Nubbly Bran Muffins with Golden Raisins and Cranberries

So I suppose I really should be posting about something indisputably festive today, like the jazzy, brandy-spiked pumpkin pie recipe from Tartine that we'll be devouring tomorrow. But well...I'm not. At least not yet. With so many drool-worthy blog posts out there all decked out in Thanksgiving finery, I feel like a total buzzkill sharing a recipe for bran muffins with you on Thanksgiving Eve. I mean, if you think about it, even the phrase bran muffins sounds a little like that sad little trumpet noise that sounds when something falls flat in a slapstick comedy scene. Wuhn-wuhhhhnnnn. Right?! But I assure you, dear readers, that this particular bran muffin recipe is anything but wan, and in fact it may be just the thing for the mornings surrounding Thanksgiving, when you need a little jolt of nutrition to help you prepare for, or recover from, the feeding frenzy.

These muffins made their way into my repertoire recently because I'd been on the hunt for something delicious and hearty and infinitely portable. Something that would indeed break the fast first thing in the morning with my beloved coffee, but not leave me too stuffed. And the reason I was searching for such a breakfast item is because I have officially gone off the deep end and am in the midst of training for my first half marathon which, if all goes as planned, I will be running the first week of February. This is all true. And in the spirit of giving, I should let you know that you may be getting more information about this in coming weeks than you really want.

Anyway, now that that completely insane proclamation has been made, let's get back to the muffins, shall we? It's no secret that bran muffins run the gamut of taste and texture. Which is to say that they can have a very bad taste and texture not unlike that of a corrugated cardboard box, and they can also be found with such a great taste and texture that surely they must contain very little of the healthful ingredient after which they are named, in addition to so much additional fat and sugar that you may as well just go for the cherry cheese Danish, for crying out loud.

This bran muffin recipe strikes a nice balance, more or less a metaphor for how I like to approach my diet in everyday life. Lots of good fiber in the form of bran cereal and whole wheat flour, and a fat gram count made quite moderate by a good amount of plain yogurt in the mix instead of just lots of oil or somesuch. On the other hand, there is a (relatively) small amount of white flour and butter in the batter that ensure good flavor and texture.

Add in a nice studding of cheery bits of golden raisins and dried cranberries that peek out like little jewels among the nubbly tops, and you've got yourself some morning fuel that's fit for preparing for any kind of marathon. Whether that marathon involves running or the sport of eating.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Nubbly Bran Muffins with Golden Raisins and Cranberries
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

Swap out the dried fruits for anything that you like--currants, dark raisins, dried cherries and apricots would all be good here. For the cereal, you want to get for Kellogg's All-Bran, and look for the "Original" variety that looks like twigs, not the bran buds. You can substitute lowfat or nonfat yogurt for the whole milk, though the muffins won't be quite as flavorful.

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 teaspoon water
2 1/4 cups All-Bran Original cereal
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
2/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalte butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups plain whole milk yogurt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or lightly grease the tin with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the raisins, cranberries and teaspoon of water in a small microwave-safe dish. Cover with plastic wrap and cut a steam vent in the plastic. Microwave on high for 45 seconds, and then let the bowl stand, covered, until the dried fruit is plump and softened, about 5 minutes. If necessary, blot off any extra water with a paper towel.

Process only half of the cereal in a food processor until very finely ground, about one minute, and set aside.

Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, and set these aside as well.

Whisk together the egg, egg yolk, brown sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until well-blended. Whisk in the melted butter to combine. Stir in the processed and unprocessed cereal, and let the mixture sit until the cereal is evenly moistened, about 5 minutes (it will be lumpy).

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold gently to blend--do not overmix. Fold in the raisins and cranberries. Scoop the batter into the prepared pan using a standard ice cream scoop, leaving the batter in rounded mounds (this will make for prettier muffins).

Bake until the muffins are deeply golden and a toothpick inserted into one of the center muffins comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes more before serving. Store completely cooled muffins at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days.

Quick BreadsShauna Sever