I got a bit of an unpleasant surprise while reading cereal box ingredient lists at the store the other day.
Let me back-track for just a moment or two, though. For years upon years upon years, drawing close to a decade and a half, I’ve been making a particular bran muffin. More of a Bran-ish muffin really… Why Bran-ish? Because it doesn’t fit in the normal bran muffin box.
It’s lighter both in color and gut-bombability than the average bran muffin, gently sweet and über-easy. In fact, it’s simpler and more convenient than just about any other muffin in existence (aside from the ones you buy). No cutting in of fats, no measuring ingredients with bleary eyes and un-caffeinated hands in the morning, no hungry children curled around your feet moaning while you try to rustle up breakfast*. Mix your wet ingredients, mix your dry ingredients, mix them together and stash in the refrigerator for up to six weeks. No joke.
*This recipe does not come with a guarantee that your children will wait patiently for the muffins. Mine don’t. I guess I should’ve just left that out. I got carried away. Please forgive me.
You may have encountered a version of this recipe before on the cereal box of a major breakfast cold-cereal manufacturer. It’s been around for what seems like eons. But this is where my unpleasant surprise popped into play.
I grabbed a box of my normal All-Bran and perused the ingredient list. High fructose corn syrup. Ack. It’s presence had escaped my notice previously, but once I know it’s there, I don’t buy*. I checked the store brand version. HFCS. I checked plain old bran flakes from all possible manufacturers. HFCS. Double Ack.
I decided to play around with other cereals… Fiber One didn’t have HFCS nor did the store brand version of Fiber One. I opted for the store brand. Before you balk, Wegman’s (cue heavenly chorus singing the attributes of Wegman’s) store brands are almost always as good as or better than major manufacturer’s products.
*I am aware that educated people disagree on the matter of whether High Fructose Corn Syrup is a health hazard. Good people can disagree. I have read a great many research studies on the subject and decided that there is enough uncertainty to make me feel better eliminating as much of it from my family’s diet as possible.
I came home, mixed up my muffin batter and commenced griping my story to The Evil Genius. He grabbed the box and said, “HFCS! Ha, just kidding. But really? There’s aspartame in here.”
Aspartame in cereal? Seriously, Wegman’s? EW. Leaving aside any health concerns that are presented by aspartame, let’s just talk taste. It tastes chemically sweet. And not in a good way.
The muffin batter had already been mixed up, though, and I don’t waste, so we started baking anyway and hoped for the best. In a result that shocked no one, they were grossly and strangely sweet. The thing I found curious was how the high-fiber cereal didn’t break down at all after sitting in the refrigerator overnight or after baking. When the muffins were pulled open, they looked like I had made the batter with dried cat food pieces. They were unappetizing, to say the least. I know when I’m licked.
I decided that there were two options; find another all bran (small caps, not ™, thankyouverymuch) cereal or give up on these muffins. My little local grocery store did not have anything I wanted to use but unsurprisingly, Amazon had an option; an HFCS/aspartame-free real bran cereal. I took a leap of faith and ordered a package of six boxes. And happy days, the cereal worked perfectly in the muffins. No more cat-food, sickly-sweet aspartame muffins for us!
Why go to all the trouble for this muffin? Well, if the convenience of having it ready to bake off in mere moments doesn’t convince you, maybe the flexibility will. You can bake them plain, as is, with the batter straight from the refrigerator, or you can gussy them up a bit. Stir in frozen blueberries, raspberries, other berries or fruits, sprinkle with raw sugar or leave unadorned. Any way you choose, they’re the simple, perfect solution to a hot breakfast or afternoon snack.
Six Week Bran Cereal Muffins
Click here and scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe!
Gently adapted from the Kellogg’s All-Bran Muffins recipe
Yield: About 54 Plain Bran Muffins, or more than 60 Bran and Fruit Muffins or Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins
- 5 1/3 cups all-natural bran cereal (I recommend Nature’s Path Organic Smart Bran)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup wheat germ
- 2 1/4 cups raw sugar (can substitute white granulated sugar if necessary)
- 5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 4 cups buttermilk (You’re culturing your own right? No? Try this dead-simple method.)
- 1 cup neutral oil (like canola or vegetable oil)
- 4 large eggs, beaten
Optional additional ingredients for baking:
- frozen berries, small pieces of frozen stone fruits such as peaches or plums, or small diced apples or pears
- chocolate chips
- raw sugar for the muffin tops (You can use granulated white sugar if necessary.)
To prepare muffin mix:
In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until evenly moist. Scrape the muffin mix into a large container (of about 1 gallon capacity or larger) with a tight fitting lid.
Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before using. Label the container with the date the batter was mixed.
You can store and use the batter for up to 6 weeks.
To bake Plain Bran Muffins:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line muffin tins with paper sleeves or spray the muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray. Fill the prepared muffin wells 2/3 full. If desired, sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.
Bake for 15-20 minutes for standard sized muffins or 10-12 minutes for mini-muffins. Muffins are done when a straw, skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow muffins to rest in the tins for 5 minutes then gently turn out onto a cooling rack.
To bake Bran and Fruit Muffins or Chocolate Chip Bran Muffins:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line muffin tins with paper sleeves or spray the muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray.
Scoop the desired amount of muffin batter into a bowl and gently fold in your chosen fruit or chocolate chips.
Fill the prepared muffin wells 2/3 full. If desired, sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.
Bake for 15-20 minutes for standard sized muffins or 10-12 minutes for mini-muffins. Muffins are done when a straw, skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean. There may be some fruit juice on the skewer, but there shouldn’t be any sticky batter.
Allow muffins to rest in the tins for 5 minutes then gently turn out onto a cooling rack or towel.
The post above is taken from Rebecca Lindamood’s blog archives. For her most recent recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures, visit FoodieWithFamily.com. Rebecca also writes a monthly column in the Record-Eagle’s Food section.