Nancy Silverton’s Bran Muffins

cupcake liners bran muffin + moka

I don’t know if my grandmother loved to cook, but she was certainly good at it. Which was a good thing, because she sure loved to eat. When people tell me, “I don’t have time to cook. I have a job and two kids at home” I think of my grandmother, that had four kids, opened and ran a huge five-story furniture store which she worked in every day with her husband (who she told me was rather, um, “difficult”, amongst other things), and somehow managed to get dinner on the table every night. And this was before bagged salads, frozen broccoli, and electricity.

bran d'wheat

Okay, she did have electricity. But even if she didn’t, I still think she was pretty amazing—even though she had a mouth that would shock a longshoreman, and after she let some choice words slip, would always tell me, “Oh s&%t, don’t tell your mother I talk like this.”

During her later years, she moved from New England to Los Angeles because the weather was nicer. And she actually had a fireplace in her kitchen, not because she was a food snob and cooking over a fire was trendy: it was because she liked her steaks and lamb chops grilled. So there.

muffin raisins in processor

Another person in Los Angeles who’s a great cook is Nancy Silverton. I met Nancy when she was the pastry chef at Spago, before she went off on her own to open La Brea Bakery and Campanile restaurant. When she told me what she was doing, I thought she was nuts to open an artisan bread bakery in Los Angeles, and thought, “Who the hell in Los Angeles is going to eat wood-fired breads?”

Well, I guess that explains why Nancy’s La Brea Bread are now sold all the way across America and she’s super-famous and the New York Times loves her—and I live in a two-room apartment, drink €3 bottles of vin ordinaire, and have to take my laundry down to the Seine and beat it on a rock with a stick.

stirring bran

Fortunately Nancy took pity on me and thinking that my grandmother, who I stayed with in LA was old and frail, would load me up with all sorts of breads, scones, cookies, and muffins to bring home to poor ol’ grandma. Well, the only thing “poor” about her was that I ate half the loot in the car on the way back to her house.

I should also note that my grandmother was a persnickety eater and would only eat food that was fresh, and really good. I think being a good cook does that to you. As she got older, she complained that food didn’t have any flavor anymore. I don’t know if that was because food was indeed losing its flavor as more processed became a part of our lives, or because she was getting old.

Or because she smoked two packs of non-filter Chesterfields per day her entire life, and enjoyed quite a few slugs of Chivas in the Lalique glasses she got on her honeymoon; “So what if I break one?” she said to me, when I protested part of my inheritance was going to get dropped, “You get one less when I’m gone—too bad!

unbaked muffin

But after she took one bite out of her first bran muffin from Nancy, she was blown-away by how good it was. “Oh my God, this is so moist…and has so much flavor!”

After she finished off the one she was eating, she rambled through the bag looking for another. (Gulp…!) After that first time, whenever I went back to La Brea Bakery to see Nancy, she’d give me a bag stuffed with freshly-baked bran muffins to bring back to my grandmother.

bran muffins

Fast forward to today. My grandmother passed away a while back and Nancy sold La Brea Bakery and is now baking pizzas at Mozza, which I hear are just as amazing as her breads and pastries. I don’t get back to Los Angeles as much as I’d like to, which is a shame because I have a lot of good memories there.

Eating char-broiled steaks and baked potatoes with bacon, sour cream, and chives with my grandmother in her kitchen is one. Hanging out and drinking dark coffee and nibbling on scones with flour-dusted Nancy in her bakery is another. But reaching my hand into the bag of muffins as I drove down Wilshire Boulevard, on my way back to my grandmother’s house, is that one that I remember most fondly of them all.

Bran Muffins
Print Recipe
Makes 12
Adapted from Pastries from La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton These muffins are quite different than other muffins. For one thing, they’re much, much lighter in texture. And for another, they’re not very sweet. Be sure to fill the molds so that the batter is mounded up in each tin. Next batch, I’m going to try baking them at a higher temperature, 400F (200C), and see if that gives them more height and oomph. I’ll revise the recipe if I do. But if anyone tries that in the meantime, I’d be interested in hearing about it in the comments.
2 cup (125g) wheat bran
1 cup plus 1/2 cup (190g total) dark raisins
1 cup plus 1/2 cup (370ml total) water
1/2 cup (120g) buttermilk or plain low- or non-fat yogurt
a few swipes of fresh orange zest, unsprayed
1/2 cup (105g) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 cup (65g) flour
1/4 cup (35g) whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin (with 1/2-cup indentations) with paper liners.
2. Spread the wheat bran on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for six to eight minutes, stirring a few times so it cooks evenly. Let cool.
3. While the bran is toasting, heat 1 cup (135g) of the raisins with 1/2 cup (120ml) of the water. Simmer for ten minutes, or until the water is all absorbed. Puree the raisins in a food processor or blender until smooth.
4. In a large bowl, mix together the toasted bran, buttermilk or yogurt, 1 cup (250ml) water, then mix in the raisin puree, orange zest, and brown sugar.
5. Stir in the oil, egg and egg white.
6. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and sift directly into the wet ingredients. Stir until the ingredients are just combined, then mix in the remaining 1/2 cup (55g) raisins.
7. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, making sure the batter is mounded slightly in each one. Because muffin tins can very in size, if your tins are larger, make fewer muffins.
8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins feel set in the center.

