Okay, I can feel you wrinkling up your nose, crossing your arms, shaking your head, and saying “I don’t want one” from here. However,  if you could smell them baking, I think there’d be a line forming down the front steps of Wildlands and onto the sidewalk. Yes, that good.

See, folks, there’s a local bakery (that shall remain nameless) who supplies a local coffee shop (two guesses) with some baked goods including low-fat bran muffins (three varieties).  I have been eating these muffins for several years now. Each time, halfway through, I put it back into the bag and chuck it in the passenger seat and think, “ugh. I wish they had more flavor.” Hours later, when I toss out the half-eaten muffin I’m impressed by its density and consider how it would be a decent baseball substitute.

I fantasize about opening a bakery and so, I’ve been working on my repertoire.  Tonight I tackled my nemesis—blueberry non-fat bran muffins. The recipe below is from America’s Test Kitchen’s The Best Light Recipe. I made a few tweaks to the recipe to include a portion of whole wheat flour, additional vanilla, some spices, and of course, blueberries. I used 1 cup of frozen, defrosted blueberries.

After munching on one, I declare—folks, we have a winner! It is moist with a warm rich flavor. The wheat bran retains its texture without being sticky or overly dense.  I suspect the yogurt and baking soda are responsible for the airiness.

Blueberry Low-fat Bran Muffins

280 calories; Fat 5 g;  Saturated fat 3.5 g, Chol 5o mg; Carb 50 g; Protein 6 g; Fiber 3 g; Sodium 270 mg.  Makes one dozen large muffins or 6 jumbo muffins. Nutritional information above is for a large muffin (from Best Light Recipe pg. 307).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with vegetable oil spray.

Step One: The Wet Batter

1 c. wheat bran
3/4 c. plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 c. whole milk
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) light molasses
1 tsp. vanilla

Stir the wheat bran, yogurt, milk, molasses, and vanilla together in a medium bowl until combined. Let the mixture stand for at least 10 minutes. By adding the wet ingredients to the wheat bran and allowing it to rest, the wheat bran is given the opportunity to re-hydrate. The result is a more moist [and palatable] muffin.

Step Two: Fat, Sugar, and Proteins

Cream the sugar with the butter on medium speed in a stand mixer for 3-5 minutes. Scrap down sides as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated.

4 TBSP. (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
3/4 c. (5.25 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs

Step 3: The Dry Goods

In a separate bowl, add these dry ingredients and whisk. Set aside.

1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

Step 4: Mixing and Baking

With the mixer speed on low, begin incorporating the wet and dry ingredients to the creamed butter/sugar/egg mixture. Alternate adding (in thirds) the dry and the wet, mix until just incorporated, scrapping down the sides after each addition. Do not overmix.

Gingerly fold in the blueberries with a spatula; place mixture into muffin pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes. Rotate the pan 1/2 way through the baking. Remove from oven when the tester comes out clear and allow to rest in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

A few notes on the recipe:

Quality ingredients are everything. This doesn’t mean expensive, but it does mean fresh and as unprocessed as possible. I purchased the wheat bran from the bulk bins at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop and the eggs were from my friend Neal’s chickens.

A few of my favorite things:

I purchased these lovely spice holders at IKEA the other day. I love their magnetic backs and tight seals. I also love how they spice up the kitchen decor [oh, I slay me].

My sister, E, gave me two of these measuring cups for Christmas. I love them.  Tired of getting sticky ingredients like honey or molasses out of measuring spoons or cups? Try these. They are awesome.

Last but not least, my new favorite baked good tin. I found this gem at an estate sale a few weeks ago and had to have it. It’s red, has daisies, and purple flowers— what’s not to love? As most of you know, I despise plastic containers and you’ll find less than a handful if you go rifling through the cupboards. I say air-tight, smar-tight. Blech. While tins don’t do their job quite as well as plastic, I’d say, bake something that won’t stay around long enough to need a plastic container. GRIN.

So, with the muffins nestled in the tin, I’m off to finish a skull cap for deliver in the east bay tomorrow. Sleep well. Dream better. JIG


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