A great healthy breakfast and snack!
Throughout my childhood, my family crammed well-worn duffel bags, puffy nylon sleeping bags, and 1”-thick roll-up mattress pads into our navy blue minivan twice each summer. While my brother and I quietly turned the pages of our chapter books in the backseat, Mom steered us up the winding, narrow mountain roads up to Yosemite or Lake Tahoe while Dad navigated from oversized paper maps (remember those, before GPS and smart phones?) from the passenger’s side.
After arriving and claiming a campsite, we pulled the tent from the trunk first, driving stakes into the ground with a hammer and clipping the collapsible poles to the polyester. Once erected, we schlepped our gear from the car into the tent, trying desperately (and failing miserably) to brush the dirt from our feet and bags before entering. Even with leaving our sneakers outside, we still ended up sweeping out an entire dustpan’s worth of debris by the time we packed up to head home!
We spent most days exploring the trails, hiking to places like Cascade Falls, Eagle Lake, and Vikingsholm Castle. Along with copious amounts of water, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent, Mom also stashed plenty of snacks in her backpack to bribe our tired little legs to continue walking. (Those plastic tubes of mini M&Ms worked every time!) If we managed to return to the parking lot without any whining or begging to turn back, she promised a reward of s’mores after dinner. Mom was—and still is—one smart lady!
Despite the treats of gooey marshmallows and melted chocolate, I treasure memories of early morning breakfasts even more. We rose with the sun, before any other party in the expansive campground, and bundled up in sweatshirts while Mom boiled a pot of water on the small green gas-powdered stove. She handed us each two coffee mugs: one for Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate, complete with the mini marshmallows, and the other for Quaker Instant Oatmeal.
I always reached for the paper envelope of apple cinnamon inside the variety pack box. Mom never objected; she seized every opportunity to add extra fruit (and veggies) to our diets! Because I preferred my oatmeal thick, I rarely added the full amount of water, and I stirred rapid circles with my spoon to help it cool faster. After scraping the last morsels from our mugs and downing our final sips of cocoa, we scrubbed our dishes in freezing cold buckets of water and pulled on our shoes for another day of hiking.
Biting into one of these Apple Bran Muffins instantly transports me back to those wee summer hours where we sat around the cold wooden picnic tables with our mugs of oatmeal. Tender fruit and warm cinnamon fill each hearty muffin, melding with the comforting taste of spicy molasses and sweet honey. Made with only clean natural ingredients, each low fat muffin will keep you full all morning long and satisfy any sweet-tooth breakfast lovers!
This easy recipe begins by soaking the oat bran. It’s similar to oatmeal: it can absorb a lot of liquid! Mixing the bran with milk, yogurt, and vanilla moistens it while also bringing out its subtle nuttiness and sweet oaty flavor. If added along with the whole wheat flour, it would turn the muffins dry and crumbly. So to keep the muffins moist, soak the bran for at least 15 minutes.
Oil and melted butter both work well in these muffins. I prefer the ease of measuring oil, but others enjoy the taste of butter. If you opt for melted butter, make sure the egg warms to room temperature before cracking it into the butter’s bowl. A cold egg rapidly chills the hot melted butter, resulting in small chunks of semi-solidified fat. Not good! To quickly raise the temperature of a refrigerated egg, place it in a small container of warm water before preparing the dry ingredients.
I sweetened these clean-eating muffins with natural ingredients: honey and molasses. While the thick honey contributes the majority of the sweetness, the molasses is actually the most important ingredient! Its deep robust taste—almost like a combination of maple and caramel—shines through and really makes the muffins sing. (It also brings back fond memories of baking bread with my dad every holiday season!) When paired with cinnamon, its warm smell wafts throughout the entire kitchen, filling every nook and cranny with the most tantalizing aroma. Waiting for the muffins to bake is pure torture!
Dice your favorite apple to mix into the muffins. Fuji, Honeycrisp, Red Delicious, Granny Smith… It doesn’t matter! Whatever you store in your fridge or fruit basket will work just fine. I left the skin on for extra fiber and nutrients, but just like the variety of apple, that’s a matter of personal preference. Feel free to remove the peel if you’d like!
This batter is thick… Really thick. It actually resembles dense wet cookie dough, so pull out a spoon or ice cream scoop to transfer the batter to the muffin tins. No liquid measuring cups here! Leave them in the oven for 17-19 minutes and not a second more. Because they continue to cook a little bit while cooling in the hot muffin tin, you want to pull them out when they’re just barely done to preserve their moisture.
