Okay, so it is really odd, my culinary response to the Easter season. I always want to make things with carrots. Reading this hilarious essay by Nicholas Day on Food52 recently probably didn’t help. For one thing, it reminded me of the 3-pound grocery store bag of unglamorous, bizarrely fluorescent carrots in the bottom of my crisper. (By the way, if you’re looking for pantry-savvy dinner recipes, using carrots, you should read this piece.) There is just some switch in my mind that goes, Easter, Easter bunny, carrots. I mean, eventually I come around to the ham, the coconut cake (mandatory), coconut meringue pie, hot cross buns, and the egg dishes. And I have even adopted a love of the seriously weird Easter pie tradition here in New Haven, including rice and wheat. But it’s cold, still, and I like breaking open my baked goods and seeing a little spark of color. Orange specks! Yes?
And this recipe, it is pretty good. It’s like a kind of carrot coffee cake (there is sour cream, after all) crossed with a bran muffin. My basic bran muffin is a riff on the one in the Cheese Board Collective Works—if you don’t own this cookbook, and you have even the teensiest obsession with muffins and scones, go out and get a copy now. It is virtuous, but delicious. None of the punishing texture that can sometimes be associated with bran muffins. Not too sweet, and just perfectly spicy. The ingredient list is long, but if you keep bran and germ in the house, the rest of the list is just staples, and much of it is an assortment of spices. If you have a favorite crumb or streusel topping, it might be good on here. I often find myself eating my morning muffin on the run, so I left those off. Crumbs tend to get stuck all over me when I walk and eat, and the result is not good for my sartorial presence in the office. What is the best accompaniment to these muffins? A slab of cream cheese, right down the middle. Reminiscent of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, but good for breakfast.
Bonus: these muffins freeze really well. You can pull one out of the freezer and toss it in the microwave for a few seconds to thaw it. The best part? When the days warm up, you can have a nice muffin for breakfast without turning on the oven. I am counting the days until this is a legitimate worry, my friends. Enjoy your spring festivals, everyone!
Carrot cake bran muffins
Adapted wildly from Cheese Board Collective Works
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup rye or whole-wheat pastry flour
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup wheat bran
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 cup grated carrot, packed (about 3 to 4 carrots)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if you like
1. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin thoroughly, or line muffin tins with paper or foil liners. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, molasses, water, raisins and vanilla. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, brown sugar, soda, salt, bran, wheat germ, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg.
3. Pour egg mixture into the center of flour mixture and stir just until combined. Add carrot and nuts, if using, and mix well, just until dry mixture is thoroughly incorporated into batter. Let batter rest for 15 minutes, so the moisture can distribute.
4. Spoon batter evenly into prepared tin. Bake at 375 F for 5 minutes and then reduce temperature to 350 F. Bake 25 more minutes. Test to ensure muffins are done by inserting a toothpick near the center. The toothpick should emerge batter-free. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, and then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Serve warm or room temperature with butter, or a smear of cream cheese.