Monday, June 06, 2005

Honey bran muffins with dates and pecans 

Paper Chef is a food blogger's event that takes place the first weekend of each month. The ingredients for this month, Paper Chef #7, were buttermilk, medjool dates, honey, and eggs.

I did not want to make a dessert (I'm trying to cut back), but the theme ingredients suggested baking. Something for breakfast would be good, especially if it was easily portable for weekday breakfasts, which I often eat at work. I'm not particularly fond of the texture of dates, so I wanted a recipe in which the flavor of the dates would be fairly evenly distributed, without any large chunks of too-gooey sweetness. My friend Epicurious had no suggestions for all four ingredients, but the buttermilk-honey-egg combo yielded a winner: Honey Bran Muffins with Figs.

I halved the recipe, and modified it as follows:
  1. I substituted dates for the figs. Because dates are sweeter than figs, and I like bran muffins that aren't extremely sweet, I reduced both the dates and the sugar by 1/3. Chopping the dates finely, and mashing them in the boiling water used to hydrate the bran, helped to distribute their flavor.

  2. The recipe seemed bland (a failing of many bran muffins), so I added a dash of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg to the dry ingredients.

  3. Because I like nuts in bran muffins, I added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.
The result was a light, tender, moist muffin, with a clear (but not overpowering) honey-date sweetness and the crunch of pecans.

A touch of sweet butter and a spoonful of homemade blackberry-apple jam were the perfect complements.

Honey bran muffins with dates and pecans

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoons salt
Dash each of cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger and nutmeg
1 cups toasted wheat bran (about 2 ounces)
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers, or butter muffin tin. Stir together flour, baking soda, salt and spices in small bowl. Combine dates and boiling water in another bowl; mash together, then mix in wheat bran.

Beat butter in yet another bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, then honey, then the egg. Beat in half or buttermilk, half of flour mixture; repeat. Stir in bran mixture and pecans. Divide batter among muffin cups.

Bake muffins until they pass the clean toothpick test, about 20 minutes. If you're not going to eat them immediately, place on rack to cool.