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  • Susan
    July 21, 2009 6:25am

    I’m sure the muffins are wonderful, but your Grandmother is priceless. I aspire to be just like her in my advancing years! I’ll be a crusty muffin! Great story, David.

  • July 21, 2009 6:30am

    Great post. Thanks for this; I love a good bran muffin.

  • July 21, 2009 7:05am

    I love, love, LOVE this word picture of your Grandma. Publish it in some magazine, okay?

    My mother complains that foods have lost some of their flavor, and she doesn’t smoke or drink. I think it’s an age thing.

    I learned how to make sourdough from Nancy’s book. I will be making these muffins, too, now that you’ve pointed them out. (I have five pounds of wheat bran in the freezer…)

  • Jan
    July 21, 2009 8:11am

    Love all your posts, food related and other. We cannot look at food in a vacuum, as food is part of life and evokes such wonderful memories! Write on. Thanks!

  • July 21, 2009 8:26am

    I had a Sassybritches Grandma, too! I think your story about her is terrific, especially her retort about the Lalique glasses. I also love a damn good bran muffin, so I am definitely baking these.

  • July 21, 2009 8:49am

    Thanks for another funny/warm entry with a delicious recipe to boot! Your grandmother sounded like a hoot. I’ve always had a fondness for bran muffins and am looking forward to trying out the recipe!

  • July 21, 2009 8:54am

    Hello David,

    I still remember how excited I was when I first walked into La Brea Bakery on La Brea several years back. I’d heard so much about them and had tasted (and loved) some of their cookies and scones that a good friend of mine had FedExed to me from LA. Even back then, I’d be able to buy some of their bread at my local supermarkets on a remote(ish) island of Hawaii, but finding myself in their original location was magical. I’d taken buses and walked to the bakery early in the morning to meet up with the said friend for a coffee and some morning fix of pastries – and a pile of other stuff to take home with me.

    I never had a grandmother living in LA (or any other family/relative member, for that matter) but reading your story makes me feel as if I, too, missed those good old days there. Thanks for sharing the story – and the recipe. I do have the Nancy Silverton’s pastry book but never tried the bran muffins. Light and not so sweet… sounds like my kind of muffins!

  • July 21, 2009 9:08am

    Haha, great post. I love sassy Grandmas and the visual of you beating your laundry with a stick.

  • Kristina
    July 21, 2009 9:17am

    David this is a really beautifully written post! Thank you. I had no idea that Nancy Silverton doesn’t own La Brea anymore. Did you know they sell La Brea bread in Sainsbury’s and Tesco’s in England? Apparently it’s made in Ireland. It is pretty good but I can bet it’s not as good as it was when Nancy made it in LA.

  • July 21, 2009 9:30am

    Beautiful post.

  • July 21, 2009 9:31am

    Now I miss my grandmother or as I affectionately called her “you old bat”. Really great post.

  • July 21, 2009 9:52am

    Just what I wanted, a recipe for healthy muffins. They look terrific!

  • July 21, 2009 10:06am

    Read this twice. More Grandma Lebovitz stories please.

  • July 21, 2009 10:07am

    I wish I could meet your grandmother. It makes me think that I should ditch my pledge to try not to cuss in front of my children. Maybe a little bit of verbal color would actually be a good thing for them . . .

  • July 21, 2009 10:09am

    Louisa: I would, except I don’t use that kind of language on the blog.

    (And she wasn’t a Lebovitz..)

  • athena
    July 21, 2009 10:10am

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandma. And to think it will live on in all our minds as well.

    David, you mentioned the muffins should be mounded in the center, but how full should the tin be of batter?

  • July 21, 2009 10:30am

    Oh your grandmother sounds fantastic! What a marvelous woman. Thank you for sharing her story and thank you for this recipe. I have been hunting for a bran muffin recipe for some time and have been unsatisfied with the ones I’ve tried. Can’t wait to give this one a go!

  • ritanyc
    July 21, 2009 10:34am

    I’m trying to find a place in my home library to keep “Sweet Life’… Cookbooks?Philosophy?Travel?Humor?Classics? oh well, for now it fits nicely in my “Inbox”.

    I think I know why Grandma was “moved” by the bran muffins.

  • Fern
    July 21, 2009 10:36am

    This looks like a very interesting recipe, but there really is a lot of liquid in there for the amount of flour.

    I used to use a bran muffin recipe that came out looking a lot like the ones pictured here: very, very moist and kinda flat on the top. I ended up adding a tablespoon or so of additional flour or cutting back just a touch on the liquid and that was enough to make them look more muffiny without drying them out too much.

    Another option in this recipe would be to pour the 1 cup water over the bran when it comes out of the oven, adding the raisins, and letting that sit for a little while – some of the liquid would be absorbed – you would still have the moisture in the muffins, but the batter would be just a touch thicker, and maybe rise a bit more?

  • Sasha
    July 21, 2009 10:36am

    David, was my comment on FB yesterday an inspiration for this line “I don’t have time to cook. I have a job and two kids at home” :-) I’ll try the muffins this weekend.

