banana oat bran muffins

every now and then, i like to bake up a batch of oat bran muffins.  despite the whole grain and fiber, these are pretty tasty.  the recipe uses a fruit puree such as banana or pumpkin to add flavor and moisture.  it also contains honey and dried fruit so there is no shortage of flavor.  these mix up quickly, but once baked, they hold well for a couple of days and can be frozen.  if you decide to keep a few in the freezer, wrap them individually in plastic and place them in a freezer bag.  to thaw, allow them to sit out at room temperature in the plastic wrap and then pop them in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

this is one of those recipes that can be manipulated pretty easily.  if you are not a fan of oat bran, use wheat bran instead.  the fruit puree can be easily swapped so don’t hesitate to try using apple sauce, pear butter so go ahead, go crazy and use the left over sweet potatoes you baked for dinner last night, i won’t be offended.  while i used currants in the batch i baked, there is nothing stopping you from using dried cranberries or peaches or any other dried fruit for that matter.  size doesn’t really matter here, bake them in paper lined muffin cups in whatever size pan you prefer, just keep in mind that the baking time will depend on the size so check them with a toothpick to see if they are done.

banana oat bran muffins
makes 12-16 standard size muffins
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg 
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mashed bananas
1/3 cup wildflower honey
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped 
preheat the oven to 375.  line the muffin pans with paper cups and set aside.  in a mixing bowl, combine the oat bran, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice.  whisk them to combine.  in a small bowl, whisk together the oil with the egg, buttermilk, banana and honey.  pour the wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients along with the dried fruit and gently fold it all together until completely mixed.  using a scoop or a large spoon, divide the batter among the muffin pans filling the cups about 3/4 full.  bake until the top springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes for standard size muffins.  allow the muffins to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out onto a rack to prevent them from getting soggy on the bottom.  

blueberry muffin cake and welding; a perfect saturday morning

now that the kids have ditched us, i have found myself looking for new things to do.  sure, i spend lots of time in the garden but when my husband is working late-and that happens frequently, i need something to keep me busy.  the perfect solution has been to take classes at watkins college of art, design and film.  they have a fantastic community education program and i have taken several classes there and am signed up to take several more.

in the spring, i looked through the class schedule and saw a workshop on welding.  it was strictly for beginners and it sounded like a lot of fun.  my friend shirley, who is also a master gardener, was quick in agreeing to attend the class with me.  girls and power tools; a perfect match.

we learned how to weld using oxyacetylene, mig and arc methods.  above, the method being used is oxyacetylene which is why they are not wearing the shields on their faces.

 oxyacetylene welding is easy to do and it was a lot of fun.  i could easily see myself doing this again.

 this was my favorite piece of equipment!  it is a throatless shear, which cuts sheet metal-sort of a big paper cutter on steroids.  to make my project, i cut each piece using this simple machine.

 this was the other fun part; curving the metal with rollers.  shirley is putting part of her project through the rollers to curve them.  i also curved a lot of my project with that roller.

and my finished project.  when i told everyone i was making a flower, they looked at me a little funny.  they looked at my skimpy little curvy pieces and told me, “sure you are making a flower, sure you are…”  they were all a little shocked when i finished it and it looked like a flower!  after a couple more coats of clear finish, it will live out in the garden.

and as always, if i go to the garden, i bring cake.  yes, i know this was a college, not a garden.  but shirley and i went to this class with the idea that we could learn a skill that might be useful for gardening.  gardening with sculpture, that is.

this cake is a bit of a mash up.  halfway to vegan, there are no eggs and several ingredients could be replaced to make it vegan if you like-or throw caution to the wind and make it ovo-lacto.

blueberry muffin cake
1 (10″) bundt cake serving 12-16
ener-g egg replacer for 3 eggs (or 3 large eggs)
2/3 cup butter (or coconut oil or any combination of the two)
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup buttermilk (or a nondairy milk such as coconut or soy)
preheat the oven to 350.  grease and flour the pan and set it aside.  if you are using the egg replacer, mix it according to the directions and while it sits, cream the butter with the sugar and salt until it is fluffy.  add the egg replacer and mix it just to combine.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift it over the batter in the bowl.  pour in the blueberries and fold the mixture a few times to coat the berries.  add the buttermilk and fold completely until no streaks of flour or butter are visible.  scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the deepest part of the cake, about 1 hour.  allow the cake to cool on a rack for 20 minutes.  turn the cake out onto the rack and allow it to completely cool-if you can…

blueberry muffins

sometimes, simple is best and blueberry muffins are about as simple as it can get.  making a cake to take out to the garden each week means i need think about what i will to make, get the needed ingredients and hope that the recipe works.  it’s been too hot!  i made muffins instead.  then it poured rain and i couldn’t go to the garden, i stayed home and ate muffins instead.

a few notes; i prefer fresh blueberries for this recipe but it works great with frozen berries too.  just take care not to let them thaw or they will turn the batter grey.  for best results, i prefer to grease and flour the pan rather than use paper liners but you can use them if you wish.  for the most consistent size, i use portion scoops.  not only will the muffins bake evenly, it will make quick work of portioning them out which is always a plus when working with frozen fruit.  for the large, texas style muffins, i find a #6 or white scoop will work, for standard sized muffins, a #12 or green scoop will work.  specialty pans may take some experimenting.  any ikea shoppers out there?  i used their pretty red muffin pan with the tall narrow cups to make the muffins in the photo and to fill them, i used a #20 or yellow scoop.

