Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

Well, this week certainly put me through my paces. (Oh, you too? TGIF.)

It’s a good thing I have whole wheat bran muffins for breakfast…I mean, it’s a really good thing.

What’s even sweeter is the fact that they were made with blueberries harvested with a dear friend at a “secret” blueberry farm. And to cinch it all together: these muffins have no refined sugar, but taste like you’re sort of getting away with something when you bite into them before 9 am.

What’s not to love about that?

If you’ve been following with the blog, you have probably gathered that I pretty much always have sweets in the house. When I’m halfway through one baked treat, it’s time to dream up the next one. (As I pen this, there is half of a loaf of bread pudding perched in my fridge, screaming to be eaten…I must remind myself, “adults” eat dinner then dessert…)

So it came as no surprise that I felt compelled (and I absolutely mean compelled) to try my hand at bran muffins this week, like, STAT. I guess I just couldn’t handle looking at the bag of Bob’s Red Mill wheat bran which has been staring me in the face for the last month, hinting ever so subtly that I should, ahem, make it into something delicious and vaguely nutritious already!

Thus, I plucked it from the shelf and did a little internet rummaging. (“How can I recreate those totally spectacular blueberry bran muffins featured at that coffee roaster in Portland?”)

With just a little digging, I found an approximation that brought me one step closer to that goal.

Adapted from this recipe from Food52, this muffin batter creates the perfect backdrop for whatever seasonal fruit, seeds, shredded vegetables or coconut you wish to spotlight. It’s simple to put together, with little mess. They taste like a treat but they’re sort of, like, a super food or something…at least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

that bright orange stuff is mashed baked sweet potato, but applesauce would work great here too!

Like many recipes in baking, the ingredients were placed in “wet” and “dry” bowls respectively, making for simple assembly and easy clean up.

here i am infusing these muffins with the last of summer’s sun…let steep for a few minutes in direct light for best results 🙂

Mix it all together…

i mean, that color just says “nutrient-packed”

Another beautiful aspect of this recipe is how perfectly it fills a 12-part cupcake pan. Less mess and cleanup, and you have 12 perfect muffins at the end of the process–I didn’t weigh or measure at any point during the batter scooping!

pro tip: butter or oil the lip of each “muffin hole” well so that your muffins crisp up nicely during the bake and pop out of the tin easily after

Then bake! And voila:

so delicious, and not so bad for your gut/waistline

For those of you who like to nerd out a little bit about food, part of what’s so great about these muffins is the amount of fiber paired with the natural sugar. As you probably know, your liver processes sugar as well as alcohol. When you consume an excessive amount of sugar in a short amount of time, it “panics” and transforms the sugar into fat rather than processing it as fuel for the body. I guess it’s kind of like hitting the snooze button when your alarm goes off.

Eating fiber with your sugar reduces the chance of the snooze button being hit; it slows down the process of digestion and gives your liver a chance to keep up with your carbohydrates. This is one of the many, many reasons that we love fresh produce.

So, not only are you getting antioxidants from the honey and blueberries and minerals from the molasses, but you’re getting our friend fiber from the whole wheat flour, wheat bran, berries, and coconut to boot. Are you psyched yet??

Molasses Blueberry Bran Muffins

Note: You can add whatever seasonal fruit is desirable, coconut flakes, dates, hemp hearts, toasted seeds or nuts…you can even sub applesauce for mashed baked sweet potato with a few tablespoons of water. It’s all about texture and natural sweetness with these muffins! 

Ingredients

  • butter or oil for muffin tin (optional)
  • 1 c wheat bran
  • 1 ½ c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ c blueberries
  • ½ c walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
  • ¼ c shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 c milk
  • ½ c molasses
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ c applesauce (or scant ½ c mashed, cooked sweet potato with 3 Tbs water)
  • 2 Tbs melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400°F and butter or oil a muffin tin or line with paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in fruit, nuts, coconut, and any other desired accoutrements to the flour mixture.

In a medium bowl, mix together milk, molasses, honey, eggs, applesauce or sweet potato mash, and oil.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 cups. (They will feel perilously full, but this is how they should look!)

Bake for 15-18 minutes–no longer than 20 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted into the muffin. Enjoy!

Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding

Not to brag, but I’m pretty sure I got the last few peaches of the season from my local farm stand.

I showed up looking for the last of summer’s beautiful stone fruits, not quite ready to say goodbye to the sun just yet…I browsed the boxes of produce laid out under their red and white striped tent, snatching up some beautiful Italian plums and passing up the apples and pears. (There will be many weeks of apples and pears to come. Julia Child’s pear tart is on my mind, but that won’t feel right until mid-to-late November, at the soonest. For now, let me cling to summer like I’m clinging to my 20s.)

Thinking Yakima’s peaches were a thing of the past, I made my way to the checkout counter with my plums.

“You don’t happen to have any peaches, do you?”