  • Bernadette
    July 21, 2009 10:38am

    Wonderful entry to the blog, David–your personal stories and sense of humor are what make this blog great. Yes, you can cook, your baking is extraordinaire but your writing is what keeps us all tuned in. I smell a memoir? (please?)

  • July 21, 2009 10:40am

    I just loved this story! How lucky you were to have a grandmother like that. I had several eccentric characters in my family and appreciate their uniqueness (more now than I did then). I’m sure she contributed immensely to your love of food. She reminds me of my aunt (sans the rough language). Images of what she baked and how she tended her garden are always with me. I never realized at the time what a huge impact she would have on my life. And Nancy… I met her at Osteria Mozza last year. I would love to hang out with her in her kitchen! Oh… and on your new book. I finally picked up a copy and am reading it now. I only allow myself several pages a day. I want to keep it going for as long as possible. LOVE it.

  • ritanyc
    July 21, 2009 10:56am

    hey, what happened to your espresso machine? I do like the orange stove-top one, though.

  • July 21, 2009 11:17am

    Question: If I leave out the raisins, will the recipe be affected? Should I alter amounts of other ingredients?


  • July 21, 2009 12:23pm

    With 2 cups of bran and 1 teaspoon of baking powder I’m syrprized they go anywhere at all. I like that type of bran muffin that seems like it’s probably going to fix every single thing that’s wrong with you. My guilty secret is that I also like minced canned pineapple in them. Sue me, I think it’s good!

    Love your grandma, and I hope you grow up to be just like her.

  • Su Su
    July 21, 2009 12:24pm

    These look similar to the bran muffins the girls and I loved during our boarding school days. I will have to give the recipe a go when I have assembled all the ingredients as I don’t live where wheat bran or whole wheat flour is readily available. Thanks for the great post! Love reading about your grandma!

  • July 21, 2009 12:46pm

    Great stories David. Thanks for sharing. I can just picture your grandmother reaching into that bag for a muffin. I’ll have to try this recipe-I’m not so sure I’ve ever had a bran muffin that I actually liked.

  • July 21, 2009 1:02pm

    Fern: Yes, the batter is quite light. But there is all that wheat germ, which provides some stability. But letting it soak a bit might be an interesting thing to try. I was using French flour, which is a bit lighter than US flour. (Although normally I test recipes with both, but there’s only so many bran muffins a guy can handle!)

    Emily: I’ve not made them without raisins. Why not swap out another dried fruit, cubed. or add nuts instead?

    Eileen: She is so talented. Lucky you for getting one of her pizzas!

    Athena: See photo #5, in the post.

    Bernadette: Um…I did just write one.

  • Amy
    July 21, 2009 1:16pm

    David, what a lovely post! Thank you! Can’t wait to make those lovely muffins (I’ll try some chopped dates instead of rasins, they’ve been sitting in my fridge begging for a batter bath).

  • Vivian
    July 21, 2009 1:18pm

    Loved this story. Bran muffins usually sound too healthy for me :P but with your endorsement, I’ll definitely be making them.

    This is probably obvious to everyone but me, but is the buttermilk/yogurt supposed to be measured in dry cups? I thought they counted as liquids, but I noticed you listed it under grams. While I’m asking, can you please also tell me how sticky ingredients like maple syrup/jam/peanut butter are to be measured?

  • DivaDivine
    July 21, 2009 2:00pm

    “…and I live in a two-room apartment, drink €3 bottles of vin ordinaire, and have to take my laundry down to the Seine and beat it on a rock with a stick.” Yes, but you’re doing it in Paris, LOL.

    Great recipe. I actually like bran muffins and think they’ll fit nicely into my eating plan.

  • Ilan T.
    July 21, 2009 2:14pm

    Just made them. Also came out a bit flat, even though I started them off at 375 F. They were a little wet (probably should have added more flour knowing I was using extra large eggs), but delicious. As always, thanks, David.

  • Linda
    July 21, 2009 2:17pm

    Lovely story David. Bet your grandmother adored you too;)
    Nancy’s recipes are always spot on. Along with Lindsey Shere and you, she is my go to pastry chef for recipes. I’ve always admired Nancy’s work and I first learned how to make sourdough bread from her. The chocolate banana muffins in La Brea Pastries are also wonderful-rich moist dark chocolate…..hmmmm.
    Just to let you know, your coffee granita and chocolate sorbet recipes have received rave reviews at our house this summer after making several guest appearances as a dessert duo. They are so easy to prepare – make them on the same day. A perfect end to a summer meal.

  • July 21, 2009 2:21pm

    I’m tempted by these. I was scarred about 20 years ago by a bad bran muffin in a coffee shop, goodness it was just awful; but I’m thinking if you’ve recommended these they must be good, maybe the time has come to try again… Grandma sounds like she was a hoot!

  • July 21, 2009 2:45pm

    You had me laughing out loud and giggling like a school girl with this post. I love Nancy (I worked for her at Mozza and freelance for La Brea Bakery as a writer) and always love to hear stories about how her incredible baking skills have touched other people.

    True story: Nancy Silverton changed my life. Thanks to Nancy’s great work ethic, vision and passion for baking, I realized that a woman with passion–a woman with enough jou-jou to make a bran muffin sexy–could do anything. Inspired by Nancy’s passion and success I gave up on my my struggle to become a screenwriter and embraced my true love: food and writing.

