Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Healthy Sweet Treat: Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffin

I go through phases of baking healthy items and baking not so healthy items. For example, I was into cinnamon rolls and pound cake a few weeks ago but I have opted for a healthier option today. I have been looking how to optimize grains and different healthy foods into my daily nutrition. These muffins are an excellent choice. Want to know why?

...I knew you did! I have come across numerous recipes that call for oat bran; however, I never have it on hand. When I add it to my mental grocery list, I end up buying everything but oat bran. I never write it down and I end up getting bran and flax seeds, never oat bran! I know, it's probably my fault. My grocery list was extra special today because I remembered to grab some at my local bulk store. Before we talk about the recipe, why is oat bran incorporated into a lot of baking recipes? Let's take a look.

Bran is the husk on gains like oat, rice, and wheat which can only mean one thing - FIBER! Fiber helps with digestion and keeping you "regular" if you know what I mean. Also, it has other health benefits like omega, starch, protein, dietary minerals, etc. Long story short, it's good for you so find ways incorporate it in your diet.

Besides the oat bran, what else makes this muffin healthy? I used wheat flour to incorporate more grains into the muffin. I like the balance of using half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour because it doesn't leave you with a hard and dry product. Also, I minimized the amount of oil in the recipe and used applesauce and low-fat milk to keep the muffins moist. Instead of using refined sugar, I went the more natural route and used honey for sweetness. I've never made a muffin this healthy and tasty before - I'll have to make these for my dad because I know he will absolutely love these!

Now I know what you're thinking, healthy muffins = bland and dry muffins. Not with this recipe! While I shared your concern, I jazzed up the muffins by adding chocolate chip and cinnamon. It gave the muffins an additional depth of flavor which was just enough to satisfy the sweet tooth. You will never feel bad after one of these muffins because they are healthy and makes you feel full. In my opinion, I couldn't ask for anything more.

Key to this recipe: cooking time
Since these muffins are low in fat, it is important to retain as much moisture as possible. The cooking time may vary by oven so be sure to keep an eye on the muffies. Once the top looks dry and cooked, chances are the inside is cooked too. Just make sure by inserting a toothpick into the muffins and it comes out dry (or just barely dry). Cooking the muffins until they are just set or almost set will ensure moist muffins. I added chocolate chips because I feared it would not be sweet enough but these muffins are fine on their own. Granted, if you have a big sweet tooth, the muffins minus chocolate probably won't suffice...if that's the case, add the chocolate chips. A little extra sweetness never killed anyone!

Little morsel of goodness

Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Oat Bran Muffins
adapted from Better Homes and Garden

1-1/2 cups oat bran
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup applesauce
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners if desired. Or else, spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.
2. Combine oat bran, all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, honey, vegetable oil until well-blended.
4. Incorporate 1/3 of the dry mixture into the wet mixture until barely incorporated. Repeat process with remaining dry mixture, in thirds. Do not overmix or else gluten will develop and creating a chewy, dense muffin. No bueno!
5. Stir in chocolate chips until just incorporated.
6. Evenly distribute batter in 12 muffin tins.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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