April 10, 2006

Miniature = Cute

It's not my fault. I'm programmed to it - we all are. Miniature versions of things are just somehow more adorable. Even bran muffins. Especially bran muffins!

The secret to the amazingly light texture of these muffins is to soak the bran in buttermilk until it is fully hydrated. You can add the extras of your choice - walnuts, raisins, orange zest - but they're quite tasty plain, too. The recipe makes 12 regular sized muffins (not bakery-jumbo monsters) or 3 dozen miniatures - just a tad bigger than your average doughnut-hole, and much more satisfying! These are great for snacking, because I cannot leave a half-muffin to dry out, even if I don't want a whole one at any given time. This way, I'm snacking down on a whole (albeit tiny) muffin several times throughout the day.

Bran Muffins

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins
Total prep and cooking time: 40 minutes

1 1/4 cups wheat bran
1 scant cup buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly spritz a 12 cup muffin pan with canola oil.

In a medium bowl, mix together the wheat bran and buttermilk. Let stand for about 10 minutes or until it has thickened.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, blend together the brown sugar, apple sauce, canola oil, egg and molasses. Add the bran mixture and stir well. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and spices. Stir into the batter until just moistened - don't over-mix. Stir in the raisins (you can also use blueberries). Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Let stand for a couple of minutes in the pan, then turn out to finish cooling on a wire rack. When completely cool, you can freeze them individually on a tray, transfer to a zippered plastic bag, and use as needed. A frozen muffin tossed into a briefcase or knapsack thaws beautifully in time for a morning coffee break.

They freeze well, too. Put them in a single layer on a plate and freeze until hard - a couple of hours will do it - then bag them up and defrost as needed. I just toss a couple of them into a Tupperware container and put it in my briefcase - by the time I get to work, they're completely thawed out and fresh. For added deliciousness, about 10 seconds in the microwave and a smear of cream cheese make them almost fancy!

The usual fat-reducing technique of replacing some of the oil with unsweetened applesauce is employed here - I keep my applesauce in the freezer, too, and defrost in the microwave as needed.

I also make these with double-the-sugar, which brings it to a whopping 1/2 cup(!) They still are nowhere near as sweet as cupcakes, but if you're looking for a little hint of sweetness, that's the way to go. They are still frightfully healthy, I assure you.


Sara said...

so cute! i never use my mini muffin tin. it's a good idea, like you say, sometimes a whole muffin is just too much muffin!

kickpleat said...

i'm not a fan of huge bran muffins, but i could definitely do cute small ones!

Dawna said...

Sara, I know what you mean. Many commercial muffins are enormous! My mini tin often languishes at the bottom of the drawer, but when I do use it, I'm always so tickled at the result.

Kickpleat, these are just the right size - Two bites! They still will tide you over to your next meal, though.