    Since starting my food blog over two years ago, I’ve never been happier. Reading a post such as this, I’m reminded how important it is to celebrate every great food moment. Because great food can truly can change a person’s life.

  • July 21, 2009 3:08pm

    I just ordered both the La Brea bread book and the Pastry book last week after borrowing them from the library. Thanks for highlighting the recipe, now I really can’t wait! What a great post about your grandmother. Nice memories so often are interrelated with food!

  • Julie
    July 21, 2009 5:05pm

    What a great story! I believe behind every great cook is a great grandma. Mine is definitely my inspiration and muse. The BEST southern cook bar none.

    Thanks for sharing the muffin recipe. My fiance’s son and grandson are coming to visit in a couple of weeks and I think I’ll give these a go for breakfast during their stay. I love La Brea breads and bring home a couple every week….It will be fun trying out Nancy Silverton’s recipe. Thanks again for sharing your memories so beautifully.

  • July 21, 2009 5:05pm

    I love this post. Your line about the Lalique glasses made me laugh.

  • July 21, 2009 5:20pm

    David, today is my birthday, and that story was a wonderful birthday ‘present’ to read. The muffins sound quite healthy, relatively speaking, too–it’s funny how decadent bran muffins can seem–although I’m sure that the fact I really enjoy them most with a pat of butter tends to cancel out the health halo.

  • SaraLe
    July 21, 2009 5:22pm

    I just wonder if I can replace the wheat bran for oat bran.
    Thats what I have in the fridge. Thanks.

  • CFrance
    July 21, 2009 5:31pm

    David, I just finished your memoir. Darn! I hate it when a great book ends. My husband, dog, and I are coming to Paris for 6 months in December and staying on bld. Richard Lenoir. I love to cook and have memorized your book.

    My granny was deaf, called me Sidney instead of Cyndy, and dribbled food down her chin. But my aunt! Now there’s a character. I stayed with her once when I was 7. She offered me liverwurst for lunch. “I don’t like liverwurst!” I whined. She replied, “I don’t like your a–!” Apparently she didn’t care if I told on her since my mother/her sister pushed her over a hill in her baby buggy on purpose.

  • Donna Adams
    July 21, 2009 6:42pm

    Bonjour David,

    Just finished reading your “Sweet Life in Paris” and loved it!!! Coming from SF your thoughts are truly humorous. Inspired, I made your “Dulce de Leche Brownies” this afternoon and they are just great! I’m Planning to be in Paris in October, (no, I won’t call you), I appreciate your ” Mes Bonnes Adresses”.

    Merci beaucoup!

    PS. Can’t wait to make your “Absinthe Cake”

  • Michelle A
    July 21, 2009 6:53pm

    What perfect timing. I was looking for a hearty muffin to eat for breakfast before the upcoming bar exam. This sounds perfect, but do you think agave nectar would work in lieu of brown sugar?
    On another note, I aspire to be a sassypants grandma just like yours! Sounds like she knew what was important in life.

  • Amy
    July 21, 2009 8:11pm

    Based on a quick read, this recipe reminds me of one I was given by a friends mother, originating in WW2, the story goes. That recipe didn’t have any sugar, and was sweetened with raisin puree. It’s been a long time since I made that recipe, or ate it, but I remember it being not too sweet but very moist and flavorful, also. I will have to dredge it up in my files and compare…Your grandma was a hoot to read about, thanks!

  • July 21, 2009 9:16pm

    Finished The Sweet Life in Paris about two weeks ago and totally loved it.

    My grandmother ate the same thing almost every day, which seems pretty odd to me now. Breakfast was 4 pieces of bacon, 2 eggs fried in bacon grease, toast and several cups of seriously strong black coffee. Lunch was stewed chicken wings (think cheap meat), with carrots and celery and frozen English peas. No dinner. She lived to be almost 100.

  • Linda H
    July 21, 2009 9:56pm

    You’ve made me miss my sweet grandma and her sister more than ever. They were terrific bakers, but the peas and green beans were always cooked til gray.

  • July 21, 2009 10:16pm

    With the amount of flour, egg, and buttermilk, I think you need more baking powder to get a better lift. I think the ratio should be 2 parts baking powder to 1 part baking soda when there is buttermilk involved.

  • July 21, 2009 10:27pm

    I come from a part of the world where baking isn’t a big thing. And bran isn’t really a aprt of the diet. I have always hesitated to make bran muffins, but your post has convinced me I ought to try this out, once at least.

  • Bernadette
    July 21, 2009 11:03pm

    My minor faux pas, David….haven’t read the book yet but certainly will. I meant for future terms–I know you have more stories stored up, don’t ya? You will by then! :)

  • Kristi
    July 21, 2009 11:08pm

    Beautiful post – enough to get a long time lurker to leave a comment! I also have many fond memories of my grandmothers house, and I am lucky enough to still have her. She is 87 and I moved her to a senior center across the street. Now my kids are able to go to “Grandma’s house” when they want to.