Rich molasses, warm cinnamon, and tender apples accompany the nutty oat bran in these healthy Apple Bran Muffins. They’re soft and naturally sweet, with the perfect kiss of comforting spice. Despite their squat appearance, these incredibly moist muffins make for a hearty, wholesome breakfast—the fiber keeps you full all morning!
As much as I savored those sweet packets of instant oatmeal, I enjoyed these clean-eating muffins even more. I nibbled on one in the morning… Another as a sweet treat after lunch… And a third as an appetizer before dinner. I initially planned on freezing half to save as healthy snacks for the future, but with how quickly I sped through these, I’d need to triple the batch for that to happen!
Oh well, at least they’re more nutritious than the cookies and fudge I indulged in throughout the entire holiday season!
These hearty muffins are a great way to start the day! They’re full of fiber from the oat bran and apples, while the molasses adds a robust flavor reminiscent of caramel and maple. They’ll keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days; reheat individual servings in the microwave for 13-16 seconds.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, and lightly coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the oat bran, milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes.
- While the bran mixture sits, whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in another bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil or butter and egg. Stir in the honey and molasses. Stir in the bran mixture, smearing out any clumps along the side of the bowl. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the diced apple.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350°F for 17-19 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
Notes: It’s important to soak the oat bran to soften it and bring out its flavor. If you omit the soaking step, the muffins will turn out dry and crumbly.
I left the skin on the apple for extra fiber and nutrients, but whether you peel it is entirely up to you.
Hi Amy!! I made these muffins earlier today and they turned out perfectly. They are moist, hearty and crazy delicious! Like usual, I have to double the recipe. My boys want me to quit my full time job so I can bake ALL of YOUR goodies! They don’t want me to even peruse other blogs. Thanks again! You and your recipes are awesome!
Awww your boys are SO sweet Carmelina — and so are you!! I’m truly, truly honored that they’ve been loving all of my recipes and want to try everything I make. I’d sign them up as my official taste testers if I could! 😉 I’m really excited to hear what you and your family try next!!
Hi Amy! Could I substitute the greek yoghurt with applesauce at all? Or do 50/50 applesauce and yoghurt with that 1/3 cup, without it affecting the consistency of the batter too much? 🙂 I’m so excited to try these!
Yes, I think you should be able to do half applesauce and half yogurt! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear what you think of these muffins Claudia!
These muffins are amazing! Moist and delish and so easy to make. I’m going to try blueberries or bananas and walnuts in place of the apple for a little variety. I love muffins and these are a healthy, delicious option. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us!
I’m so glad you loved these muffins Cat! That means a lot to me! 🙂 I love the sound of your tweaks — I need to remember that in the future!
I tried substituting wheat bran for oat bran, used half Greek yogurt and half applesauce. They taste delicious but they never cooked thoroughly. I added 15 minutes bake time and they were still soft and gooey in the middle and they never rose. I also lined the muffin cups with paper liners. Would that make the difference?
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe! We’ll get this sorted out. 🙂 Did you use just over 2 ½ tablespoons of both Greek yogurt and applesauce? Or did you substitute applesauce for another ingredient? (I just want to make sure I fully understand the recipe modifications that you made! 🙂 ) And to confirm, you baked them at 350°F for 34 minutes in a standard-sized muffin tin (not jumbo)? Was your oven rack in the middle of your oven or more towards the bottom? I’ve never tried these muffins with wheat bran, so it could also be that’s the issue. The paper liners shouldn’t make a difference. (Just remember to coat them with cooking spray because this batter sticks to paper liners like superglue!)
What can I use instead of WHEAT flour???
I really appreciate your interest in my recipe Anna! If you’re avoiding all types of wheat flour (whole wheat pastry flour, white whole wheat flour, etc), then my favorite wheat-free substitute would be Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Baking Flour. 🙂 I’d love to hear what you think of these muffins if you make them!
Susan Bowers says...
Are the quantities of oat bran, milk, and yogurt correct? Mixing 1 1/3 cups of oat bran with 1/3 cup each of milk and yogurt resulted in a bowl of dense, barely moist oat bran. It could not possibly “soak” in this liquid. By the time all the ingredients were added (in proper order, properly measuring, etc.), I had to add a great deal of milk to create muffins. The end product was nonetheless very dry. Thoughts?
