We’ve had enough days of cold and snow to bring out a desire for some big bran muffins full of walnuts and raisins. Of course I already have a pretty perfect Buttermilk Bran Muffin recipe, just not all of its ingredients. So I just started throwing items in as substitutes, without doing the kinds of searches for correct substitutes that I might usually do.
- I had almost 1 1/3 cups of whole wheat flour, but needed 2 cups, so I filled the missing flour with all-purpose flour
- The wheat bran looked to be about 1 cup, but I needed 2 cups. Whatever, I just threw in what I had and moved on
- I didn’t have any molasses, so necessary to the typical bran muffin flavor, so I used some dark brown sugar in the same amount
- I didn’t have any buttermilk, but I had about 1 1/2 cups of sour cream, so I threw that in, plus one container of no-sugar-added vanilla Greek yogurt to make up the 2 cups or so
- I added a full cup of chopped walnuts instead of the 1/2 cup in the original and lots of raisins, probably more than the 1/2 cup called for
- Instead of filling the muffin cups to the usual 2/3 full, I scooped in the thick batter so that it towered over the tops like scoops of ice cream in a cone
I wondered if any of these substitutions would adversely affect the texture or flavor of the final bread, but they turned out very good. Lighter in color and sweeter than I expected, these alternative bran muffins fulfilled my desire for a hefty and flavorful winter muffin. Follow the link above for the original recipe and experiment with your own substitutions.
A high, rustic muffin
Imagine this with lots of butter
I love a raisin filled cookie, but am not crazy about the process of rolling out and cutting the dough in circles and carefully filling them. I didn’t see why I couldn’t make them as a filled bar, kind of like a date nut bar, but without oatmeal. Instead I wanted a biscuit that was thin, not quite like the soft cookie of a Fig Newton, but thinner and crispier. So, I adapted two recipes:
My instructions, below, vary from the ones in the original recipes.
Filling dry ingredients
Cooked filling spread over dough
Scoring on top dough layer
Raisin Filled Biscuit Bars
Preheat oven to 350°; place parchment paper on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan or a cookie sheet.
- 1 2/3 cups raisins
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Optional: 1/3 cup walnuts (next time I would add these)
- 1/2 cup water
- Add raisins, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and walnuts if using to bowl of food processor. Pulse until the raisins are chopped finely, but not into a paste.
- Pour all into a saucepan and stir in water. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until thick. Cool in refrigerator while making cookie dough
Biscuit (Cookie) Dough
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons cold butter
- 4 tablespoons ice water
- In bowl of food processor pulse all ingredients, except water, with the dough blade until the mixture is crumbly, but you can still see small chunks of butter.
- With the processor running, pour in enough water to bring the dough together. I used all 4 tablespoons of water. You want a soft, pliable, but not sticky dough.
- Divide the dough into two halves. Roll each half into a thin sheet 9″ x 13″.
- Place one sheet of dough on parchment lined pan.
- Spread cooled filling over dough. You don’t need a lot of filling, just a thin layer.
- Cover filling with second sheet of dough.
- Score top layer of dough lightly to indicate where to cut cookies. Sprinkle dough with decorator’s sugar.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until browned and crisp. While in pan, use a sharp-edged spatula to cut straight down from scoring marks to cut into bars. Remove bars to cooling rack.
I didn’t add nuts this time, but I think I would next time for a more complex flavor, and I don’t see why you couldn’t use white sugar or some other sweetener in the filling. You could also put an egg wash over the top layer of dough before sprinkling on sugar if you’re looking for more glamour.