    Oh and I always thought that she was a great cook – turns out not so much. :)

  • July 22, 2009 6:28am

    One of my biggest regrets upon leaving LA was not being able to try the pizza at Mozza, I read such rave reviews, but alas I never made it. However, I did manage to sneak in a *cough* couple of treats from La Brea… superb. In the Philippines now, reading your post is all the more painful. There are some beautiful pastries about, but good bread, non-processed and sweetened bread, is somewhat hard to find. Thank you for the memories, albeit torturous :)

  • July 22, 2009 6:43am

    one of my first comments about la when i moved here from new york was, “what’s with the horrible bread,” then nancy silverton opened la brea bakery and life in southern california changed forever. now, mozza is one of my favorite haunts, a place i love to drop into on a saturday afternoon, grab a seat at the bar, and order the caprese salad and some marrow bones.

    i’m a recently new visitor to your blog and want to thank you. your smartly written posts and your links guided me during the four days i just spent in paris. it was a practice my french trip and your anecdotes about life a paris helped me confidently explore the city like a local.

    back in my advertising copywriting days, creative directors used to tell me i wrote in the “uncle charlie” style meaning i wrote the way your uncle charlie would talk. at the time, it felt like an insult, but after reading some of your archived posts, i think also very much in the uncle charlie style, i see what a compliment it truly was.

    i’ll be back often.

  • Cinnamon
    July 22, 2009 10:25am

    Just made the muffins last night. They are nothing short of delicious AND moist. I did make one small change: vanilla extract. It added a bit of flavor without making it sweeter. Please forgive me. I made bran muffins the week before using another recipe and they tasted like cardboard. I couldn’t bare to go through that experience again…

    And yes, increasing the temperature of the stove did help them rise a little bit more. Not by much, though.

  • Cinnamon
    July 22, 2009 10:28am

    *smacks forehead*
    Increasing the temperature of the oven helped the muffins to rise a little.

  • July 22, 2009 11:19am

    Beautifully written! And the muffins look delicious.

  • Ruth
    July 22, 2009 12:11pm

    I love, love this beautifully written story about your grandmother.
    I will definitely try this recipe and send a little shout out to your grandmother when I do!

  • Judi
    July 22, 2009 1:23pm

    Love the story about your grandmother.

    I told someone today that I have been obsessed with making ice cream (your fault by the way – loved “The Sweet Life…”, so I bought “The Perfect Scoop”) and they said “I wish I had that kind of free time”. Free time – what the heck, you need 10 minutes to make ice cream and then you press a button. There’s a little planning but please its 10 minutes and then heaven.

    I do not understand when people say they don’t have time to cook – a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and you get good food.

  • July 22, 2009 1:28pm

    Judi: What’s funny is that no one ever complains about the time it takes to clean up. Now if they’d mention that as an excuse, perhaps they’d get a little bit more support outta me.

    (And thanks…glad you liked both books!)

  • July 22, 2009 2:28pm

    Okay David, I just made these and had to come here and tell you that they were superb. I never ever thought Bran muffins could taste this moist and delicious. I had just one cup of raisins and no orange zest, so I added a bit of vanilla bean powder instead. Delicious! Heavenly! And yes, I’m going for my third one now. Its that good.

  • Charissa
    July 22, 2009 3:22pm

    Lovely warm post David. I so enjoy your blog.

    My grandmother (who turned 90 this year) has been making a batch of bran muffins for YEARS and baking and eating just one every morning. She has a huge rubbermaid container in her frig full of the batter and a spotelessly clean ice cream scoop on the shelf next to the container.

    Her morning ritual is a memory I will cherish. I’d like to add these to my repitoire…although I doubt I’d ever have the discipline to make (or eat) just one!

    I’m coming in November – do you let people buy you dinner?

  • Lena
    July 22, 2009 4:13pm

    Hi David,

    this looks so good, will try it soon.
    Where did you get the lovley orange moka maker from?

    Greetings from Berlin

  • July 22, 2009 5:13pm

    Those look amazing (like real muffins, not just unfrosted cupcakes!) and I love the story about your Grandmother. It’s amazing what people had time to do back then, maybe we are on the computer too much or something? :) I can’t imagine doing all the cooking I do without my KitchenAid or food processor. Keep up the awesome work- it’s always a treat to read your blog.

  • Daria
    July 22, 2009 5:51pm

    how you can make bran muffins sound like the one thing i’ve been dying for my whole life is beyond me, but I will have to try this recipe.

    i also had a cursing, swearing Italian grandmother who could make some serious food, only her recipes were cryptic, where nothing was measured, like “add enough flour to feel” and “simmer until done”…stuff like that.

    thanks for such a vivid post.

  • Sofia
    July 23, 2009 1:17am

    I’ve been looking for a great bran muffin recipe for a while now, so I’m really looking forward to trying this!

    I’m an amateur cook, so this question may seem obvious, but would this work well with fresh blueberries? Would I need to do anything differently?

    Thanks for your wonderful writing!

  • ραty ღ εϊз
    July 23, 2009 1:43am

    hello David, i’m a recently new visitor to your blog, and I have to tell you that your personal stories and sense of humor are what make this blog great. I love the story about your Grandmother and the muffins looks so delicious, will try it soon… maybe with vainilla extract… a bit of flavor to make it sweeter…. great post¡!

  • July 23, 2009 4:37am

    I know I sound like a broken record, but . . . .another fabulous fabulous post, this one perhaps the “sweetest” I’ve seen. I enjoyed it and the thoughts of your grandmother immensely.