I’m honored that you tried my recipe, Susan! That sounds frustrating and not like how these muffins or the batter should turn out, so I’d love to help figure out what happened. 🙂 Would you mind elaborating on how you properly measured? Did you use a kitchen scale or measuring cups, especially for the oat bran, milk, and flour? If the latter, can you describe how you used them to measure? Also, did you make any modifications, besides adding more milk?
I know I just asked a lot of questions, but once I know your answers to all of them, I’ll have a much better idea of the potential culprit!
Susan Bowers says...
Dear Amy,I am sorry for the greatly delayed response. I have been working 60-70 hours a week and am just beginning to dig out!Thank you for taking time to answer my question. By “properly measuring” I meant that I poured the oat bran into the measuring cup. The details of how I prepared the mix probably won’t clarify the issue that arose. I think perhaps my understanding of “soak” differs from what you intended. I cannot imagine a 1 to 4 ratio of liquid to dry resulting in a “soak”. Your confirming that the measurements are correct suffices. I have been baking for over 50 years and enjoy trying new recipes. Thank you for offering yours online.
Kind regards, Susan
No need to apologize, Susan! Working that many hours a week leaves time for very little else… Including sleep, I’m sure! Your own health and well-being always comes first! 🙂
Thank you for sharing about the oat bran! That method of measuring is actually the issue. When poured directly into the measuring cup like that, you often end up compacting the oat bran that’s at the bottom of the measuring cup… Which means you end up adding more oat bran to the measuring cup and more than this recipe actually calls for. You can actually end up with 1.5 times as much oat bran as when you lightly spoon and level, and that extra oat bran is definitely causing the issues that you’ve experienced!
If you don’t own a kitchen scale, here’s what I recommend doing for measuring oat bran (and flour, cocoa powder, regular oats, etc!): use a fork to “scoop” up oat bran from the container, and lightly shake the fork back and forth over the top of your measuring cup to transfer the flour into it. Once there’s a small mound of oat bran extending past the rim of the measuring cup, then place the flat back of a knife against the top of the measuring cup, and gently scrape it across the top to get rid of the excess oat bran. Never “pat” the oat bran down with the knife or fork, and never shake the measuring cup back and forth while filling it either. This fork method acts like a sifter (without dirtying another dish!) and guarantees you’ll add less oat bran to the batter, so you’ll end up with moist and tender muffins!
Does that make sense? 🙂
Susan Bowers says...
Thank you, Amy. Measuring as you suggest makes complete sense. I am ready to give it a go!
It’s my pleasure, Susan! I’m happy to help, and I’m so glad it makes sense. I’m really excited to hear how your next batch of muffins turns out! 🙂
Janis Pierce says...
I made these Apple-Bran muffins this morning for breakfast, and I’m very disappointed. I followed the directions exactly, have a sink full of bowls and measuring devices, and no payoff. Yes, they are moist but pretty tasteless (except for a sour taste). I was planning on giving some to a friend who is recuperating from surgery, but I think these are going into the garbage instead. I mostly cook low-sugar, low-fat gourmet dishes so I’m really into healthy and nutritious eating. But these fall short of delicious by a long shot.
I’m honored that you tried my recipe, Janis! That sounds really frustrating and not like how these muffins are supposed to turn out, so I’d love to work with you to figure out what happened. 🙂 In order to do so, I have some questions for you!
Did you make any substitutions or modifications to the recipe?
What’s the exact molasses that you used (brand + product name)?
What brand of cinnamon did you use? (Certain brands and varieties have different strengths and flavors, so I just like to double check!)
What variety of apple did you use?
Just confirming (only because it’s happened to other readers!) — you used baking powder and not baking soda, correct? (Two teaspoons of baking soda definitely would’ve resulted in a sour taste!)
How were you hoping these muffins were going to taste? Sweeter, with a stronger spice flavor, something else?
I know I just asked a LOT of questions, but I’ll have a much better idea of the culprit once I know your answers to all of them!
Janis Pierce says...
My SINCERE apologies! I made these, that are going into the garbage, with WHEAT bran, not oat bran. I saw the word BRAN and my mind went immediately to wheat bran. I’ll bet with a lighter bran, like oat, these could taste a lot better than what I made with wheat. So, now instead of eating muffins, I’m eating crow. I’ll try this again!