Spicy Orange Bran Muffins

Spicy Orange Bran Muffins

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I didn’t actually think these Spicy Orange Bran Muffins were that spicy, to be honest. Maybe they should be called Spiced Orange Bran Muffins instead, because it’s the orange that gives them the zing and then there’s a little pop of the spices to accompany it. I also just discovered (with a mouthful of muffin as I type) that they taste great with a bit of melting peanut butter on them.

The first thing I did was combine the bran and buttermilk.

buttermilk in measuring cup

Do you know why this picture is so exciting? Because up until recently, our measuring cups had all the numbers rubbed off on them so I couldn’t use them. So this was the dawning of a new era in liquid measurement, at least in my kitchen.

I poured that into the wheat bran, stirred until it looked a bit like cat barf, and set it aside.

wheat bran and buttermilk

I should have zested the orange next, or even first, but I forgot. Instead, I combined the dry ingredients, changing the recipe up to use whole wheat white flour and wheat germ instead of whole wheat flour, which tends to make things a little heavier than necessary. I followed the recipe exactly for the baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon, and added some salt, just because it seemed like a random omission.  Then on a whim, I threw in some fresh nutmeg and ground ginger too.

dry ingredients

I whisked.

dry ingredients, whisked

Then I remembered to zest the orange. I needed two tablespoons of zest, which used up every orange we had in the house.  (That’s a lot better than needing goat brains, which is the featured ingredient in the appetizer on the episode of Chopped I’m currently watching.  I doubt our local grocery store keeps them in stock.) Four oranges later, I had almost enough zest.

orange zest

Okay. It’s time for a confession.

I was looking through my pictures of this process and I came across this:

measuring spoon

I took a picture of it because I was so excited that I had a chance to use my off-size measuring spoon.  Except….I shouldn’t have. The recipe called for two TABLESPOONS of honey and two TABLESPOONS of molasses, and now, a day later, I realize that I used two TEASPOONS of each, which explains why the zest came through so strongly in the final product. Oh, poop.

not enough molasses

So….into a fresh bowl went the undersized portions of honey and molasses, plus an egg and some brown sugar. Instead of a quarter cup of oil, I split it between oil and yogurt, and instead of using regular canola oil, I opted for my love-when-I-get-a-chance-to-use-it Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil. I mixed well, hiding the mistakes I didn’t know I had made.

liquid ingredients and sugar, mixed

To that I added the unappetizing-looking bran & buttermilk concoction.

adding wheat bran and buttermilk mixture

The recipe didn’t say when and to what the orange zest should be added, so I threw it in there too, mixed again, then poured the mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients.

liquid added to dry


I scooped the batter into muffins cups, and sprinkled a wee bit of turbinado sugar on top of each.

batter in muffin cups

After giving them 15 minutes in the oven, and checking them, I turned the tray around and baked for another 6 minutes, checking in 3-minute intervals.  They smelled orange-y and good. Orange bran muffins!

muffins baked, in tin

muffin baked in tin

I gave them another seven minutes in the pan, just to make sure they had a chance to really bake through, and then moved them to a wire rack to cool.

muffins on rack

muffins on rack

I think these muffins really deserve another go. The orange-infused olive oil gave them a lovely flavor boost, but the zest kicks in and creates a slightly bitter aftertaste. I think the right amount of honey and molasses would completely solve that problem, and in the meantime, serving them with a little honey or peanut butter makes them pretty perfect. They’re best warmed up, that’s for sure.

I feel as if I did these muffins a disservice, but I can make it up to them, and to myself, because all the ingredients for success are there, and they’re really close.  The difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon — especially TWO of them — can make a big difference.


My version of Spicy Orange Bran Muffins (adapted from Food.com)


1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 3/4 cups 1% buttermilk
2/3 + 1/4 cup whole wheat white flour
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutemg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/8 cup blood orange infused olive oil
1/8 cup low fat vanilla yogurt
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons orange zest
turbinado sugar, for sprinkling


Heat oven to 400 degrees, you will reduce the temperature later. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin.

Combine the bran with the buttermilk and mix well. Let stand until needed.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.

In a medium bowl, stir together the egg, brown sugar, honey, molasses, and oil.  Add in the bran mixture and the orange zest and mix well.

Add the bran and liquid ingredients to the dry and stir just until combined.

Scoop into muffin tins and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Reduce oven temperature to 375 and bake for 15-25 minutes, turning the pan around after the first 10 or 15 minutes.  Remove when a toothpick comes out clean and let cool in the pan for another 5-7 minutes, then move to a wire rack. Serve warm.

spicy orange bran muffins


  1. Love the refreshing fruit zest in this delicious healthy muffin! A yummy treat that doesn’t totally negate my workout 🙂

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