These will satisfy my recent desire for cookies that I shouldn’t eat. One scone for breakfast will do nicely, and isn’t a scone really a breakfast cookie, anyway? Rather than adding oatmeal to a scone recipe I already have, I went searching for one that I could modify and found these candidates:
Annie’s Eats: Oatmeal Raisin Scones
Three Many Cooks: Oatmeal-Cinnamon-Raisin Scones
Martha Stewart: Raisin and Oat Scones
What do you do when you have multiple recipes to take from? I make a table in a word processing document, like this:
The table lets me compare ingredients to see what items are common and where there are interesting differences. For example, two of these use eggs and two use buttermilk—not the same two for both. One uses the sour cream that I intend to use, and two of them use a whole stick of butter, something else that appeals to me. I like the idea of the brown sugar in Martha Stewart’s recipe, but I’m leaning toward using all whole wheat flour, like in Annie’s recipe. You’ll notice that I leave out the typical soda, salt, etc., and just note that at the bottom so I won’t forget to add it.
When I’m ready to bake, I circle the ingredients I intend to use and write in all the leavening/seasoning amounts. Here are today’s results:
Wet and dry ingredients
Finished thick dough
Whole Grain Oatmeal Raisin Scones
Preheat oven to 400°; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup whole grain rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sour cream
1 stick butter, melted
- Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. I like to mix the raisins in with the dry ingredients to coat them and keep them separate in the final dough.
- In a smaller bowl, whisk the sour cream and egg until fluffy. Whisk in the melted butter, whisking constantly so the egg doesn’t cook.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a large wooden spoon. The dough is stiff, but with all the butter, it holds together well.
- Form into 8 balls of about 1/3 cup each—Martha Stewart was right about that measurement. Place the balls on the baking sheet and slightly flatten. They will still rise in the baking to a round shape. I think the dough could stand up to forming into a large circle and cutting into traditional triangle shapes, but I like the big round rough shape of these.
- Bake for about 15 minutes. Cool on rack. Wrap tightly when cool. I wrap mine individually for freezing, and then thaw one per day.
The house is full of the smells of cinnamon and raisins, so it will be hard to wait for breakfast.
I suppose you’ve seen the Molasses Ginger cookies featured on my home page, and maybe I’ve said that oatmeal-raisin are my all-time favorite cookie, so it should come as no surprise that bran muffins with molasses and raisins are my favorite muffin. I’m just making six large muffins, instead of a dozen small ones—or as the recipe suggests twenty-two 2″ muffins. This recipe from my old Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 581) uses buttermilk, helping these hefty muffins retain some tenderness. I’m also adding some chopped walnuts with the raisins for a little crunch.
I would not call these a dessert muffin
I wouldn’t serve these on a dessert plate with a cup of tea. I think of them as more of a slightly-sweet bread to eat for lunch with lots of butter and cream cheese and a big mug of coffee. They are not for the faint of heart.
The amount of batter the recipe makes is odd—maybe the muffin pans were different in 1967. It filled my jumbo muffin pan with enough left over for a small loaf pan. I couldn’t find my little individual loaf pans, after rearranging the cupboards recently, so I ended up filling a small 7 3/8″ x 3 5/8″ loaf pan about half full.
Makes a shaggy batter
Rose just enough in baking
Buttermilk Bran Muffins
The recipe offered two optional ingredients that I did not have on hand, but that I think would add very nice flavor and moisture: orange zest and mashed banana. I’m particularly interested in adding the orange next time.
Buttermilk Bran Muffins
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a muffin tin or use paper liners.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups wheat bran (I used Bob’s Red Mill miller’s wheat bran)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (the recipe said 1/4 teaspoon)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- Optional: 1-2 tablespoons grated orange rind)
- 2 cups buttermilk (I used whole buttermilk)
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 4 tablespoons melted butter (the recipe said 2-4)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Optional: 1/2 cup mashed bananas
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients separately; then mix them together until most of the dry ingredients are moist.
- Fold in the nuts and raisins, mixing until all is combined. I did all my mixing with a large wooden spoon instead of a mixer, as muffin batters produce a better crumb if not overmixed. A muffin should be coarse in grain, instead of soft and fine like a cake—but clearly there are different kinds of muffins for different purposes.
- Spoon the heavy batter into greased tins 3/4 full and bake for about 25 minutes.