The problem with so many bran muffins, and the reason why so many people don’t like them, is that they are often as dry as sawdust. Many is the time I have bought a bran muffin, thinking it would be the healthier choice, and ended up just throwing it away. Bran needs a lot of moisture to make it palatable, a fact which woefully escapes many commercial muffin-makers. Fortunately for me, I found a great recipe several years ago in my favourite basic reference cookbook, The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. With both buttermilk and applesauce to offset the bran, these muffins are anything but dry, and the deep flavour from brown sugar and molasses is wonderful.
I wanted to make something for the kids to have as a healthy snack at school, and the crisp fall weather had me thinking pumpkin muffins. But my daughter wasn’t a fan of the last pumpkin muffins I made, so I knew I had to shake things up a little. I wanted them to be healthful, but to feel like a treat to the kids. So I decided to take the basic bran muffin, swap pumpkin puree for the applesauce, reduce the sugar and sub in whole wheat for all-purpose flour. And then I tossed in a handful of mini chocolate chips, to lure my willful daughter into eating them.
The Results: From the mouths of babes: “yummy”! These little muffins got rave reviews yesterday morning, and both kids requested them this morning as school snacks. Score one for Mummy! My husband quite liked them as well, and devoured two of the larger ones after his morning run. I am told that the pumpkin flavour goes well with the bran, and that they are incredibly moist. And the little taste of chocolate doesn’t hurt either, I am sure.
I found that there was too much batter for my 24 cup mini-muffin tin, so I also managed to make 6 regular-sized muffins. Perfect for all your family members, large and small!
Mini Pumpkin Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I use buttermilk powder and water)
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 tbsp light molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375F and generously grease 24 mini-muffin tins and 6 regular muffin tins. Or use just the 12 larger muffin tins.
In a large bowl, stir buttermilk and bran together and let sit for 5-10 minutes. If you are using buttermilk powder, simply add 5 tbsp to the bran and then stir in 1 1/4 cups of water. Whisk in pumpkin, raisins, chocolate chips, brown sugar, egg, melted butter, molasses and vanilla.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Gently fold flour mixture into the bran mixture with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared tins, to just the top of each tin. Bake until tops are set and a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 14-18 minutes for mini-muffins, and 20-24 minutes for larger muffins.
Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool another 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 24 mini muffins plus 6 regular muffins, or 12 regular muffins.