Re-working my Grandmother’s bran muffin recipe to yield big domed tops, a crisp crust and a moist tender crumb for Bakery Perfect Bran Muffins every time!
Hers is the recipe I grew up with, but it’s never rendered great results. I’m pretty sure my grandmother’s recipe came off of a bag of wheat bran in the 1940’s. I remember a swatch of glossy paper taped to a recipe card in my grandmother’s kitchen. The tape on the edges was yellowed and thinning. Wrote it down in my teens and it’s been my go-to bran muffin recipe ever since – with mediocre results.
Grandma’s recipe always gave me flat muffins that ran all over the muffin pan and formed one, continuous top. Ugggg. Were they tasty and moist? Yes. Were they pretty? No. Did they remove from the pan well? Again, no. Did we often have to cut them apart? Yes. Well Betsy, you’re not going to win that coveted blue ribbon at your church bazaar with flat-cut-apart-square-edged bran muffins, that’s for sure!
So, how do we go from flat and runny to domed and spectacular? Food science. Because when we know better, we bake better – for Bakery Perfect Bran Muffins!
Let’s Talk Baking Science
Whenever we have a less than spectacular result in the sweet side of the kitchen, it’s important to remember that baking is part art and part science, and that science is definitive.
Unlike cuisine, where we can adjust texture, flavour and colour on the fly, pastry has rigid rules that must be respected to get good results.
Pastry is a delicate balance between moisture, fat, sugar, leavening and heat.
If your muffins are falling then the first thing we look at is the ratio of wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Is the batter to heavy to rise? Does it have enough flour to absorb the moisture? Is the oven too cold to give you the oven-spring you need for your muffins to puff up and over the edge of the tin, without spreading? Or is your batter too warm to give you the leavening activation you need to get those beautiful results?
Bakery Perfect Muffin Tips
The rule of thumb to adjusting any recipe, is to start with the two most likely causes and adjust them first. Here’s our best tips for bakery perfect muffin results, every time:
Start with wet ingredients (eggs, milk, oil or butter) at room temperature (if baking immediately).
Bump your leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder) by 10 – 20%.
Add 10% more flour, or swap out all purpose flour for whole wheat flour.
Start your muffins in a hotter oven. In general, we bake muffins at 400°f (205°C). Instead, bump your temperature up to 420°f (215°c) for the first five to seven minutes, then drop down to 350°f (190°c) to finish.
Fill your muffin tin right to the top, with it slightly domed crest to start.
Chill your batter. Like cookies, chilling your muffin batter for as little as an hour, or preferably overnight, gives the flour time to absorb more of the wet ingredients. For best results; use double activating baking powder, add any fruit or nuts AFTER chilling, scoop your batter cold, and then bake immediately.
Adjusting the recipe I was working with I swapped out a little over half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat, added an egg for a good fat ratio and chilled my batter for about an hour in the freezer. Voila, Bakery Perfect Bran Muffins!
Ever notice how muffins are easily identifiable in your local baker’s showcase? They feature ingredients on top of the muffin so that you know, at first sight, exactly what you want.
Fruit muffins are often covered in coarse sugar or streusel crumble. Muffins containing nuts or oats are decorated with bits of almond, walnut or oat flakes. Chocolate chip muffins have chips on top, as well as in the batter. Banana muffins sport a dehydrated banana chip on top. It’s a professional look, and a fun way to get the kids involved if they’re helping in the kitchen. Adding that little bit of love to the final result.
I’ve loaded up on dates and walnuts in this recipe, because it’s date season and I simply cannot resist them. So we’re finishing with a nice, juicy date right on top for Bakery Perfect Bran Muffins – as promised.
Pro tip: Soak your dates in warm water first so they stay moist and tender and don’t burn.
Mix It Up
Use this bakery-perfect bran muffin recipe as your general jumping-off point for any dark muffin. Don’t like dates? Let raisins be your jam. Want all the power of bran with the balance of antioxidant-rich fruits? Mix in blueberries, cranberries or sliced & diced strawberries. Or swap out one dried fruit for another with dried cherries, prunes, apricots or figs.
Re-working my Grandmother’s bran muffin recipe to yield big domed tops and a moist tender crumb for bakery perfect results. No more flat topped runny bran muffins for me, it’s Bakery Perfect Bran Muffins every time!
1/2cup vegetable oil
1/2cup brown sugar
1 1/2cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
2cups wheat bran
1cup whole wheat flour
2/3cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pre-heat oven to 400°f (205°C). Spray muffin pan well with non-stick spay and/or place muffin cup liners in each cup (if using).
Slice six whole dates in half horizontally. Place in a bowl of warm water and reserve until needed.
In a large bowl, add wet ingredients, plus sugar; oil, brown sugar, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and molasses. Whisk to combine until smooth and creamy.
Directly on top of that, add bran, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Lightly whisk the top of your dry ingredients to distribute levelling agents and salt. then fold gently to combine, turning and scraping the bowl as you go.
After four or five folds, once you begin to see the batter coming together, add featured ingredient and fold to JUST combined. (Here we’re featuring fresh dates and walnuts.) DO NOT OVER MIX. Muffins don’t require a heavy hand, so don’t beat your batter. All it needs is a gentle fold.
Portion batter evenly in each cup, filling to just below the edge, with a slight dome. Drain reserved soaking dates, then gently press a half date into the top of the muffin batter, at a slight angle, leaving the top of the date exposed.
Bake in 400°f (205°C) oven for 18 – 22 minutes. Remove when a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean, except for a few crumbs.
Cool of wire rack. Cool COMPLETLY before removing from muffin pan. This way they lift clean and intact. (Okay, so you might have to sacrifice one muffin to the Gods of Butter… do what you must.)
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer and recipe blogger. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.