The friendly young cowboy in the cream-colored hat and tight t-shirt shook his head no. I thought not, I confirmed in my head, Summer must really be over…

But peaches (and maybe summer, too) hadn’t given up on me yet! Another associate from the farm who was stocking pickled veggies of various assortments chimed in–

“We have about four or five left in that far box over there!”

It was true: tucked into the low corners of these deep boxes were a few perfectly imperfect seasonal stragglers.

Containing a whoop and a holler, I snatched up these sweet rays of sunshine and paid for my flavored fructose. Now, what to do with these oddballs…

After recently making a dang delicious plum pie, I decided pie should be out of the picture. I’d already made peach cobbler this season, so that didn’t quite feel appropriate either. Then, I remembered the about-to-mold bread I’d stuffed in the freezer last week. Bread pudding it is, I thought.

When I think peaches, I think cream, honey, vanilla, almond, and whiskey. Why not add a few friends to the bread pudding party?

Peach friends!

I made ginger simple syrup, the whiskey custard, cut my beautiful peaches, and tore my thawed bread into chunks.

this simple syrup is great in cocktails, mocktails, or homemade ginger “soda”

I soaked the bread and peach mixture in milky custard and applied some “secret surprise creme fraiche” to the middle of the pudding.

yay, surprise creme fraiche!

Baked, brushed with simple syrup for a little sheen, then baked some more:

boom. thanks, summer. thanks, yakima. and thank youuu peaches

Obviously I had to eat this with some less-than-secret creme fraiche too.

needless to say, i was pretty happy to eat this.

Whiskey Peach Bread Pudding

Note: In the past, I have made this pudding using sourdough bread with excellent results. Whole wheat or rye would also be delicious, but the simpler the bread, the more your peaches will stand out. I have also subbed oat milk for regular milk which worked beautifully. The orange zest and ginger syrup are optional, but they both contribute to the desired complexity of this dish. I enjoy cutting my peach chunks into a variety of shapes and sizes, but if you prefer a more uniform dish, feel free to cut them as close to identical as you like.

Ginger Syrup

  • 1 c water
  • 1 c sugar 
  • 1” or 0.5 oz peeled ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 Tbs whiskey

Pudding

  • Butter for baking dish
  • 2 c whole milk or alternative milk
  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split down the middle with seeds scraped out, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Grated zest of 1 large orange (optional)
  • 4 Tbs whiskey
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 6 c bread, torn into ragged chunks
  • 2-3 c peaches (about 2 large peaches), skin on, cut into 1-2 inch chunks or slices
  • ¼ c creme fraiche 

Generously butter a bread pan and set aside.

Bring water, first measurement of sugar, and ginger matchsticks to a gentle boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until syrup has gained viscosity and ginger flavor. Stick a teaspoon into the syrup after 3 minutes; it should appear thicker than water and coat the spoon nicely. Keep boiling until syrup is of a similar consistency to maple syrup, but no more than 10 minutes. When syrup is of desired consistency, remove from heat and stir in first measurement of whiskey. Strain mixture into a jar or bowl using a fine sieve, chinois, or cheesecloth placed over a colander and let cool.

Place milk, sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat until it is at a bare simmer. Remove from heat and add optional orange zest, and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until you can place your hands on the walls of the sauce pot without burning yourself. Add 4 Tbs whiskey and stir. When the mixture is tepid (or room temperature) to the touch, whisk in blended eggs.

Heat oven to 350°F. Place bread and peach chunks and slices into a large bowl. Pour milk mixture over the top and let soak 15-20 minutes, gently stirring after 10 minutes with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Spoon half of the bread and peach mixture into the prepared bread pan. Dab the surface of the mixture with creme fraiche in teaspoon-sized spoonfuls. Pour the rest of the bread over the top and bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the top with whisky-ginger syrup until the entire pudding is covered in glaze. Bake 10-20 minutes more, or until bread has started to take on a golden color and peaches on the surface of the pudding begin to blacken.

Let sit at least 30 minutes to cool before cutting and serving. Best with a dollop of yogurt, creme fraiche, or vanilla ice cream.

Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)

Another week passed at the bakery, full of trials, tribulations, and “firsts,” including my first time successfully completing macarons. This has been a bucket list item for me since I first saw an array of colorful macarons about a decade ago, and I bought one of those teeny tiny prosecco bottles from the grocery store to celebrate. Now, to make the perfect olive or walnut levain…

…but one day at a time! For now, champagne out of a mason jar.

Assuredly you are aware, delightful reader, that it is pumpkin spice season. I mean, we are even working pumpkin spice into the patisserie. And I may or may not have started ordering pumpkin spice lattes as soon as they were available in my area. It’s a comforting taste, and we can all use a little comfort right now.

But, with great flavor comes great curiosity (or something like that) and I began to get a little more curious about chai spice.

I cobbled together a few recipes from various sources and created my own tip of the hat to this season: chai spice, vegan pudding (pumpkin not included).

