Food prep often includes mashing, whipping, kneading, blending, and chopping, as seen in this wonderful British TV commercial for Lurpak by director Dougal Wilson*. Much of the chaos is just plain fun! Break something around the house and you get yelled at. Break an egg and you can make something from it – an omelette, cake, meatloaf.
When I teach people to cook there are certain recipes I know will lure them into the kitchen. Really young children adore anything they can squish or squeeze through their fingers and taste along the way. Elementary school age kids are usually willing to try any recipe involving egg breaking, sugar or knives. The last being something to teach slightly older kids and always with supervision, but knife skills are important. All ages respond to the kneading bread dough – especially the part where you get to punch down the dough. The messy, tactile, physical, and sometimes slightly violent parts of food prep can be seductive. I admit I’ll use almost any opportunity or concept to introduce folks young or old to the joys of making food.
Grammy Caldwell wasn’t quite as sneaky about getting folks into the kitchen and cook as I am. She loved cooking, made great food, was happy to show anyone who was interested (like me) how she did it. The rest of the folks she simply fed. Despite her straightforward approach to cooking I want to tell you a secret – she was a raisin bran basher.
Her Raisin Bran Muffins are one of those wacky doodle recipes where you transform one breakfast food into another. In this recipe you add eggs, flour, buttermilk, oil and a few other things to a box of cereal the it transforms into muffins. It wasn’t written down on her recipe card, but I remember Gram pulverizing the bran flakes with her rolling pin when she made these. No polite, gentle taps but repeated bashes till all she had was a bag of crumbs and flattened raisins. I’m guessing she figured the annihilated cereal would incorporate into the batter faster. One of the steps of this recipe which is written down is you let the batter sit overnight to allow the flavors to meld. A few years ago I was making a batch and I forgot the bashing part. I was worried it would make a difference. Thankfully I couldn’t tell the un-bashed batch from any previous bashed batches. I’m guessing it is because as the batter sits overnight the bran flakes in the cereal more or less melt (well actually they expand) into the batter. So since it doesn’t seem to make a difference I’ve stopped bashing. Of course if you feel the need to hit something with a rolling pin a bag of Raisin Bran is a good thing to whack.
This recipe makes enough batter so you can have 1-2 dozen mini muffins every day for a (school) week. I like to mix it up on Sunday night so all I have to do each morning is get up, preheat the oven while I make the kid’s lunches, then pop in one or two mini muffin pans. The mini version bakes so quickly you can have hot muffins ready before it’s time to leave for the bus. If your family is smaller than mine or they don’t like to eat the same thing day after day, you can freeze either the batter or bake all the muffins and freeze them. They also make a nice gifts for the neighbors.
One Week Raisin Bran Muffins
Grammy used Post Raisin Bran, I use Kellogg’s. She used more sugar than I do, but that is a personal preference, so you may want to give the batter a taste at 1 1/2 cups to see what you think. Don’t try to keep the batter longer than 5-6 days.
1 cup oil
1 quart buttermilk
1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar
5 cups flour (I mix all-purpose flour with whole wheat and a little wheat germ if I have it)
5 teaspoons baking soda
15-17 ounces raisin bran cereal, bashed or unbashed
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease mini muffin pans and fill with batter to just below the top with batter. Bake 14-16 minutes. Serve while hot, though I must admit they make a nice little snack throughout the morning along with a cup of tea.
*I did not food style this commercial, but I dearly wish I had. It is brilliant and every time I watch it I get excited about how fun my chosen career can be. Kudos to the director, food stylist, prop stylist (did you notice all those purple cooking pots?!!) and all!