Saturday, January 10, 2015
Apple Bran Muffins
I'm not going to rant about the weather. I'm not going to rant about the weather. I'm not going to rant about the weather...too much. It's cold cold cold in New York right now, the kind of cold that hits you hard and burns your face and freezes your legs in the time it takes to walk from your front door to your car. It's rough. It's brutal. It's actually....not that bad? I bought a heavy parka (heavier than anyone in NYC needs, anyway) at the tail end of last winter and only got to use it a few times before the weather warmed up. When I saw how low the temperatures were going to get this week, I displayed the typical outward reaction of "UGH, NO," but secretly, I was very excited about getting the chance to wear my parka all week long. It's the puffiest, least-fashionable piece of clothing I own, but also the warmest. It's the only thing getting me through this week's bitter cold, but as crazy as it sounds, I actually like the cold (a little). I mean, you can't feel cozy unless it's cold outside, right?
Baking is one of my favorite things to do when it gets cold outside. It can easily take all day (if I'm feeling ambitious), and warms up the house at the same time. Cozying up to something that's been freshly baked and has perfumed the entire house is my idea of a morning, afternoon, and day well spent. Last weekend, my baked good of choice to cozy on up inside was a bran muffin. I absolutely love bran muffins. Don't know why, but they've always been one of my favorites, even as a little kid. Now I love them for their wholesome quality, depth of flavor, and wonderful texture. I like them when they're not too sweet and have just a hint of fruit. These apple bran muffins are my perfect bran muffins.
This recipe is from the famous Blue Sky Bakery in Brooklyn. I've been wanting to go try out some of their incredibly popular muffins, but like most of my foodie adventures, it's been put on the back burner. I just haven't gotten around to it, but I hope to get the chance soon. My list keeps growing and growing, and one of my goals this year is to make it shorter! Fortunately the recipe for these muffins is available online via Smitten Kitchen (thank goodness for Deb), and after trying out this homemade version, I'm really, really excited to try out the bran muffins at Blue Sky Bakery for myself (maybe when it's not so cold out though!).
These bran muffins come together quickly and effortlessly. Dry ingredients get whisked together in a bowl, and wet ingredients get mixed together in their own bowl. Originally, these muffins are made with wheat bran, but I somehow managed to actually have oat bran in my kitchen when my bran muffin craving kicked in. I liked the way the muffins turned out with the oat bran, so feel free to use either one. For the wet ingredients, you can go ahead and use any oil you like. I used olive oil, because I tend to like the subtle fruity flavor it lends to baked goods, but you can also use vegetable, sunflower, or any other neutral flavored oil. Once the dry and wet components have been whisked, they are gently stirred together, just until they're incorporated. Remember, over-mixing is bad when it comes to muffins, so don't fret if your batter looks a little lumpy. A little muffin batter is added to greased muffin tins, followed by diced fruit, a sprinkling of sugar, and more muffin batter. For the fruit, use whatever sounds delicious to you. Berries, raisins, cranberries, apples, the possibilities are endless. A sprinkling of sugar over the top of the muffins just before baking ensures that the muffins bake to a deep golden brown and develop a delicious, sweet crust on top.
Muffins can often end up tasting and looking a lot like cake, and while that's not necessarily a bad thing, these bran muffins are anything but cakey. They're heftier and definitely more breakfasty than they are cakey. I found the original recipe to be a little less sweet than I would have liked; I know they're not intended to be sweet, but I thought a little extra brown sugar wouldn't have hurt. I increased the brown sugar from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup and found the muffins to be perfectly perfect. Even with 1/4 cup of brown sugar though, the muffins are a wonderful breakfast treat and completely satisfying with a hot cup of tea on a cold winter afternoon. I look forward to making these again and again, with different fruit combinations. Enjoy!
Apple Bran Muffins
recipe adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 cup olive oil (or vegetable, sunflower)
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups oat bran
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup chopped apples
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick spray.
In a medium measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, oil, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. In a large bowl, whisk together the oat bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the wet mixture, mixing until just combined.
Scoop about 2 tablespoons of muffin batter into each greased muffin cup. Divide the fruit evenly among the muffin cups, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar. Spoon the remaining batter over the fruit, and sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the remaining granulated sugar.
Bake the muffins until they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 16-18 minutes. Let the muffins cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before removing the muffins from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!
Makes 12 muffins