~Upside Down Caramel Glazed Bran Muffins~
Adapted from Oui Chef's "Bran Muffins Even Your Kids Will Like"
I knew I had to come back from web hibernation with a great recipe for all my readers, so here is my humble homage to the in Coast Cafe in Bolinas, CA and the BEST BRAN MUFFINS IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE! What a way to break back into the blogging world, eh? I think my little muffins are pretty darn close and not too shabby by any means. Definitely muffins to turn a branophobe to a die hard fan! No time but the present:
2 cups unprocessed wheat or oat bran
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 Teaspoon Cardamom
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cups brandied raisins
3/4 cups crushed Pineapple
1 cups water
1/2 cup buttermilk
Zest of one half medium orange
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg white
3/4 C Packed Light Brown Sugar
1/4 C Granulated White Sugar
2 Sticks Salted Sweet Cream Butter
1/3 C Light Agave or light corn syrup
1/4 Teaspoon Orange Zest
Walnut or Pecan Pieces
SPECIAL TOOLS: Large Mouth (3/4C) Muffin Tins
Yield - about 8 large muffins
First, grease your muffin tins and pre-heat your oven to 370f. Position a rack just below the center position for baking to ensure the even cooking and final doneness on both the glaze and the muffins themselves. If you do have a top heating element in your oven, place the rack near the middle.
In a shallow dish, soak raisins and orange zest in just enough brandy to cover them and let sit wrapped about 20 minutes or overnight in the fridge. These raisins can be made much ahead of time, (and keep for quite a while) if you like, by soaking them in a mason jar with a lid but for a quick soak, anything will do. I like to make these for Christmas and holiday breads!
Next, toast your bran for better texture and to help bring up the subtle toasty flavors!
Spread the bran on a large sheet pan and toss it in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes, tossing halfway for even roasting and to prevent burning. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes, then it into a large mixing bowl or bowl of an electric stand mixer.
I have to stop here to make a point about crushed pineapple... I think there is always a place for crushed pineapple in almost any heavy gluten or spiced cake, muffin, scone, etc. In this case it adds a lot of moisture and sweetness while balancing out the often woody, rough texture of bran with a very floral, bright acidity. For a moister muffin you can add whatever pineapple juice remains when measuring instead of pressing it off and retaining it or drinking it. Right then... back on task.
Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices then re-sift into the bowl. Mix until just combined but not over mixed and frothy. Too much air incorporated can make them cook unevenly and too quick for the caramel glaze to darken properly... dark sticky caramel = much better than light greasy undercooked slush.
For the glaze:
Start by creaming together your butter (I like to use cultured European butter when I can get it) and both sugars about 3 minutes until it has lightened in color and fluffed up a bit.
Add syrup and zest and continue to cream another 4 minutes until very fluffy and light in color.
The zest is totally optional but I think its a nice touch; mirroring the orange in the muffin and balancing the rich sweetness of the glaze. If your not a huge fan of orange, you can leave it out or reduce it by half or just use a small amount of lemon zest.
This glaze will keep refrigerated in an air tight container for up to a month and has many uses including sticky buns and great sugar cookies!
Spoon a small amount of glaze into your prepared tins and press, just enough to make about a 1/4" layer on the bottom. Top the glaze layer with walnut or pecan pieces if you like. I went with walnuts this time as they tend to remain toothsome in the glaze longer than pecans.
Fill your muffin tins with batter so they are nearly overflowing, mounded slightly in the center and Bake for 25 - 35 minutes. They should be well set and have a nice brown color and the glaze should begin to bubble around the edges and caramelize.
~Food Science Notes [syrup]: Invert Sugars Inhibiting Sugar Crystallization~
This cooking time depends a lot on the oven and on how dark you like your glaze so it may take once or twice to get it exactly how you like. Let them stand to cool about 3 minutes then invert the tins onto a parchment lined (for easy cleanup) cookie sheet or large serving dish.
Again I say that these things are pretty great and as always; food is versatile! go experiment! Change the glaze up by using the pecans and mixing in a bit of dark molasses with the agave. Change up the muffins with any spice you can think of. Toss in some cranberries with the raisins. Never compromise and never tell yourself "no one would like that..." They just might after all :)