Whether for breakfast or snacking, Date and Apple Honey Bran Muffins answer the question, “What do I want to eat?”. They are full of good tasting and good-for-you ingredients like Medjool dates, apples, honey, toasted pecans and wheat bran.
When bran muffins first became all the rage as a weapon against cardio-vascular disease, they left a lot to be desired. The word “cardboard” comes to mind. In taste and in appearance, there was often little difference between bran muffins and ground up cardboard. The muffins were low fat/fat free, low sugar, low anything that would make them taste enjoyable. Sad.
But, what the heck, we ate them anyway because they were “good” for us. After all, we’d live forever; our bodies lean and healthy and our arteries clean as a whistle. We were amazingly determined people for a few years.
Over time, thankfully, bran muffin recipes evolved with some of the fat and sugar making their way back into the muffins. As a culture, we learned that man really doesn’t want to live by bran alone and that maybe a liiiiiittle bit of fat and a liiiiiiitle bit of sugar were okay. But how much and which ones? Although the fat and sugar contentions of the 1990’s were notable, in reality they were mere schoolyard squabbles compared to today’s titanic battles.
On the fat side of the equation, hydrogenated fats have been all but obliterated. Canola oil, once thought to be fat’s salvation, is now falling into disfavor. Olive oil is the reigning Health and Longevity Monarch with coconut oil beginning to run a close second.
Also on team fat we have avocado oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil and several others which have been pressed and squeezed and excised from various other members of the plant family. Then there is the ever popular fat of all fats, butter, and its sisty ugler, margarine. Of course let’s not forget bacon fat, lard and duck fat. Oh, and one more, the fantastic, but under used, ghee.
Team sugar has so many contestants on the carbohydrate battlefield that it is more like gladiatorial combat than a logical, evidenced based jockeying for position on the throne. White sugar, I suppose is the unquestionable title holder by popular demand, but even that is not a simple matter. I think that folks have even stronger opinions about simple sugar carbs than they do about fats.
In addition to white sugar, there is brown sugar, dark brown sugar, maple sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup and its sisty ugler, high fructose corn syrup. We have honey, golden syrup (major yum factor on that one!), agave, stevia, palm sugar, raw sugar, molasses and maple syrup. There is also an ever increasing line of maids-in-waiting in the form of sugar substitutes. You can check out the team sugar roster in a great article on The Nibble.
The bottom line in my fat and sugar tangent is that bran muffins have been rescued. Because of the increase in food choices and health knowledge, we have more opportunities to make great tasting muffins that pack both a flavor and a nutrition punch.
Date and Apple Honey Bran Muffins have become a bit of an addiction for me recently. I am having a hard time walking away from them. The three sweeteners are named in the title: apples, dates and honey. I used big, fat Medjool dates, pitted and chopped small. They add bursts of sweetness throughout the muffins. I also used an unpeeled sweet apple, not a baking apple, chopped fine. It adds to both the sweetness and the moisture content of the muffin. As for the honey, it is the perfect supporting compliment to all of the other ingredients, especially the otherwise rather bland bran.
The lone added fat, coconut oil, answers today’s call for healthy fats. It works beautifully with the flavor profile in these bran muffins. Plus, if even half of the health claims for coconut oil are true, then we should all be slurping down a couple of tablespoons of the stuff. Who am I to deny that it will work?
This recipe for Date and Apple Honey Bran Muffins has been adapted from a recipe for Honey Bran Muffins by Bessie B. Russell. Bessie’s recipe appeared in a December 3, 1996 article in The Deseret News and was a great departure from the standard bran muffins of the day. Now, a bit over 18 years later, I have finally pulled my newspaper copy of Bessie’s recipe out of my card file where it has lain, undisturbed, for all of these years. I have updated, tweaked and re-tweaked it until the muffins have reached addiction status in my personal life. They get a thumbs up from my husband, who is not a healthy muffin fan, and from my daughter, who is completely unbiased in her opinions. She’ll tell me, straight up, exactly what she thinks of my cooking. Bottom line, make these!
Prep Time: 20 minutes Yield: 14-16 muffins
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Forget about the old “cardboard” bran muffins you may have had in the past. It’s a new day with the sweet flavors of Medjool dates, apples and honey in these tender, moist muffins. The excellent flavors are further enhanced by coconut oil, cinnamon and toasted pecans.
- 1 1/2 cups whole bran cereal (such as All-Bran®)
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup finely chopped apple (about 1/2 of a small apple)
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into cup and scraped to level
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup chopped dates—about 8 Medjool dates (see notes)
- 1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans (see notes)
- Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. Grease muffin tins; set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix the cereal and milk together. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow cereal to absorb the milk.
- Add the eggs, coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract; stir until well blended. Stir in the chopped apple.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add the chopped dates. If the dates are fresh, they will likely be quite sticky. With clean hands, toss the dates with the flour mixture, breaking up the date pieces that are sticking together.
- Add the wet ingredients and the pecans to the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Over-mixing will result in tough muffins with tunnels.
- Fill prepared muffin tin(s) 3/4 full. A 3 tablespoon scoop, slightly over filled with batter, works well. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of several muffins comes out clean. Watch the muffins carefully during the baking process. Do not over-cook them because it will result in dry, tough muffins. Suggestion: Every oven bakes differently. Check the muffins at the 14 minute mark. If the toothpick comes out very wet with batter, bake muffins for an additional 2 minutes and re-check. However, if the muffins test only a little bit wet, bake for an additional 1 minute and re-check.
- Remove muffins from pan(s) and cool on cooling rack. When cool, either wrap individually in plastic wrap or place several muffins together in plastic bags. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
- Rewarming. Rewarm in microwave for about 10 seconds. These muffins are outstanding when rewarmed.
- About the dates. Chopped dates can be bought in packages in the baking isle. However, I recommend using fresh dates when possible, particularly the Medjool variety. Medjools are fat and sweet. Be sure to remove the large seed before attempting to chop the dates.
- About toasting the pecans. Place the chopped pecans in a small baking pan or on a small baking sheet. Put them in the preheated 400-degree F oven for about 5 minutes until fragrant and lightly golden. Allow to cool while preparing the muffin batter.
Recipe adapted from “Honey Bran Muffins” by Bessie B. Russell as printed in the Deseret News, December 3, 1996.
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