RecipeBeta: Double Rhubarb Bran Muffins. - Something Edible
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RecipeBeta: Double Rhubarb Bran Muffins.

RecipeBeta: Double Rhubarb Bran Muffins.

Abstract: Beta recipes are my own experiments that I've only tried once. Usually palatable, they often could be better with a little tweaking - So please do, and let me know what works!

With brilliantly-hued stalks of rhubarb sprouting from my garden, I'm doing my darnedest to find recipes that can showcase this fine dessert-type vegetable. On this occasion, I've rebuilt a reduced fat bran muffin recipe with a double-dose of Rheum rhabarbarum to made some of the best-looking and most mediocre-tasting muffins that have ever come out of my oven. A disappointment? Well, these muffins rise beautifully, are not at all dry or crumbly as some high fiber / lower fat recipes are prone to be, and taste divine when paired with fresh fruit.  That being said, I invite all you "glass half-full" types to read on and judge for yourself...

Purpose: No longer will I have to troll the farmer's market for rhubarb. The investment I made last year has paid off and I've got stalks in spades now. To kick off a recipe glut that will likely rival that of my obsession with squash, I began looking for baked good recipes that were hackable. If you know how to substitute, then finding "just the right recipe" turns into finding a recipe that's "good enough as long as you know where to make the changes". In this case, good enough is the bran muffin recipe on the back of the bag of Bob's Red Mill wheat bran. The original recipe calls upon applesauce as a low-fat alternative for much of the fat that usually makes a muffin so damn tasty. Well, what's applesauce (or any fruit for that matter) but a whole lotta fiber holding together some water? I figured that anything a fruit can do, the tart wonder that is rhubarb could do as well. So to rebuild this recipe, I made some rhubarb sauce; and because I really wanted to showcase that rhubarb, I swapped out the molasses for a makeshift rhubarb jam.

Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -

The Rhubarb Sauce

  • 6 oz rhubarb 1/2 inch dice (About 3 or 4 medium-sized stalks.)
  • 2 oz sugar (About 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 fluid oz water (That's 1/4 cup)
  • The Rhubarb "Jam"

  • 6 oz rhubarb 1/2 inch dice (about 3 or 4 medium-sized stalks)
  • 8 fluid oz water (That's a cup)
  • 6 oz sugar (About 3/4 cup)
  • The Rest

  • 2 Tbsps olive oil (Skip the extra-virgin; refined will do.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 fluid oz buttermilk
  • 2 oz wheat bran (About a cup)
  • 8 oz whole wheat flour (About a cup and a half)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup walnuts chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp demerara sugar for garnish

  • For the Rhubarb Sauce -
    In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring diced rhubarb, water, cinnamon and sugar to a simmer. Continue for 7-10 minutes stirring occasionally until sauce thickens slightly and rhubarb begins to break down. Kill the heat and let cool before using in the muffins.

    For the Rhubarb Jam -
    Bring diced rhubarb and 8 oz water just before a boil; the rhubarb will have just begun to lose its color. Drain and reserve 1 fl oz (2 Tbsps) of the rhubarb water. Back into the saucepan over medium heat, add the reserved ounce of rhubarb water, 6 oz sugar and the blanched rhubarb. Bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce to medium-low and cook until mostly reduced (about 20 minutes), stirring just enough to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot (if you're sticking/burning it's too hot). Again, let cool to room temperature before using.

    To Make the Muffins -
    Preheat oven to 400°F. In a bowl, whisk together wheat bran, flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder to combine. In the stand mixer on medium, combine rhubarb sauce, rhubarb jam, eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Mix until integrated (about 3 minutes). Stir in dry ingredients until moistened. Spoon into a muffin pan lined with paper muffin cups (or grease the pan), sprinkle with the demerara and bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.


    • Making muffins is usually a quick and easy road to baked goods gratification. As it stands, you're gonna have to take the scenic route with this recipe because of the extra prep you wouldn't have otherwise because you gotta break down and cook fresh rhubarb. If you're not scrunched for time, consider doing the rhubarb sauce and jam the day before. Anyhow, you're gonna have to let all that rhubarb goodness at least cool to room temperature before you go dumping it into a quickbread batter.
    • Even if your rhubarb is as red as a baboon's posterior, that color's got little if anything to do with sweetness. I'm rocking the Victoria variety in my patch of dirt, which I found to be surprisingly sweet despite its appearance, and consequently make a fantastic-tasting rhubarb sauce.
    • Speaking of, you may wanna double that rhubarb sauce recipe. It's just great stirred in with things like yogurt and granola.
    • When making your jam, pay attention to the heat. As the water cooks out, this stuff will want to burn. Stir often with a good silicone spoonula, and remove from the heat if you have to.
    • I love sprinkling baked goods with demerara sugar. Its a cheap and easy way to +1 baked goods (even if it seems a bit gratuitous at times).

    Results: This whole muffin thing was a bit of an experiment in effort to find the best way to showcase the flavor of rhubarb. Is it best to let the rhubarb stand mostly on its own as was done with the sauce, or are we better off infusing the sugar with those tart nuances of citrus and berry? Well, as it turns out neither was a real winner here. These muffins taste great as far as reduced-fat bran muffins go; they're moist and the crumb is as about as tender as you can get when only using two tablespoons of oil, whole wheat flour and a boatload of bran. However, the appearance of those candied pieces of rhubarb studded throughout the muffin is really a bit of a tease, and truthfully I think the rhubarb seems to get lost somewhere in a sea of whole grain and fiber. These muffins most certainly do not suck; but if you're looking for a proper rhubarb fix, you're gonna have to look elsewhere.

    While munching on my second muffin, I noticed that the fat in a schmear of butter helped a bit (well, duh); so maybe reduced fat ain't the way to go. I also noticed that when paired with strawberries in my accompanying breakfast cereal that the rhubarb taste got turned up a notch as well (again, duh), so I might just need to find a good way to shoehorn some strawberries or even some dried cranberries in there as well. At any rate, if someone wants to pick up the torch and run with this, I'd love to hear how it turns out. In the meantime, I think I owe my appetite an apology in the form of a pie.

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