I’ve tried a million different bran muffin recipes over the years, most of which were really just cupcakes masquerading as health food. (Cupcakes are delicious, of course, but I don’t always want one for breakfast. Sometimes, but not always.) There was never enough nutty bran flavor, or too much oil, or too much sugar. So I’m happy to report that I’ve finally found a truly wholesome winner, via Boston’s Flour Bakery, with lots of wheat bran (each muffin boasts as much fiber as an apple) and just barely sweet.
Instead of oil or butter, the muffins get their richness from crème fraîche, cream that’s been cultured by natural lactic bacteria. It has a higher butterfat percentage than sour cream, but less tang; if you can’t find it, crema Mexicana (available at Latin markets) makes an excellent substitute. These tender muffins are best the day they’re made, but they also freeze very well for a week or two.
Proper Bran Muffins
adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang, 2010; makes 18 muffins
- 2 1/4 cups wheat bran (I like Bob’s Red Mill brand)
- 3 tablespoons flax meal (optional; substitute 1/4 cup wheat bran if omitting)
- 1 3/4 cup crème fraîche
- 1 1/4 cup milk
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons mild molasses
- 2 1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the bran, flax meal, milk, crème fraîche and eggs; let sit for half an hour to allow the bran to absorb the moisture. In a small bowl, cover the raisins with hot water and let rehydrate for half an hour.
Meanwhile, line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. When the bran is done resting, mix in the brown sugar and molasses. Drain the raisins and add to the bran mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined (the batter will be thick and fairly stiff) and spoon into the muffin tins, filling to the rim.
Bake for 35 minutes on a rack in the center of the oven. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.