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Like the favourite kale smoothie I posted last year, favourite bran muffins might be felt by some to be a contradiction in terms. I’ve certainly had my share of disappointing bran muffins – ranging from the mediocre to the truly vile. Generally they have little or no fat, and try to make up for it by adding far too much sugar, which still doesn’t help the texture, often reminiscent of a mouthful of sweetened sawdust!

zest and juice oranges

whisk together dry ingredients and mix bran, zest and buttermilk

So how do these avoid all those bran muffin issues? Soaking the bran in buttermilk removes the sawdust texture, the prune puree adds moisture and reduces the amount of sugar you need to add (and I’ve already told you how much I love prunes!), and the butter adds tenderness. I make these two ways – with treacle and orange zest, or with molasses and ginger, this version tasting a bit like a really dark gingerbread. The prune and orange puree is lovely, but I’ve found it can be substituted readily with Powidl, the unsweetened Polish plum butter/jam. Powidl is readily available in delis or supermarkets with an international section.

fold wet and dry ingredients together

bran muffins

A further question might be: why even bother with bran muffins? Why not stick with chocolate, or orange, or blueberry? Well apart from the fact that these are actually delicious, the answer really is breakfast. While we’re certainly not short of cakes and biscuits around here, even I draw the line at eating them for breakfast (on a regular basis anyway). These muffins freeze beautifully and, for a grab-as-you-head-out-the-door-to-work breakfast, are hard to beat.

muffin crumb

Bran muffins

Adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

  • 90g wheat bran
  • 500ml buttermilk
  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 2 Tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1¼ tsp bicarb soda
  • ½ tsp flaky salt
  • 140g homemade prune puree (see below) or Powidl (Polish plum butter/jam)
  • 185g treacle or blackstrap molasses
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs orange zest* or grated fresh ginger

*if juicing oranges for the puree, zest all the oranges before juicing and use all the zest if you like. If not juicing oranges, just use the zest of one orange rather than buying three oranges purely to zest.

For muffins, warm the buttermilk slightly in the microwave, then combine in a bowl with the bran and zest. Put aside to soak.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a muffin tin with paper or silicon liners. Whisk together the flour, sugar, bicarb and salt.

Stir the puree, treacle, butter, and egg into the buttermilk and bran. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing just until the dry ingredients are fully combined.

Scoop batter into muffin tins, mounding it up as they won’t rise much. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through, until a tester comes out clean. Cool in the tins on a rack for a couple of minutes before removing to the rack to cool completely.

Makes 12

Prune puree

  • 250ml orange juice (from about 3 oranges if squeezing fresh)
  • 11/2 cups pitted prunes

For puree, combine prunes and juice in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, simmer for one minute, then cover and remove from heat. Leave for 30 minutes to cool and absorb the liquid, then puree till smooth with a stick blender or in a food processor. The remaining puree can be used on pancakes etc or frozen in 140g lots for future batches.

Makes 3 batches worth