    Love Charissa’s story too, about her grandmother baking and having one muffin every morning. Cute!

    Thanks for another great (ahem, it’s already 10:30 am) start to the day.

  • July 23, 2009 10:24am

    Your grandmother sounds like a great lady.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and the story.

  • July 23, 2009 11:16am

    “When people tell me, “I don’t have time to cook. I have a job and two kids at home” I think of my grandmother, that had four kids, opened and ran a huge five-story furniture store which she worked in every day with her husband”


  • j
    July 23, 2009 11:28am

    I just wanted to second two questions that have already been asked:
    Could oat bran be used?
    Would fresh blueberries work perhaps instead of raisins!

  • July 23, 2009 11:41am

    Charissa: I love that story, too! Especially the clean scoop alongside. That is priceless..

    j & sofia: I would not use fresh blueberries in this as the batter depends on the puree’d raisins for moisture, and fresh blueberries have too much water.

    I’m not familiar with oat bran, or its properties, but I always caution folks about swapping out the key ingredient in a recipe. If you do try it, let us know how it works out.

    Lena: I got it at Tati. A huge discount store in Paris that has a lot of junk that you have to sift through (so, of course, I love it…), but sometimes you can find a treasure in there.

  • July 23, 2009 2:10pm

    ~So Beautiful ~ Muffins definition of elegance,

    Thanks for sharing your story and beautiful delicious Muffins ~

    Have A Great Day~

  • July 23, 2009 2:11pm

    ~So Beautiful ~ Muffins definition of elegance,

    Thanks for sharing your story and beautiful delicious Muffins ~

    Have A Great Day~

  • Athena
    July 23, 2009 2:34pm

    I just made these this morning and, wow, what a treat. Very moist and flavorful. A previous poster had questioned using oat bran instead of wheat bran. I wanted to report I did make this substitution and found the results were excellent.

    Thanks for the great recipe, David.

  • Marta MAGNONI
    July 23, 2009 2:49pm

    David –

    I have loved every one of your posts and stories and recipes.

    Thank you!

  • July 24, 2009 7:01am

    Grandma sounds like a hoot.

    Enquiring minds wish to know: are you drinking your vin ordinaire out of Lalique glasses?

  • July 24, 2009 9:36am

    Thank you for a wonderful post and bringing back sweet memories of my own dear grandmother and my mom as well. Both were great cooks and made great meals no matter what else they had going on. I have been such a slacker this summer – you have now inspired me to do better. Great looking muffins. . .

  • July 24, 2009 10:18am

    I made these this morning and while I LOVE the flavors, they didn’t rise hardly at all (and I baked them at 400 degrees). (The burned edges were my own dumb doing.) I soaked the toasted bran in the yogurt mixture for at least half an hour, and I followed all the other instructions to a T. I’m thinking that I may need to up the flour to 3/4 cup (my dough looked a lot wetter than the dough in your pictures) and the baking powder to 1 1/2 teaspoons, but I’m not sure if that would be enough to remedy the problem…

  • dustin
    July 25, 2009 5:37pm


    Thanks for all the great recipes and stories. My grandmother was just like your’s, sassy and took no !(*(*, with 8 children and 1 bath. No wonder.

    My first time writing. The bran recipe was wonderful. I did not do zest and had a brunette moment and forgot brown sugar, and it was still wonderful. Did follow your advice on 400 degrees and did in 9×3 loaf pans (2) for 27 minutes. A hit with friends and family.

    Merci pour tous vos recipes!

  • July 28, 2009 9:04pm

    Hi David,

    Just wanted to thank you for posting this — I made these and they were the best bran muffins I’ve ever tried and I’ll be making a huge batch to stock my freezer. They even kept well at room temp and stayed super-moist over a few days. I just ordered Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery cookbook along with my copy of The Sweet Life in Paris.


  • Maggie
    July 31, 2009 1:20pm

    Even if Nancy Silverton had not started one of the greatest bakeries and revolutionized supermarket breads, she should be forever immortalized as the baker who made Julia Child cry on camera.

    My favorite-ever episode of “Baking With Julia” was when Silverton prepared her stunning Brioche Tart With Apricots and Custard Cream and, during the tasting scene at the end, Julia actually teared up and was briefly speechless, before warbling “It’s a dessert to cry for!”

    And it is, too. Recipe is in the Baking With Julia book and in one of Silverton’s books, too.

  • Robin Stanley
    August 1, 2009 11:36am

    I tried baking the muffins at 400 degrees. They did not rise any higher. They are delicious though!

  • Melissa in Toronto
    August 3, 2009 9:23am

    Just finished making a batch. These might be the best bran muffins in the world.

  • August 11, 2009 11:38am

    Increasing the temperature to 400 degrees didn’t make mine any more domed on the top than yours were. They are delicious though!

  • September 2, 2009 1:33pm

    I just made these this morning. They have such great flavor and texture. I increased the baking powder to two teaspoons. It really didnt give it the characteristic dome. Regardless it is a very nice recipe.

    I am venturing a guess that if there was a higher ratio of white flour, there might be a better rise. No?

