WWII Bran Muffins – With a Twist

For those of you who might be first joining me (all you 1940sExperiment groupies!), let me fill you in on what I’ve been doing of late. If you’re like me you’ve got rows and rows of cookbooks. Sure you eagerly looked at them and dog eared pages of food you hoped to cook. But you never quite got around to it. And so the poor books languish on the shelf.

I decided to try cooking one recipe from each cookbook. Many of them are not particularly old books, though some date back to the 1970s when my husband Dan started cooking on his own. But since I love food history so much, I somehow still manage to get some history  into each post!

Today I wanted to bake something from a book I picked up for $1.00 at the library sale. It’s  Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan G. Purdy dated 1993. One of the recipes that jumped off the page was for Fabulous Five-Week Fiber Muffins. And as I read the description, the author said the recipe was based on ones from the 1940s.

The muffins call for the inclusion of healthy bran cereal. A quick look through my World War II recipes found several muffin recipes using bran cereal including Wheaties, All-Bran, or just generic bran cereal.  Bran cereals were available during World War II for quick breakfasts, but they were also used in many recipes whether to “stretch” your meat or to make healthy breads.

Kellogg’s Bran Flakes were introduced in 1915 with the following year seeing the introduction of All-Bran.  With the pasteurization of milk being introduced, coupled with the craze for healthy bran or corn based cereals that were ready to eat, firms like Kellogg’s developed more and more cereals. The first muffin recipes using bran cereal date to the 1920s.  This 1981 article on bran muffins actually has two recipes taken right from the 1920s-era cereal boxes.    

Now the cookbook I used is all about healthy eating. According to the author, she’s cut the fat and cholesterol from the typical fiber muffin so feel indulgent! I really like the muffins. They are moist and tender, not chewy like some muffins. And I have enough to make two more batches. The remaining batter is stored in the fridge ready for the next time I make them (hence the name five-week muffin).

Here’s the recipe

  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 2 c. All-Bran Cereal (I bought Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes since I don’t want the junk in processed food like All-Bran)
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. canola or safflower oil
  • 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white
  • 3/4 c. old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 c. toasted wheat germ (I bought Bob’s Red Mill brand and toasted it in the oven)
  • 1 2/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 c. buttermilk (I used Kate’s brand)
  • 3/4 c. raisins
  • sugar to sprinkle on top

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees

Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray

In a small bowl, pour the boiling water over the bran cereal. Stir and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes  

In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, oil, and eggs. Add all the dry ingredients and the buttermilk and stir well to blend. Beat in the soaked bran cereal and raisins.

To bake, scoop out the batter without stirring* and  pour it into the prepared muffin cups

Sprinkle a little sugar on top

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are springy to touch, lightly browned and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

The rest of the muffin mix can be stored in the fridge for the next batch.

*I assume when they said not to stir the batter that means when you take the batch out of the fridge for the next baking, don’t stir!

I really like them. Dan says they taste “healthy” but a little bland. The author mentioned you could add walnuts, sunflower seeds or chopped dried apricots along with the raisins which might zing it up a bit. But again, I really liked them!


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