for those of you not familiar with portion scoops and their sizes, the system is quite simple.  way back when, the size referred to the number of scoops to fill a quart sized container.  a white (#6) scoop would mean 6 scoops to make a quart, the green (#12) would take 12, and so on.  today, the sizes still stand but many more sizes have been added and you will find them as small as a #100 scoop.  to find the best selection, visit a restaurant supply.  while they may seem pricey, they last a long time if used properly.  we have using the ones in our home kitchen for about 15 years.

blueberry muffins
6 texas size or 12 standard size muffins

4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 cup buttermilk
cinnamon sugar or plain sugar for the tops of the muffins

preheat the oven to 375.  prepare the muffin tin by either greasing/flouring it or with paper muffin cups.  place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor.  pulse to combine and with the motor running, add the eggs one at a time.  allow the batter to process until glossy and smooth.  scrape the batter into a bowl.  place the flour and baking powder into a sifter or mesh strainer and sift it over the batter.  dump the blueberries over the top of the flour and fold it a few times.  sprinkle the buttermilk over the batter and fold together gently.  the more you mix, the more the berries will color the batter so only mix enough to completely combine.  use a scoop or a spoon to divide the batter between the cups. sprinkle the tops of the muffins with cinnamon sugar or plain sugar and bake.  the smaller muffins will take about 20 minutes, the larger ones, closer to 30.  using frozen berries can extend this.  check them a little early to be safe and then keep an eye on them.  they are done when a cake tester comes out clean.  allow them to cool in the pan for a few minutes and then turn them out on to a rack to cool.  they are tasty when warm but those hot blueberries can be like lava pockets so be careful!

buttermilk crumb muffins

what a week it has been!  hopefully, everyone is recovering from the monster storm that ate the jersey shore.  for those of you affected by the flooding-i feel your pain.  it has been 2 years since the big nashville flood of may 2010 but the memory is still with us.  the power of water is like none other.

since i live in nashville and was not affected by the storm, i was not only able to bake the muffins but also serve as hostess with the mostest this week’s tuesdays with dorie/baking with julia challenge.  how about a big happy birthday to me?  yup, it’s my birthday, but there will be no crying at this party, just muffins!

as hostess, it is my job to post the complete recipe.  for those of you with the book, it can be found on page 207.  for those of you without the book, let me suggest that you buy a copy; it is worthy of the space on your bookshelf!

special note to vegan bakers; the recipe can easily be converted to yield vegan muffins.  scroll through the recipe to the bottom of the post to see a photo and the conversion notes.

buttermilk crumb muffins
from the book, baking with julia, by dorie greenspan
published by william morrow
makes 14-16 muffins

a few notes before we begin.  first of all, i do not like to use hydrogenated shortening, it adds no flavor and isn’t a good idea for someone with high cholesterol, like me.  that said, i used virgin coconut oil in place of the shortening.  not only is it non-hydrogenated, it adds wonderful flavor to the muffins.  second, i do this sort of thing for a living and have a hard time adapting to typical home kitchen methods.  what that means is that i use portion scoops whenever i make muffins or cookies.  for this recipe, i used a #16 (blue handled) scoop.  in my fancy ikea muffin pan, this made them mushroom out a bit.  since the yield is more than 12, i baked the rest in a little heart muffin pan.  if you do this, do not put more than a flat #16 scoop in each heart or you will lose the heart shape like mine did.  the last note, my muffins baked up quickly-25 minutes and they were done.

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup solid vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, well beaten

position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F.  Spray or grease two 12-cup muffin tins, or if you have them, use a 12-cup and a 6-cup tin.

mixing the batter and topping

put the flour and brown sugar into a large bowl and stir with your fingers or a fork to mix well.  break the shortening into a few pieces, drop them into the flour mixture, and, using your fingertips, lightly rip the shortening and flour together.  when the mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs, you’ve mixed enough-don’t worry about any little lumps.  measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and set it aside to use later as the crumb topping.

add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt to the flour mixture and stir with a fork to mix well.  add the buttermilk and beaten eggs and, using a large spoon, mix until the ingredients are well blended and the batter is thick and shiny.

spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup at least two-thirds full.  sprinkle the top of each muffin with a rounded teaspoon of the reserved crumb mixture and pat it gently onto the batter.  half-fill any empty muffin molds with water-this will help the muffins bake evenly.

baking the muffins
bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  serve warm.

the muffins are best the day they are made, but will keep in a plastic bag or closed container for a day; reheat for 5 to 8 minutes in a 350F oven.
contributing baker, marion cunningham

vegan muffins with cocoa nibs

to make a vegan version of the muffins, use the following substitutions:
1.  for the 2/3 cup shortening, use virgin coconut oil not only for the fact that it is a much healthier plant fat that is not hydrogenated but also because it is full of flavor and will give the muffins a nice coconut aroma.
2.  for the 2 eggs i used ener-g brand egg replacer according to the recipe on the box which is 2 ounces warm water and 1 tablespoon of the mix.
3.  for the 1 cup buttermilk, i used 1 cup of unsweetened, plain soy milk.  this is an acceptable substitution but it would be a good idea to reduce the amount by a tablespoon or two since it is thinner than buttermilk; the higher moisture content makes a thinner batter and moister muffins that sink slightly in the center.
4.  i added 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs but you can add nuts or other crunchy items, but i would avoid fresh fruit unless you reduce the milk as suggested.
5.  using the blue handled #16 scoop and paper muffin cups yielded 18 muffins that baked off in 20-23 minutes.

be sure to check the tuesdays with dorie page to view the links to all of the participants.  thanks for the party!  now to have cake and watch the election results!!!