  • September 2, 2009 1:44pm

    Hi Lori: I was thinking of adding more flour the next time I made them, just to see. It’s been a while since I had “the real thing” in Los Angeles, and I couldn’t recall if they were more domed or not.

    Just a note that sometimes adding more baking powder can make things deflate, as too much can cause the batter to rise quickly, them collapse before the structure of the cake or muffin is formed enough to hold it.

  • Sherry
    September 6, 2009 4:51pm

    I made these muffins last weekend and they did turn out flat, but that didn’t stop them from being devoured! My assistant (quite a foodie) inhaled the muffin I brought for her and declared it “creamy”. I just wouldn’t change a thing. David, I’m sure your ‘Bubbie’ was very proud of you. Loved the story.

  • September 13, 2009 7:54pm

    Thanks for sharing this story. I think that when women say they don’t have time to cook because of work and kids and all it has less to do with time and more to do with our hectic, technology filled schedules and when we all get home we just want some downtime from that. Case in point, I am too tired to cook tonight because I have had to go to three different stores, in three different directions, requiring me to wait in traffic in order to get the tights, shoes, bun covers, and leotards that my three children have to have in order to participate in ballet class. Then I have to get them all to ballet and everyone goes at a different time! This is after completing my own work day and we haven’t even gotten home to tackle that beastly bear called “homework.” This is a typical modern day life, nothing is convenient and the driving, driving, driving is enough to kill the strongest of mothers. Then there is the e-mail, the voicemail, and whatever else mail that you have to read every night because that is how teachers communicate with parents and parents communicate with each other and if you don’t read it, you or your children are going to miss something very important and it just never ends.

    This is, I believe, what women today mean when they say that they don’t have time to cook.

  • September 14, 2009 9:26pm

    I, too, am a busy working mom with little time to cook. But I have time to bake! (At least once in a while, whenever I get a continuous hour or two at home when I’m not completely exhausted.)

    I made these muffins and used pureed fresh figs in place of the raisins. I substituted Bob’s Red Mill whole grain hot cereal (a mix of wheat bran, oat bran, flax, and I forget what else) for the wheat bran. Can you tell I am incapable of following a recipe? I also used the zest of a whole orange. The muffins came out delicious and very figgy-tasting. I made a batch with raisins and pecans mixed in and liked those better, but then I tend to like fruit, nuts, and/or chocolate added to anything. I made that batch in ramekins because I was out of muffin-tin space.

    Thank goodness I read your blog entry and not just the recipe. I had filled a few spaces in the muffin tin before I remembered you had said something about adding extra baking powder. I didn’t remember adding any baking powder, so I went back to the recipe and realized I had forgotten to add all of the dry ingredients! No wonder the batter seemed watery. (I dumped out the batter, wiped out the muffin tin, and added the dry ingredients before baking — no harm done.)

  • October 18, 2009 7:01pm

    I tried this recipe about a month ago and loved it! My kids, even the “picky eater” enjoyed them as well. I like to keep plenty stored in the freezer for a quick breakfast or snack. Interesting note: the first time I made them, the raisins would not puree in the blender; they just didn’t have enough liquid to get moving, so bit by bit I added about a 1/2 cup of the additional 1 cup of water until I got the results I needed. Then, I forgot to add the remaining 1/2 cup of water to the recipe but the muffins were still incredibly moist. Terrific recipe!

  • Tam
    November 1, 2009 1:04pm

    I made these this morning with good results, with the following changes:

    I toasted the wheat bran 5 minutes, and that was enough.
    After simmering the raisins, I pureed them with about 1/4 cup of the buttermilk/water mixture; it works better with the extra liquid.
    When adding the water with the buttermilk, I added only 3/4 cup water instead of 1 cup, because of some commenters feeling this was too much liquid. 3/4 cup turned out to be just right, in my opinion.
    I didn’t have any oranges so I left out the zest, but I’m sure that would be good.
    I used 3/4 cup of whole wheat PASTRY flour instead of part white and part regular w.w. flour. I find that w.w. pastry flour is a great substitute for white flour in most muffins, pancakes, and other non-yeast quickbreads.

    In my regular-size muffin pans, I filled 17 muffin cups 3/4 full. I baked them at 375 degrees, not 400, for a total of 18 minutes.

    The muffins rose about 1/4-inch above the tops of the liners. They’re very tasty, not exactly light in texture but still somewhat fluffy — not dense — and they’re moist. They’re not too sweet, but we like them that way.

    I made two other bran muffin recipes this morning so that we could see which we preferred, and we liked this one and “Classic Bran Muffins” at the best. They’re both very good, but different, and I’ll use both recipes in the future. The AllBran Honey Muffins at that same site are okay, but not the best.

  • November 1, 2009 2:34pm

    Hi Tam: Thanks for the recipe report. I think adding a bit less liquid was the ticket, but I didn’t want to mess with her recipe too much since it tastes pretty darn good as it is and they’re so light. I think I’ll make them again, and I like your addition of whole wheat flour. I know nowadays there’s white whole wheat flour, but I’m happy with the hearty taste of whole wheat, and the additional health benefits, too. Thanks!

