Coconut-Berry Bookclub Muffins

Friday, February 5, 2021

I cannot believe I am saying this in the current age of digital media and social distancing, but I have too many book clubs.

I know! I can hardly believe it myself, but here I am, with two weeks to finish three books, not to mention my personal reading, which has been glaring at me mournfully from its relegated position at the bottom of the stack.

Though an incredibly privileged, trivial, and honestly comical pickle, this is nevertheless the briny situation in which I find myself.

There’s the book club at work — Zoom, of course — focused on “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.

My volunteer group is reading Woody Holton’s “Abigail Adams: A Life.”

Meanwhile, my siblings and their respective partners have chosen “The Guest List” by Lucy Foley for our next read. If I wasn’t already a Zoom master, I’m about to be!

So what do I do with my limited time and so many personal deadlines looming?

I made muffins. What? I needed reading fuel!

These muffins are insanely delicious — so fluffy, so bright, so tender and bran-tastic, absolutely bursting with coconut and berries — that I’m sure you’ll forgive my brief dalliance with a recipe while so many other words were begging to be read. Also, they’re very quick to whip up, so my guilt was not long-lived. Especially not once I ate one; I think I actually muttered “oh my god” under my breath after the first bite, and then again after the second, and then promptly shut up because chewing was altogether too wonderful to be interrupted.

This recipe comes to us by way of the great and powerful Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen fame, and the way I’ve made them here is but one adaptation — I chose to use coconut and berries, but you could substitute any number of delicious fillings. Deb suggests “banana-coconut, mango-fresh cranberry, blackberry-apple, and blueberry-raspberry,” but let your imagination be the limit! I think next time — and oh yes, there will be a next time — I’ll try cranberries and candied ginger. Or maybe something with pears? There are so many delicious and tempting possibilities, I feel like Sylvia Plath in her fig tree — hold up, should I do something with figs?

Luckily, there’s no deadline or limit to muffin making; I see many batches in my future, and I hope you do, too!

Blue Sky Bran Muffins, with Mixed Berries and Coconut (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients (for 12 standard muffins):

  • 1 + 1/3 cups (315 mL) buttermilk (you can also use sour cream or yogurt thinned with a little milk)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) oil (such as vegetable, safflower, sunflower, or olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) lightly packed dark brown sugar (I only had light brown on hand, so I used slightly less than 50 grams and added a teaspoon of molasses)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 + 1/2 cups (185 grams) oat bran (or use 1 + 1/2 cups, or 90 grams, of wheat bran, as called for in the original recipe)
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour (although these muffins are so fluffy with all-purpose, I bet they could hold up to whole wheat without much trouble)
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder (preferably aluminum-free)
  • 1 + 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt (or fine sea salt)
  • Approximately 1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut, divided
  • Generous 3/4 cup mixed berries (I used a frozen blend of blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry; no need to thaw first)

Protocol:

  1. Heat oven to 425 F. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin tin, or coat with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk buttermilk, egg, oil, brown sugar, and lemon zest together in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Stir wet mixture into dry until just combined and still a bit rough.
  5. Combine the berries and coconut in a small bowl, reserving a handful of coconut to sprinkle on top of the muffins before baking.
  6. Spoon 2 tablespoons of batter into each prepared muffin cup. Add about 2 teaspoons (I just eyeballed here) of the fruit-coconut mixture to each, dividing the filling evenly between the muffins. Spoon the remaining batter (about 1 tablespoon each) over the fruit, spreading it just a little to cover any rogue berries—top muffins with reserved coconut.
  7. Bake muffins for a total of 16–18 minutes, rotating the pan once midway through baking time for even browning, until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out with just a few crumbs attached. Do not overbake. Let muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tin.
  8. Muffins will keep at room temp for 3 days, longer in the fridge, and even longer in the freezer. I usually keep a couple at room temp or in the fridge for immediate snackery, then lovingly wrap the rest in a little cling wrap before nestling them all together in one big freezer Ziploc. Then, any time I want a hit o’ bran, I grab a muffin, zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and voilà! It’s muffin time!

Happy snacking (and reading)!

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Helen Grace

Helen Grace

Pursuing the simple joys of butter, flour, and eggs, 52 weeks a year.

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