Monday, January 14, 2013

The Very Best Wheat Free Bran Muffins

I realize declaring these "the best" might not be enough to get you psyched to make them.  After all, when you ask folks what their favorite kind of muffin is (though if you're in a conversation that devolves into discussing muffin varieties, you've got bigger problems than bran.  Or you've taken a page out of my conversation skills handbook.  Sorry.), I imagine you'll usually hear "blueberry," "almond poppyseed," "chocolate chocolate chip," etc.  These are all fantastic, but to me, these varieties remind me that most muffins are really just frosting-less cupcakes that have been given a fancy new name to justify the eating of cake for breakfast.  First, if you want to eat cake for breakfast, have some frosting with it, will you?  I know I do.  But too, if you want to be able to say you had something reasonably healthy for breakfast, please have something that's actually reasonably healthy for breakfast.  Then you can enjoy the treats later because you truly want to, rather than as a desperate measure to drag your trampled on blood sugar out of the gutter.  Food is more fun when we eat from choice, rather than from compulsion.

But back to it.  Most people don't get their panties all in a bunch over bran muffins.  But I promise you, these ones are good.  Really, really good.  So good that both H and I eat at least three per day when they're in the house, which whenever I think about how much bran (and prunes, but we'll get to that later) we're eating, makes me hum this little clean as a whistle jingle under my breath.

I'll let you sit with that one.  Here's the recipe.

As ever, we begin with notes.

  • Though these are wheat free, they can't properly be called gluten free because I did not use certified gluten free oat bran.  Folks with Celiac disease must avoid even the tiniest trace of wheat, and because oats are often processed on the same machinery as wheat, conventional oat products are usually contaminated with wheat.  Thus, "wheat free" rather than "gluten free."  If you're going whole-hog, you can order Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Bran.  I don't react to conventional oats, so I use Trader Joe's brand, which in our store is by the (go figure) oats.
  • The original recipe calls for raisins, but because I'm 26 going on 84, I used prunes.  A secret about prunes: they're delicious, with or without the attempt at rebranding them "dried plums."  I always take some with me when I travel because I'm pretty sure they soak up all the cake and cocktails I consume while travelling.  Anyway, feel free to substitute raisins if that's what you have.
  • I always do these in the food processor, but if you like to live on the edge and want to use your blender, go for it.  Just don't blame me when you end up with eggy prune puree all over your kitchen walls (oh, you've learned to use your blender like a functional adult?  rub it in.)
  • Yes, you can absolutely make your own oat flour in your food processor or blender.  However, through personal experience, I have to recommend purchasing the (much more expensive, unfortunately) pre-ground oat flour.  It has a much better consistency than I am able to get on my own, and since you already have the grittiness of the bran, using a commercial finely ground oat flour is key for the right texture.  I use Bob's Red Mill.
  • Pineapple is a weird addition, I know, but trust me on this one.  If you have trust issues, use whatever the heck makes your little heart happy.  Raisins, dried cherries, walnuts, chopped dates, or nothing.
  • I haven't played yet with  making these vegan.  Gluten free baking loves its eggs; when we lose the structure and binding that gluten brings, we have to make that up in some way, and eggs are a big help.  However, if I were to make them vegan, I would likely leave out the egg (obviously), mix together 1/2 c. dairy free milk and 1 t. apple cider vinegar to substitute for the yogurt, and add 2 T. ground flax with the dry ingredients for extra binding.  I have every faith they'd turn out great this way.
  • I put the brown sugar as optional, because you really can get away with removing it and you'll still have a muffin that's yummy.  However, the sugar adds a surprising amount of flavor for the amount, so if you're making these for the first time or making them for someone else who is not a health foody, I'd use it.
The Very Best Wheat Free Bran Muffins
  • Makes 12
  • Adapted from the Martha.
Preheat your oven to 350° and grease a 12 cup muffin tin (For some unexplained reason, I like my cupcakes in liners and my muffins naked, but by all means, please yourself.)

Place 1 c. dried plums into a bowl, pour hot water over to cover and allow this to sit for 10-15 minutes.  Don't let this sit for too long or the muffins will be too moist.  Just until the prunes look like they're starting to plump up.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer if that's your thing, place:
  • 1 c. oat bran
  • 1 3/4 c. oat flour
  • 1/4 c. ground flax meal (optional)
  • 1/2 c. shredded coconut, preferably unsweetened
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 3/4 t. salt
Give this a quick stir to disperse the ingredients.

Drain the prunes and place them in your food processor, then turn the food processor on for 30 seconds or so until the prunes are broken up and beginning to make a paste.

Into the food processor, add:

  • 3/4 c. plain or vanilla Greek yogurt (the equivalent of one single-serving tub)
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c. molasses (Trick: eyeball measure your vegetable oil in a half-cup before measuring your molasses in the same vessel.  The molasses should slide right out.)
  • 1 large egg
Turn the food processor back on and allow it to run until you have a mostly uniform, creamy looking mixture.  You'll know it's ready when the color and texture begin to change.  A few little bits of prune here and there are fine--you won't notice them in the final product.

Add the liquid mixture to the dry, and also add:

  • 3/4 c. frozen and completely thawed pineapple tid-bits (I buy mine at Trader Joe's) or pineapple bits from a can.  I bet you could even use very well drained crushed pineapple and they would still be fantastic.
Turn your mixer on and allow it to run for a good minute or so.  As I've said before, the beauty of gluten free baking is that there's no gluten to over-develop, so you really don't need to worry about tough muffins.  In fact, because we're using flax to help bind here, you want to give the batter a good mix to help the flax begin to congeal.

Divvy the batter up into your nicely greased tin, stick the muffins in the oven, set your timer for 22 minutes, and snarf some frozen pineapple out of the bag.  When the timer goes off, test your muffins.  If you're used to gluten baking, these should be just slightly moister than your average gluten muffin, as they will settle into themselves as they cool.  They  may need a few more minutes if they're still wet or they don't feel quite as firm as a memory foam mattress when you press one gently in a muffin's center.



  1. Hilarious .... Best recipe reading experience ever. I love these muffins already. Thanks!

    1. I love it! Thanks for reading :).