At the risk of gross oversimplification, there are basically two ways to make bran muffins: (1) with unprocessed wheat bran, and (2) with bran cereal.
You would think that cereal would be the more expensive option, but an 18 ounce box of All Bran Cereal costs about the same as a 14 ounce box of Hodgson Mills Unprocessed Bran. Some cereals have additives, like artificial sweeteners, but the above cereal is just bran, sugar, malt and salt. Comparing the nutritional information on the boxes, I figured out that 93 grams of cereal (about 1 1/2 cups) is the same as 75 grams of unprocessed bran (about 1 1/4 cups). So pricewise and nutritionwise, there isn’t too much difference.
The bran cereal is pre-cooked, which is a disadvantage is certain applications, but I think an advantage with something that is so briefly baked (muffins bake for 15-20 minutes). In fact, in doing a side by side comparison of bran muffins baked with cereal and unprocessed bran, I toasted the unprocessed bran before adding it to the batter to add some deeper color and flavor.
One more advantage in using cereal rather than unprocessed bran: you can readily eat up the leftover cereal for breakfast (well, over the course of many breakfasts), while the rest of the box of bran might linger in the freezer for a while.
Is there a taste advantage of one versus the other? I’m not sure. I made two batches of muffins and compared them side by side and the flavor was fairly similar.
So, the choice is yours. The below recipe (adapted from Maida Heatter’s famous recipe) lets you choose either raw bran flakes or cereal. And, by the way, if you think bran muffins are dry and tasteless, you must try this moist, deeply flavorful muffin.
Bran Muffins, Whatever Way You Like Them
Adapted from Maida Heatter (also here), with the idea of toasting the bran coming from Nancy Silverton, plus some additional inspiration from this recipe on AllRecipes. Maida’s recipe calls for cereal, but I tried it using unprocessed bran, and it worked just as well. The original recipe also was dairy, with melted butter and milk, but I have been making it for years with oil and soy milk and it works perfectly that way.
1/4 cup melted butter, coconut oil, or corn oil (2 ounces)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (3.25 ounces, 95 g.)
1/4 cup molasses, honey or date honey (silan), or a combination (I like a mix of honey and molasses)
2 eggs (bring to room temperature by putting in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes)
1 cup milk, dairy or non-dairy (8 ounces; I like soy or coconut milk)
1 1/2 cups bran cereal (3.25 ounces/93 g.; NOT the flakes, Maida likes Kellog’s All-Bran, which is the twiggy kind of bran cereal)
OR, instead of cereal, use 1 1/4 cups unprocessed bran (2.5 ounces/75 g.)
1 cup raisins (5 ounces/145g.) OR 12 dates, cut up (8.5 ounces/245 g. before pitting, 7.75 ounces/225 g. after pitting)
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces/115g.), optional
1 tsp. vanilla (can also use 1/4 tsp. orange extract)
1/2 cup flour (2.25 ounces)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.5 ounces)–OR use all whole wheat
1/2 tsp. salt (use 3/4 tsp. if using unprocessed bran)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
If you are using unprocessed bran, you can take the extra step of spreading it out on a baking sheet and toasting it at 350 degrees for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally as it bakes. Let it cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Maida goes with the hotter 400 degrees; I have made the recipe at both temperatures). Grease or line 18 muffin cups.
Combine the sugar, oil (or melted butter or melted coconut oil) , and syrup (molasses or honey or both). Add the room temperature eggs and whisk well. Gradually add the milk and whisk well (note: if you use ice cold eggs and milk and add them rapidly to the sugar mixture, the honey/molasses will get hard and lumpy and the melted butter might congeal). Add the vanilla.
Add the bran cereal and the raisins and the mixture soak for a few minutes. Add the nuts (If using)
Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and stir just enough to combine the dry and wet ingredients evenly.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cups (filling 2/3 full) and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (or 400 for 15 minutes). Remove muffins from tins and cool on a rack.
Variation: instead of the usual raisin/walnut mixture, try dates/date honey/pecans.
Another option: use 6 prunes, cut up, in place of the raisins or dates.