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The answer to the long-lived question of how to come close to Mimi’s Cafe honey bran muffins is this: Stop searching for Mimi’s Cafe bran muffin recipe altogether and just use Nancy Silverton’s terrific recipe. It addresses all the problems I noted previously here and in this way to office mates I shared these with two weeks ago:
I had tried several copycat recipes that gushed they were “just like Mimi’s honey bran muffins!”, but all of them were so far away – mostly way-too-sweet, dense brown muffins with a small handful of bran added as if in afterthought, and many with a sickly-sweet brown sugar/butter/honey glaze deposited in the tin before the batter that incorrectly hardens on the bottom of the muffins.
The results of Silverton’s recipe really are very close to if not even better than Mimi’s Cafe bran muffins: full of earthy bran flavor, soft and light in texture, and not oversweet. To complete the Mimi’s experience, drizzle a little diluted honey onto the bottoms of the still-warm muffins after you invert them out of the tin.
The ingredients are pretty easy to commit to memory, and most of it is in half-cups. Note that there’s almost three times as much bran as flour in the recipe. This is key.
Clockwise from upper left: raisins simmered in water, still to be puréed; vegetable oil; water; unprocessed bran, toasted; egg plus egg white; all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; buttermilk; lightly diluted honey; light brown sugar; raisins left whole. The orange zest was in a tiny prep bowl that I forgot to put in frame.
My notes and then the recipe:
- You can easily find unprocessed bran in US supermarkets that have a small Bob’s Red Mill and/or Hodgson Mill section, usually in the baking aisle. Bob’s is in 10 ounce bags – about five cups – while Hodgson Mill comes in 14 ounce boxes with about seven cups:
- Make sure you butter the bottom and sides of the muffin wells or these will stick, even in a non-stick tin (I forgot once). I also smear a little butter all around the top as well so the muffin tops don’t stick.
- I’m lazy but also efficient: Instead of melting and brushing butter – requiring more washing up – I use the vinyl prep gloves that I get by the case from a restaurant owner friend. Pop one glove on, grab a hunk of room temp butter, start smearing, and I’m done in sixty seconds. Cleanup consists of tossing one glove. Under the same lazy/efficient rationale, I use a Microplane zester for the orange zest and toast the bran using a parchment sheet on a 16×12″ half-sheet baking pan for easy cleanup and transport: When toasted, just pull up each corner of the paper to form a sort of basket and pour the bran into the mixing bowl.
- Resist any temptation to use golden raisins – they’re not right for this recipe (I tried them once).
- Once you mix the dry ingredients into the wet, get the batter in the pre-buttered tin and into the oven without delay (I use a #16 ice cream disher for quick portioning instead of the piping bag mentioned in the recipe). The baking powder and baking soda react quickly with the buttermilk and you want them to start baking while the batter is nicely puffed up.
- My only addition to Silverton’s recipe is that I let the muffins cool in the tin for about five minutes, then loosen the muffin top edges with something that won’t scratch the non-stick surface, then invert the muffins onto a sheet of parchment paper on the counter (catches dripping honey), where I immediately drizzle a microwave-warmed 2-to-1 honey-water mixture onto the bottoms of the muffins for the full Mimi’s Cafe effect. I use a condiment squirt bottle to drizzle a teaspoon or so on each small muffin, or a couple teaspoons each for large size muffins.
- Mimi’s correctly serves their large-size bran muffins warm and upside-down with a pat of butter on the side. If you don’t warm these before serving, both texture and taste will suffer. From room temperature, microwave one small muffin for 20 seconds; 35 seconds for one large muffin.
- Like most breads and baked items, these freeze well. I make a dozen small muffins every ten to fourteen days and, once cooled, I freeze half a dozen in a gallon size freezer bag, then take them out days later when I’ve et the first six.
Bran Muffins – Nancy Silverton
Her introduction from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery:
Every baker has her version of a bran muffin, and I have mine. Most recipes call for sweetened bran cereals and lots of sugar, defeating the purpose of this healthier style of muffin. I make mine the way they should be, with lots of toasted unprocessed bran and pureed raisins. When toasted, bran adds a distinctive, nutty flavor. The cooked and pureed raisins saturate the muffins, giving them their unusually dark color and moist, fruity quality.
Special Items: ½-cup-capacity muffin tin, lightly coated with melted butter; (optional) pastry bag fitted with a wide tip
- 2 cups unprocessed bran
- 1½ cups raisins
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped (about one-third of an orange)
- ½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 extra-large egg
- 1 extra-large egg white
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup stone-ground whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Spread the bran on a baking sheet and toast for 6 to 8 minutes, until toasted, stirring halfway through to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
In a small saucepan, stir together 1 cup of the raisins and 1 cup of the water and simmer on low heat until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Place in a blender or in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and process until pureed.
Pour the bran into a large bowl, add the buttermilk and remaining ½ cup of water, and stir to combine. Stir in the raisin puree, orange zest, and brown sugar.
Add the oil, whole egg, and egg white, mixing well to incorporate.
Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the raisin mixture. Add the remaining whole raisins and stir to combine.
Fill the pastry bag half full and pipe or spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins, filling the cups to just over the rim and mounding the batter slightly.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until the muffins are well browned and firm to the touch.
Yield: 12 regular size or 6 large muffins