Growing up, my family moved around a lot. We primarily stuck around the central and southwest regions of the U.S., and while I wasn’t totally thrilled each time another move came around, I look back now and am thankful for all those new places to live. I had to learn how to make friends, and got to experience a lot of regional culture.
But one thing I never really experienced is hard-core RAIN. Cold, wet, dropping out of the sky – rain. When we lived in Houston, the occasional thunderstorm would drench us and intensify the already palpable humidity, but would be over within the half hour. Colorado’s climate would change every 5-minutes, and, in the what seemed to be miraculous moments it rained in Arizona, we would dance around like fools in the muddy puddles. There were even times in California (usually when it was one of those 80 degree days in December) when I would pray for rain, or some sort of “seasonal” weather. Well, I guess the old adage is true – be careful what you wish for!
There is no other word to describe today’s rain, but unbelievable. The sky, which has been dark for days, finally opened up and unleashed a fury of water. At one point it looked like a waterfall from the sky. Even the kids, and the native Oregonians at our school who have been around wet weather since birth, stopped their teaching and learning to just look out the window, or open the door, and just stare. I closed my eyes for a moment and could hear giant slaps of water – like some gold miner in the sky was tossing buckets of leftover river water over his shoulder. Opening my eyes, I followed the sound to what looked exactly like what I had imagined. There were random isolated patches of slightly violent thrown water from the sky, which would have left anyone completely drenched were they to find themselves under that unfortunate pocket of clouds. Again, unbelievable.
And maybe it was the weather, but strange things kept happening all day: Every single one of my fourth graders missed the exact same problem in the exact same way showing the exact same incorrect problem solving. One of my Kindergartners flat out forgot how to hold a pencil, when, just moments earlier she clearly and correctly wrote her name on her paper. She got the most blank look on her face when I asked her to pick up her pencil to write the number “15” (this was probably the strangest and most frustrating teaching experience I’ve ever had). On top of that, the second graders were unusually quiet in the cafeteria at lunchtime (sounds silly, but this was probably the most strange thing of all!).
So, chalking up the day’s weirdness to the unreal weather, I left work today remembering the yummy, comforting sweet treat I had waiting for me at home: Brown Butter Bran Muffins. Can a bran muffin be comforting? Yes. Can it even be yummy? Absolutely! And I’ve found a way to keep it so light and sweet it will convert even the strongest bran hater.
I use greek yogurt as my fat base, substituting the enormous amounts of both butter and eggs usually found in decent bran muffins. Mixed with honey, only a bit of browned butter (caramelized butter goes a long way in the flavor department, and the little specks look great in the batter), and dark brown sugar, these muffins offer great sweet depth of flavor, without the guilty unhealthy feeling (or the dense food-baby we are all familiar with after indulging).
I enjoyed my muffins, feeling warmed against the cold, wet rain, and let go of the question-mark-over-the-head day. Tomorrow will be different, I expect, but even if it’s crazy raining again, I’ll have a yummy, healthy bran-filled breakfast treat to look forward to.
Brown Butter Bran Muffins (makes 12 muffins)
- 1/2 c all purpose flour, plus more for dusting muffin tin
- 1/2 c whole wheat flour
- 1/2 c oat bran
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 + 1/8 c dark brown sugar
- 8 oz. greek yogurt (I use the honey flavor)
- 2 tbsp good honey
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for greasing muffin tin
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a greased and lightly floured muffin tin.
In a small fry pan, melt the butter until the milk solids start to brown. When it starts to smell like roasting nuts, turn off the heat and let cool.
Whisk the dry ingredients together, minus the sugar. In a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer) mix the sugar and yogurt. When incorporated, add the cooled butter, honey and vanilla extract. Mix until just combined.
In thirds, add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until incorporated each time (and then, if no one is looking, lick the paddle – it’s divine in its raw form!).
Using an ice cream scoop, equally scoop the batter into the muffin tin and bake until a toothpick inserted into the muffins comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
These muffins are great served warm with jams, chutneys, and my favorite: almond butter.