I love this bran muffin and it alarms me that sometimes a great old recipe can unknowingly slip away or be forgotten by the excitement and fickleness of finding a new recipe. Our bran muffin at Sarabeth's has undergone very few changes since its debut in 1981. In fact, every January I review our recipe books and reprint the pages so that we can start the new year with a fresh copy minus the fingerprints of butter and the flour that has found its way between the pages. Sometimes the bakers will make a note or two in the margins; adjustments to the baking time and temperature depending on how large the batches are and how full the oven is. There are also recipe edits that I have made during the year in my own handwriting. These tweaks are subtle—more vanilla, extra lemon zest or a different chocolate.
Last week while working with the evening bakers, I noticed something was not quite right with our bran muffin. (Anyone who has had our muffins knows how particular I am, not only with the taste but with their appearance.) I decided to do the bake off that evening and keep an eye on them myself. I was on a mission and stood in the oven room and watched. To my dismay, the muffins began to spread and they took too long to bake. When they came out of the oven I became impatient—wanting to taste them right away, I restrained myself. You can't judge anything correctly right out of the oven. When I did finally break the muffin opened, I was surprised how overly moist the inside was.—much too wet and although it tasted ok, but it did not have the wow factor of the original muffin.
I opened our recipe book and turned to the recipe. To my surprise I discovered a change in one on the ingredients. It was buttermilk instead of the original whole milk called for in the recipe. How does such a thing happen? Many times the bakers will say" Sarabeth, you made the change", and sometimes they are correct— but not in this instance When one uses buttermilk, there is usually the addition of baking soda to calm the acidity from the cultured milk. That was the tell tale giveaway, there was no baking soda in the recipe. Still puzzled, I turned to my recently published baking book to compare the recipes—as I suspected, whole-milk. As much as I love tweaking and trying to improve recipes— if it's not broken, don't fix it.
THIS IS MY MORNING BOWL OF OATMEAL
I consider myself an expert on hot cereal and I don't feel badly for boasting. If you are going to prepare a whole grain cereal, use McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal— made from the finest steel cut oats. They take longer to cook than rolled or old-fashioned oats but it is really worth the effort. The key to a hearty, yet tender bowl of oatmeal, is gentle cooking in a double boiler. I like the nutty flavor of these oats. This method of cooking will assure you of perfectly plumped oats, with a lot of flavor.
If you happen to be on Weight Watchers TM, a serving will keep you satisfied until lunch. I have mine with 1/2 cup of 2 % organic milk and half of a medium banana. The best 6 point breakfast ever.
OATMEAL IN A DOUBLE BOILER
Makes 4 servings
4 cups cold water
1 cup McCann's steel cut oats
2 pinches salt
Warm 2 % milk, for serving
2 medium bananas, sliced (one-half per serving)
1. In the top part of a double boiler, combine the water, oats and salt. Place over cold water in the bottom part of the double boiler and cover.
2. Bring the water in the bottom pot to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low so the water maintains a steady, gentle simmer. Cook covered, stirring one or two times, until the oatmeal is plump and tender, about 40 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and let stand 5 minutes. Stir gently. Serve immediately with warm milk and sliced banana.
This preserve of strawberries and rhubarb is as vibrant and crimson in color as the images you see on the pages that follow. I made six jars two days ago and they are history. The bakery staff fell in love at first bite and the slightly warm jars went home to their families that afternoon. I will be making more tomorrow and this time I will triple the batch because this recipe is a keeper.
I was at our house about three weeks ago, before the first major snowstorm of the season hit New York. There is a beautiful horse farm and equestrian school across the road and the horses were out romping and dashing about. Usually only mares are in the field, but this time, some of their foals were there as well. I love watching them and have tried on many occasions to take their photo. Most of the time they move away when they see or hear me approaching. This was an unusual morning. My grandsons Jack and Drew had come over for their favorite pancakes and we had just finished eating. I was clearing the table when I happened to look out the window— about 100 yards away, my " horse-friends" were lined up at the fence, staring at my house. I grabbed my camera and I was out the door in a flash. Something was different, believe me, I know this sounds crazy, but those horses were waiting for me.