When the holidays come around, like many people, I find myself riding waves of excess. Specifically, excesses of sugar and salt. I don’t find that I have this problem when I am chiefly eating things that I have made myself, even when those things are cookies and cakes. Eating lots of very sweet things – like leftover Halloween candy – makes me crave salt. An excess of salt, in turn, makes me turn to sugar. As much as I love sugar and salt, I also occasionally like to take a break. I’m also not the only one who, on occasion, looks for something heathy in the mornings.
Oat or wheat bran muffins are a food with so much potential that often fall far below expectations. At their worst, they are dense, coarse, dry and flavorless. Their “best” is often moist to the point of stickiness or sweetness approaching that of cupcakes. A bran muffin should be slightly sweet, hearty and reasonably nutritious. The name certainly implies some degree of health, after all.
My recipe this week comes from Greg Patent’s Baking in America, which I just love and don’t use nearly often enough. His Whole Wheat, Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins seemed to fit the bill of what I was looking for. Though they are not quite bran muffins, they have whole wheat flour, wheat bran, oats and a fair amount of dried fruit. They are also reasonably low in sugar and fat, making them a good choice for a weekday. Best of all, perhaps, is the fact that the batter can be held in the fridge for at least a week, so there is no need to bake off the full batch at once. Mr. Patent does note that the top of the batter may darken after a few days in the fridge, so be sure to give it a good stir before baking.
Overall, the batter came together very easily. The use of oil instead of butter meant that there was no need for creaming or melting anything. I used a mixture of dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries and golden raisins for the fruit. Using a 1/4 cup measure, I spooned the batter into paper-lined muffin tins and baked. The muffins smelled just like oatmeal raisin cookies coming out of the oven. Not really suprising given the oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon in them. The recipe calls for resting the batter before baking, so I tested unrested and rested. The rested batter produced a higher rise and domed tops, while the unrested batter resulted in flat (but equally tasty) muffins.
The muffins were very tender and not greasy at all. The dried fruit gave every bite some sweetness, as the muffin itself did not taste either sweet or unpleasantly unsweetened; it had a fantastic balance. I am sure that you could add in a few toasted nuts, if you’d like, or use some fresh fruit in addition to dried. These muffins are something that you could actually serve to company, not something that you’re only eating with the justification that it isn’t too bad for you. I’ll definatley be baking these again.
Whole Wheat, Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins
(from Baking in America)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins (or other dried fruits)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats, slightly chopped (or quick cooking oats)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup water
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a muffin tin, or line with baking cups.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, wheat bran, sugars, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in dried fruit and oats. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and water.
Add buttermilk mixture to oat mixture and stir until just combined. Let stand for 15-20 minutes. You may refrigerate the batter, covered, for about a week at this point.
Spoon batter into prepared tins by heaping 1/4 cups (about 1/3 cup).
Bake for 20 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed. Add 5 minutes baking time if batter is cold.
Makes 12 large muffins
JNovember 3, 2005
hi nic, looks scrumptious! keep picking up and putting down greg patent’s book in the bookshop – in your expert opinion, is it a worthhile buy?
NicNovember 3, 2005
Thanks, J. I was going for a bit of “mood lighting”. I do think that Greg Patent’s book is worth having. The recipes are very good. He covers just about every baking category and he puts some little twists on things, like a bit of unusual spice or some wheat germ, which I like.
AnonymousNovember 3, 2005
I’m going to have to check this book out.They look so delish.
bokbaksaNovember 3, 2005
It looks healthy, hearty and yummy. I had made oatmeal bran muffins but they are not nice.
Thank you for your fabulous baking.
KariNovember 3, 2005
i just recently found your blog, and i love all the pictures and the recipes. i want to start doing more baking…i’m thinking this site will be helpful! thank you!
NicNovember 5, 2005
Emily – They’re really the best I think I’ve ever had. The book is really a good one!
Bokbaksa – Thanks! you should really give these a try. I was impressed with the recipe.
Sami – Thanks for visiting. I hope I can be helpful to your baking. And of course, as someone who loves to bake, I always want to encourage people to bake!
AnaNovember 10, 2005
I wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog, and also that I made your muffins today and I loved it!!
I love muffins, especially the ones made with oatmeal and whole wheat flour/bran! These are perfect, they were not too sweet and were so moist, very delicious!! They are already among my favorites!
Thanks for sharing the recipe!
NicNovember 10, 2005
Hi Ana. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed them! They’re already among my favorites, too.
jeanetteFebruary 23, 2006
Wonderful muffin recipe and just what I wanted. I tweaked it a little more however by using 1/4 cup of Splenda and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.
And I replaced the 1/2 cup of oil with 1/2 cup of Becel margarine.
It worked beautifully and the taste is excellent.
HouskaApril 27, 2006
I read your blog ALL the time, and I have your bakingsheet index at the top of my “cooking” bookmarks. Thanks for the resource!
Really though, I just made these for a birthday brunch, and they were the most brilliant muffins I have ever, ever made. Even the Germans enjoyed them, and Germans think that muffins should be super double chocolate cake with twelve kinds of caramel and chips and who knows what else inside. EVERYone was impressed– and I had even tweaked it to make them vegan (soy milk, EG replacer).
I love how they are moist and seem rich, while still having a bit of chewy bite.
Thanks again! =o)
AnonymousJune 19, 2006
OH My Goodness! These muffins are awesome. I am going to try them with a little less oil and some applesauce for a lighter version. Great job Nic!
ShaniAugust 12, 2012
This is now my go-to recipe for morning power muffins. Delicious, healthy – even my fiance who is not into fruits or veggies loves them. We call them Muffins To Go, because they are perfect to grab when you’re running out the door and need breakfast on the run.