When I was a little girl in Canada, there was a restaurant in Preston, Ontario called The Knotty Pine. They had a fancy steak house downstairs (I still remember the first time I was taken there – I felt SO grown up!), and upstairs there was a more relaxed restaurant that served lunches. There was also a lunch counter, where you could get a quick snack or a coffee. My Dad used to stop in there a couple of times a week for one of their famous bran muffins. And once in a while, he’d bring a half a dozen of them home for a treat. We loved them. They were seriously, seriously yummy – not too sweet, not too savoury, and full to the brim with raisins. One day Dad came home with the secret recipe. I don’t know how he managed it, but somehow he got the restaurant manager to part with it. Half expecting it to have somehow been altered, as secret recipes often are, my Mom and I were delighted when the muffins we made using the recipe came out every bit as nice as the ones Dad brought home. I’ve been making them every since – in fact, for over thirty years now.
Although I rarely deviate from the original recipe in recent years I formulated a sugar free version on request for a sugar replacement product, and occasionally I make them with mixed dried fruit instead of just raisins. My family never liked these variations as well though, so I didn’t feel terribly inclined to experiment. Indeed, I was discouraged from doing so! (“I don’t know why you mess around with these muffins Mom, they taste good just as they are!”)
However a while ago, my curiosity got the better of me, and I began to play around with the recipe again. This version my family absolutely loved… and I was seriously pleased with how my Carrot Walnut Bran Muffins turned out. The recipe makes about 12 large muffins, and they freeze beautifully. Unlike many other types of muffins, these will keep for a couple of days in a sealed container at room temperature, or for three or four days in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature or warm before eating.
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup mild olive or sunflower oil
- 1 cup buttermilk (You can use ordinary milk if you do not have buttermilk. Buttermilk gives the best flavour though.)
- 1 cup plain (all purpose) flour
- 2 cups bran (available in the cereal aisle in most grocery stores – you want bags of real bran, not bran flakes cereal)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- grated rind of one orange
- 2 medium (or one large) carrots, peeled and grated
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350℉ (170℃).
- Line muffin tins with paper liners or grease and flour them.
- Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
- Add brown sugar and oil; mix well.
- Mix in the bran and cinnamon and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt.
- Add flour mixture to the bran mixture alternately with the buttermilk, stirring well between each addition.
- Gently fold in the orange rind, grated carrot and the walnuts.
- Spoon mixture carefully into muffin tins, filling them about half full.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out without any batter clinging to it.
- Remove the muffins from the pan and cool on a wire rack.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. These are delicious with butter and/or jam. If muffins have cooled to room temperature, you can reheat them in the microwave for about 10 to 15 seconds on high. I sometimes put them frozen in a lunch box and they thaw in time for lunch while helping to keep everything else cool too.