Last weekend I harvested the last stalks from our small patch of rhubarb, eager to make rhubarb muffins. Try as I might, though, I simply could not make a decent muffin. For the first batch I cooked the rhubarb into a compote, then used that in the batter and in a muesli and brown sugar crumble on top. The muffins tasted good, but they were heavy. We ate them warm from the oven for breakfast on Sunday, but once they cooled any appeal they’d had dissipated.
Lucky for us, a friend offered us his rhubarb crop, which was going untouched. We drove over and picked it Sunday night and on Monday I attempted another batch of muffins. I made a few tweaks to the recipe, including using chopped raw rhubarb inside and in the topping. Another batch of stodgy, heavy muffins.
That same day I also made a coffee cake to take to friends. I used the recipe that I’ve made countless times since I was a teenager, the one that was my Dad’s favourite. It didn’t rise up properly either. I began to despair — am I losing my baking mojo?
On Wednesday, with grim determination, I tackled those muffins again. This time I decided to strip out the variables of a new recipe, and used my tried and true Get Up and Go Bran Muffin recipe, substituting chopped rhubarb for raisins and jettisoning the crumble topping. The outcome was better, but the muffins were still not as light as they should have been.
And, finally, finally, the lightbulb above my head turned on. Could the problem be my baking powder?
Now, I know that baking powder has a shelf life of about a year. I know that if you’re not sure if your baking powder is still good, you can test it by putting a teaspoon of it into a half cup of hot water; if it bubbles up vigourously, it’s still good. I just hadn’t given this one iota of thought, even though the container I was using had both the date it was packed and the date I first opened it (in 2011, oops) written on it. You know, for easy reference. I did the hot water test, and yes, any fizzing action was anaemic at best. Picture a Homer Simpsonesque d’oh slap to the forehead.
Another “I know better” moment from Urban Cottage Life to you.
So today, with a freshly opened container of baking powder, I made yet another version of the recipe and finally achieved the rhubarb muffin nirvana I’d been seeking all week long. The tops were a little crispy, the interior light and fluffy, with moist zingy bites of rhubarb. Yes!
Do try these. With fresh ingredients on hand, you too can achieve tangy, muffiny blissdom, but in only one attempt instead of four.
Rhubarb Bran Muffins
Marlene Cornelis, Urban Cottage Life.com 2013
Pre-heat oven to 400ºF. Prepare muffin tray with 12 paper liners. How you cut the rhubarb depends on its thickness, but you want sizeable chunks to get those bites of rhubarb goodness. If it’s slender, I suggest about 3/4″ pieces. If it’s thicker, 1/2″ pieces should be fine.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup spelt bran (you could also use wheat bran)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1-1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 cup chopped rhubarb (see note, above)
MIx the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just incorporated. Stir in the rhubarb pieces. Scoop the batter into the 12 muffin liners (an ice cream scoop helps you distribute the batter evenly). Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the tops are nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
Serve warm with butter if you prefer, but these are beautifully moist and good to eat just as they are.