I mean, if one can make spicy chocolate pudding, why not? What were rules made for, if not to break them??

Though I initially set out on this quest with sweet, sweet dairy in mind (I was envisioning an egg-yolky custard, rich and sweet, and so, so fattening–) I opened my fridge to behold two large containers of oat milk and a perilously full jar of coconut cream that I opened this week by mistake, thinking it was coconut milk. (This has proven to be a happy accident, however, as I have been adding a scoop of cream into my earl grey tea in the mornings.)

“So,” I thought, “can I apply myself here to use what I have and make a truly delicious vegan pudding?”

Reader, if you want a healthy fat, low-sugar, guilt-free seasonal dessert, you’ve come to the right place.

First, I gathered my ingredients.

while i did not have a vanilla bean at my disposal, i did have ample vanilla bean paste

I toasted the spices and orange peel in a medium saucepan before adding oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla bean paste, and slices of peeled ginger, simmering this gently for about six minutes. The beauty of this recipe is, you can take the spice as far as you like. The longer you simmer, the spicier your pudding is going to be. I like ginger, like, a lot, so I stretched that flavor out as far as was palatable to me. It’s so important to taste as you go!

l: spiced oat milk mixture with honey and salt; r: oat milk and cornstarch mixture

When the flavor tastes right to you, or just barely to the point of “omg, maybe this is too spicy,” drain the liquid into a medium sized bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth draped inside a colander. (You are going to dilute the flavor a little bit with the second addition of liquid, so be bold with your flavor concentration!) Return liquid back into the pot, add cornstarch/oat milk solution, and whisk over medium heat, until mixture thickens.

Pour into ramekins or a medium bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and chill. And voila! Vegan, spicy, not-too-bad-for-you, on-theme dessert. Win.

Obviously, you can use whatever milk you like. And, the original recipe I riffed off of called for whole milk or half and half–so if you’d rather make your pudding with good, old-fashioned dairy: please, be my guest! Whether you prefer your dessert to be righteous or indulgent: chai spice is the great connector.

Spicy Chai Pudding (V, GF)

Serves 4

Note: This recipe could very easily be adapted to contain dairy by substituting whole milk or half and half for the oat milk and coconut cream. I also used honey to sweeten, but an equal trade of brown sugar would make this recipe fully vegan. Follow your gut!

Toasted Spices

  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 7 whole black peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1/8th tsp nutmeg, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 1/2” strip of orange zest, with little to no white pith

Pudding

  • 1 ¾ c oat milk 
  • 4 Tbs coconut cream
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped, or 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1” peeled ginger (roughly 0.5 oz), cut into matchsticks
  • ½ c oat milk
  • 3 Tbs cornstarch
  • ½ c honey or brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt

In a large liquid measuring cup or in a small bowl, combine first measurement of oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and sliced ginger. 

In a medium sauce pot over medium heat, toast cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, peppercorns, and cloves, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally until spices have started releasing their odor and “dancing” around in the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. (Take care to turn your spices with a wooden spoon, smelling for anything burning, until cardamom pods appear toasted and cinnamon stick has darkened considerably.) After spices are sufficiently toasted, turn off the heat and add nutmeg followed by orange peel, stirring for 1 minute more. When orange peel has begun to sweat and shrivel, remove from the hot burner and let the pot cool for a few minutes.

While the pot is cooling, whisk together cornstarch and second measurement of oat milk in a small bowl until no lumps remain. 

When you can put your fingers on the pot without burning yourself, add oat milk, coconut cream, vanilla, and ginger mixture into the toasted spices, followed by honey and salt. Place back over the hot burner and cook over medium heat until mixture is just below a simmer. (It should be steaming but no significant bubbles emanating from the bottom of the pot.) Stir consistently so the liquid does not form a skin or burn on the bottom of the pot.

When spiced oat milk mixture is at a bare simmer, cook, stirring constantly, for 5-8 minutes. Taste as you go: the longer the mixture simmers, the spicier the pudding will be. When pudding has reached desired spiciness, drain the contents of the pot into a medium bowl using a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth placed over a colander, discarding spices. Return the mixture back to the sauce pot over medium heat. When steaming, add the cornstarch and oat milk mixture, whisking constantly until pudding thickens and barely begins to boil, about 5 minutes. 

Reduce heat to the lowest setting and stir 3 minutes more, or until pudding is of a desirable consistency. 

Divide into ramekins or pour into a bowl, covering in plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, garnish with 1 tsp coconut cream and a modest shake of ground allspice or cinnamon. Best eaten within 24 hours.

extra credit for decorating your pudding!
much fancy
coconut cream on everything!!

Edit: If it pains you to throw away whole spices and several dollars worth of ginger, after steeping your spice blend in the milk of your choosing, consider candying the ginger matchsticks for a garnish and drying your spices on a piece of parchment paper for another use, such as adding to a mug of tea or making a hot toddy.