Perhaps the only thing more comforting than making muffins on a crisp September morning is making an old favourite recipe, one that I’ve been using for about 27 years. How many dozens have I turned out in that time, I wonder?
This homey scenario was infused with a little excitement this time, because it was my first baking project in my new home. Although I’d spent hours cleaning and organizing the kitchen, becoming familiar with every nook and cup hook, I truly lay claim to a new territory only through the act of creating something in it. Creating in a new space is how I come to know it in that instinctual way that allows me to stumble into the room half asleep in the morning and put on the coffee or lift my hand to find what I need on a shelf without really looking or thinking too much about it.
So, the simple acts of fetching and measuring out flour, oat bran, homemade almond milk and other alchemical wonders from the cupboards and fridge, mashing bananas with a fork until their sweet fragrance wafts about the kitchen, and mixing dry and wet together into a satisfying, tempting batter took on new significance. Baking, you see, transforms a new living space into a home. A place of refuge, sustenance, comfort and pleasure.
And baking something I’ve made countless times before instead of developing a new recipe links the present to the past, providing a sense of continuity, evoking old memories of making these muffins on Saturday mornings for a gaggle of messy-haired, pyjama-clad children watching cartoons in the next room. I may be in a new home, but it’s still the same life, carrying on.
So, back to these muffins. They’re from Anne Lindsay’s 1988 book, The Lighthearted Cookbook. Although the low-fat, margarine-promoting philosophy of the book is now outdated, it contains many good, healthful recipes that have served me well over the years. I just modify ingredients to suit my tastes and today’s respect for healthy fats.
I’ve experimented with different quantities and types of sugar, to accommodate my changing tastes and today’s developing knowledge about the health impacts of too much sugar. From the original half-cup of granulated white sugar, I’m now quite satisfied with half that amount of granulated cane sugar. I also tried using one-third cup of coconut sugar but found the sweetness level just a little too subtle; really though, it’s a matter of taste.
I’ve also made these muffins with regular dairy milk (full-fat, two percent and skim all work), kefir and almond milk (as always, I prefer my homemade version to store bought, if I have it on hand).
Then there’s the matter of the dried fruit, or not. I’ve always liked raisins and found them a real treat in baked goods as a child but, incomprehensibly to me, all three of my kids turned their noses up at them and still dislike them (and dried fruit in general). Many a time I would scoop out half a batch of raisin-free cupcakes and then add some to the remaining batter for the grownups in the house.
The batch that’s pictured in this blog post actually contains dried cranberries. Raisins are an ever-present staple in my cupboards, so I didn’t even check to see if I had any on hand before shopping for some of the other ingredients. Imagine my surprise when I found I had none! I think there may have been some over-zealous clearing of pantry items when I was packing up at the old house. Anyway, the cranberries were a little too sweet-and-tangy fancy-pants for this recipe; I prefer the workaday earnestness of raisins here. I’ve since made two batches with raisins and they strike just the right note of nostalgic deliciousness.
I wonder, how many batches of these muffins will I produce in this new kitchen, and what memories will they conjure up even as this recipe and I once again create new memories together?
Oat Bran Banana Muffins
Lightly adapted from Anne Lindsay’s “Oat Bran Banana-Raisin Muffins” in The Lighthearted Cookbook. I purchased the oat bran at the Arva Flour Mill, Canada’s oldest continuously-operating flour mill. I found it’s a little coarser than the oat bran I used to buy boxed at the grocery store, and more satisfactory for this recipe.
Pre-heat the oven to 400℉ and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cups.
- 1 egg
- ½ cup almond milk (or dairy or nut milk of your choice)
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup granulated golden cane sugar
- 1 cup mashed bananas (2 large or 3 smallish; if I have a little too much I just add it)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup oat bran
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ cup raisins
Mix the wet ingredients (yes, sugar counts as a wet ingredient) in a large bowl; I stir them with a whisk to get everything well-incorporated, but I don’t actually whisk the mixture as I don’t want to incorporate air. Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate, smaller bowl. Add the raisins, and use your fingers to separate them before stirring them in.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir with a large spoon or spatula, just until combined. A small lump or two won’t hurt.
Using a spoon or a medium-sized ice cream scoop, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups (fill them about two-thirds full).
Place the muffin tray on the centre rack of the pre-heated oven, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until nicely browned on top and a tester comes out clean. (In my new electric oven, the muffins are ready in 20 minutes; in my previous gas oven, they would have required 25 minutes – it’s important to know your oven!)
Set the tray of baked muffins on a cooling rack for five minutes or so, then decant the individual muffins to the cooling rack to prevent sogginess from occurring. Eat them warm or cold, but be advised, they won’t last long!