of each one.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the muffins feel set in the middle.