The Bistro’s Bran Muffins

Bran Muffins
Bran Muffins

I like making muffins and I like eating them!  I have a collection of favorite muffin recipes that I have gathered or created over the years. I tend to make several batches of muffins at a time, butter them, and freeze them so I have a  variety of them ready for weekday lunchbags.  Muffins are very easy to make, are healthy snack options, and most freeze very well.

Bran Muffin
Bran Muffin

For years, I had trouble getting bran muffins to rise into the nice dome-shape we expect to see in muffins.  I finally discovered that it wasn’t the recipes I had tried but rather was the oven temperature that was causing the muffins to stay flat.  Muffins, generally, need to bake at a relatively high temperature (i.e., 375°F – 425°F but, for bran muffins, I find that if I preheat the oven to 500°F first and then drop it back to 400°F the moment I place the muffins in the oven, they rise into the rounded dome shape instead of staying flat.  It seems the instant burst of really high heat when they initially go in the oven activates the leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda) more quickly causing the muffins to rise better.  Below is a photograph of what a perfectly domed muffin should look like.  I finally got it!

Here are some other muffin-making tips I have learned over the years:

  • Don’t use an electric mixer to mix muffin batter and do not overmix the batter.  Just stir the batter until the flour mixture is incorporated.  The batter will be lumpy – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  Overmixing will make a tough-textured muffin.
  • Ingredients should be at room temperature.  If the recipe calls for shortening or butter, it is best to have it at room temperature for creaming as opposed to softening it in the microwave which can sometimes, too quickly, turn the fat source (or part of it) into liquid which can change the consistency and texture of the muffins.
  • Each muffin cup, as well as the entire top surface of the muffin pan, should be greased or sprayed with a no-stick cooking spray.  Greasing the top of the muffin pan makes it easier to remove muffins if the batter has spread over the top edges of the individual muffin cups.
  • Use an ice cream scoop or small ladle to fill the muffin cups with the batter.
  • Do not overbake muffins.  Muffins are done when they spring back to a light finger touch or when a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Allow muffins to cool in the pan for 5-7 minutes, then carefully remove each one to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Removing the muffins too quickly from the pan may cause them to break apart before they have “set”.

Today, I am sharing my recipe for bran muffins with raisins and applesauce.  The applesauce would be my featured Island product in this recipe as it was made with apples I picked at Arlington Orchard in Arlington, PEI, west of the City of Summerside.  I make and freeze a lot of applesauce in the fall when the apples are fresh and plentiful.

Basket of Bran Muffins
Basket of Bran Muffins

The Bistro’s Bran Muffins


2 eggs
⅓ cup applesauce
1 cup sour milk*
¼ cup molasses
½ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp grated orange rind
1½ cups natural bran
¼ cup shortening, softened at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp allspice
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup raisins (optional)

(*To make one cup sour milk, place 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice in one-cup measuring cup.  Add enough milk to equal one cup.  Stir. Let stand 4-5 minutes before using.)


Assemble ingredients.

Grease muffin tins or spray with a no-stick cooking spray.  Be sure to grease or spray the entire top of the muffin pan as well.  Alternatively, line each muffin cup with a paper liner.

Preheat oven to 500°F (then drop it back to 400°F when muffins are placed in oven).

Break eggs into bowl.  Whisk lightly.

Add applesauce, sour milk, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange rind.  Whisk together well.

Add the bran.  Stir until completely incorporated.  Set aside for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.  Whisk to combine ingredients.

In separate bowl, cream shortening well.  It should almost be the consistency of thick cream when it has been well creamed.

Pour the wet bran mixture into the bowl and stir well to blend in the shortening.  Mixture will be lumpy.

Add wet bran mixture and raisins to the dry ingredients.  With a wooden spoon, gently stir mixture just until flour is incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Using an ice cream scoop or a small ladle, fill muffin tins to just about the top of the rim.

Reduce oven heat from 500°F to 400°F and place muffins in oven.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until muffins spring back to a light touch or a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  Let muffins cool in pan for 5-7 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield:  12 muffins

Serve with butter and/or your favorite jam or marmalade.

Coffeebreak time!

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Bran Muffins