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Between the holidays and my birthday last week, I’ve been eating so many sugary treats for the past two months that I finally burned out. Since I’m currently eyeing salads with the same longing I usually reserve for chocolate, I really couldn’t face cookie blogging last night, and decided to go with something more wholesome instead. I decided that what I really wanted was something with whole grains, dried fruit, and breakfast appeal, and settled on jazzing up my favorite bran muffin recipe with dried cherries.

The beauty of this recipe is that it has a wonderfully light and tender texture, unlike the usual leaden, splintery or greasy nature of most bran muffins. The recipe also makes a huge number of muffins that freeze beautifully, so I can have a ready supply of on-the-go healthy breakfasts, which is very handy during my periodic attempts to reform my breakfast-skipping instincts. The original recipe called for figs, but I substituted dates very early on and found that I really preferred their moistness and the way they combine with the honey to give the muffins an earthy sweetness. You can use any dried fruit you like, although I’m a much bigger fan of cherries than of raisins, and I liked the way their sharpness contrasted with the dates. Next time, I might even try cranberries.

These are healthy, but not masochistically healthy. A nice change of pace.

Cherry-Date Bran Muffins
Makes approximately 30

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups wheat bran
1/2 cup pitted, chopped dates
1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 30 muffin cups with muffin papers.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl to blend. Combine bran, dates and cherries in another bowl, mix in 1 cup boiling water, and leave to stand while preparing the batter.

Beat the butter in a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the honey, then the eggs, one at a time. Beat in the buttermilk and flour in alternating additions, three of each. Fold in the bran mixture.

Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups, filling halfway. Bake muffins 20 minutes, or until firm and springy to the touch or a tester comes out clean. Turn muffins out onto racks and cool.

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