  • Swetha
    December 14, 2009 7:49am

    I’m fairly new to baking and am eternally looking for “healthier” options. I loved this recipe and tried it literally a couple of hours ago. They came out perfect, barring one small mistake which I guess is my oversight. I found when I pureed the raisins they had tiny tiny seeds that just didnt get pureed. As a result there’s a crunch I’m not sure I want to these otherwise perfect muffins! Oh also when I was pureeing the muffins I added an over ripe banana which further helped moistness I think. Thanks!

  • Leah
    January 11, 2010 6:17pm

    I am a VERY novice baker. Last month I convinced my husband to buy me a kitchenaid mixer and promised him that if he did, I would make sure there was baking in the house every day. So far, I have held to my promise and today was bran muffin day. I found your recipe online and just finished eating my results. I baked the muffins at 400 degrees for 18 minutes. I used two teaspoons of baking powder, I grated an entire orange rind and put all of the scrapings in the mix (I love orange peel), a teaspoon of vanilla and I put two tablespoons more flour in the recipe than what was called for – oh, and I only used one type of flour – whole wheat pastry flour. The muffins rose beautifully. This is to be my ONLY bran muffin recipe. I think they are fantastic and my husband does too. I might not put as much orange in next time – the flavour is good but maybe the recipe isn’t quite sweet enough to handle the orange rind and my husband wants to put jam on them so the orange may not go. It’s a keeper anyway.

  • Natalie
    February 1, 2010 12:25am

    I made them exactly as per the recipe, except for baking at 200C and using plain flour instead of whole wheat flour.

    They turned out looking exactly like yours. They taste beautiful and they taste fluffy. Somehow given the appearance of wheat bran, one suspects that the muffins are going to taste of woodchips but what a pleasant surprise!

    The only thing I would try to fix is that the centres of the muffins are a bit too wet and almost have a pudding like texture, maybe I’ll try to reduce the liquid the next time.

    Thank you for the recipe, it’s a keeper.

  • Aaron
    May 3, 2010 12:03pm

    Hi David,
    Just an update…I baked these at 375 to see if I could give them a bit more lift, but they seem to look just like yours. As is, they are delicious, so no complaints, but I thought I’d add to the conversation about temperature.

  • Susan Blossom
    May 7, 2010 2:17pm

    I’ve made lots of wheat bran muffins with an enormous recipe. I like using them for a fast breakfast so I freeze them in big ziplock bags. One muffin needs 30-60 seconds (depending on your microwave’s power) to revive it to near-fresh bake condition. I freeze them in their paper wrappers but take them off just before reheating, or there is NO way to get them cleanly out. I can see you cringing about the microwave! But don’t; maybe it’s the density of the bran or the wheat flour, but they’re a delicious way to enjoy them well after baking day.

  • May 11, 2010 1:57pm

    Hi David,

    I found this post while researching the use of pureed raisins in muffin — a technique that’s used in a recipe I made this weekend called “Claim Jumper Dark Honey Bran Muffin”. It’s a recipe which has honey in the title, but doesn’t call for honey. Despite that, the muffins were still pretty good. They’re a little on the sweet side, but they had a dense, moist texture from the bran and raisin puree.

    So I found this recipe and figured it would be better. The muffins were definitely moister than the Claim Jumper clones and I think they had a better (lower, in this case) level of sweetness. However, the muffins did have completely flat tops. They were definitely moist, though. And they did have a great flavor. Have you gotten around to testing the recipe with more flour? If not, I’ll try it and let you know. Or it could be that I just screwed something up along the way. Will keep trying.

  • Cindy
    May 29, 2010 12:02am

    I picked up Pastries from the La Brea Bakery after reading about Ricotta Muffins at Smitten Kitchen. I’m not much of a bran muffin fan, but if Maida Heatter (and your grandmother) say they’re the best, then I had to give them a chance.

    I understand your recipe is adapted, but maybe the too-wet batter is a result of simmering the raisins with 1/2 cup of water and adding 1 cup to the bran and buttermilk mixture. Whereas in the original, the measurements are inverted. My batch is still in the oven, so it’s just a theory…

  • June 25, 2010 9:11am

    This story of your grandmother was a delicious read. It’s also, I think, perfect evidence of why so many people read food blogs, because food carries powerful memories and is a lovely medium for storytelling. Thanks for this glimpse of your salty grandma and for the very tempting bran muffin recipe. I have an old faithful, but may be willing to stray.

  • October 14, 2010 5:40pm

    I’m so glad to find this post! I’ve been on a quest to find a good bran muffin recipe and someone told me about his one. Here is my post on bran muffins:

  • Jo Cunningham
    December 24, 2010 2:39am

    I admire Nancy Silverton and her fastidiousness re baking, so I did not play with the volume of the liquids, or the flours. I did put the heat to 360 since I’m at fairly high altitude.

    Still, I fiddled with some things –
    I didn’t have fresh oranges, but I had homemade candied orange peel in the freezer and used some slivers of that.
    I added 1 tsp. vanilla
    I forgot the 1/2 tsp. salt at the end.
    I didn’t have the last 1/2 c. of raisins, and tossed in a couple of tablespoons of chopped walnuts.
    The most suspect thing I did was not puree the raisins – instead I hand chopped them. (I’m still getting up the courage to use my new food processor).

    They’re wonderful. I might cook them this way on purpose next time.
    Baking time, 21 minutes.