When preparing to make some quick bread for a morning coffee, I started my usual online search, looking for muffins using the apple butter and raisin bran that I wanted to use up. While there were lots of recipes using these, almost all were unfortunately much higher in sugar and fats than I wanted.
Not that I should have been surprised.
I'm not sure when it started, but the lowly muffin has evolved over the past decade or so from pretty basic and sturdy individual breads to be a side for unpretentious meals into giant sweets that often differ from cupcakes only by having a streusel type topping instead of frosting. Nothing I saw in my search was very inspiring.
Fortunately, I still have my recipe card file, pretty frozen in time, with very few entries added in the past 5 to 10 years. There, in the large bread section, was a subtab for "Muffins, Biscuits, Cornbread." These were the decades old recipes I had used over and over for after school snacks for my kids.
One of the most used recipes was one cut off the back of a raisin bran cereal box and taped to pretty now battered index card. It was a good basic recipe but without the apple butter I wanted to use up.
No problem. As usual, I ended up playing with the original recipe and ended up with muffins that were a hit with kids and adults. They aren't covered with lots of streusel and they have only a couple of tablespoons of oil, but they are tasty snacks you can feel pretty comfortable giving to the kids as a filler food while they wait for dinner.
Apple Butter Raisin Bran Muffins
2 c raisin bran
¼ c raisins
1 c water and ½ c dry milk powder (OR see Substitutions below)
½ c apple butter (OR see Substitutions below)
¼ c sugar
2 T oil
1 1/4 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 t pumpkin pie spice
¼ c walnuts
1. Stir the raisin bran, raisins, water and dry milk powder in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Fold the apple butter, egg, sugar, and oil into the raisin bran mix and beat until evenly blended.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice together and gently sift it into the liquid ingredients. Add the walnuts and then mix only enough to moisten all the dry ingredients. Don't overbeat.
4. Drop the batter into well-oiled muffin pans and bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes for large muffins, 12 to 15 minutes for mini-muffins. Allow to cool a minute or two before removing from the pans.
This recipe makes 12 to 15 full-sized muffins or 12 full-sized and 12 mini-muffins. It probably would make about 4 dozen mini-muffins though I haven't yet made the entire recipe into the smaller muffins.
Instead of dry milk and water, use 1 c milk, skim, 2% or whole, whatever you have.
Instead of apple butter, substitute applesauce and increase the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup. Increase the amount of pumpkin pie spice to 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons, depending on your preference for spiciness.
Some general muffin hints
As noted, muffins need a gentle hand once the dry and moist ingredients are mixed. Overbeating can lead to tougher breads and sometimes relatively large "tunnels" in the muffins that are not too attractive.
If you don't have enough pans to bake the muffins all at once, don't worry. You can let the remaining batter sit on the counter while the first batch is baking.
Be sure you have oiled (or sprayed) the pans well. With the low fat content here, the breads are going to be much more likely to stick if you don't do this. You can use cupcake liners if you'd like, but the muffins are more likely to stick to the papers than cupcakes might--for the same reason that there is less fat in the batter. If you'd like, you can use the cupcake liners and then spray those lightly with non-stick spray.