Apple Molasses Sour Cream Bran Muffins

(Don't those look like chocolate muffins?  Sorry.)

Breakfast is hard.  I mean, who wakes up and can't wait to turn on the stove and start cooking?.  Maybe on the weekends, but usually, I really like breakfast to just be there for me.  Mostly I love to start the day with a muffin and a cup of coffee, but I'm just a tad picky about my muffins.  I'm not real fond of the overly-sweet, cakey kind of muffin that seem to fill the shelves and counters at most stores and bakeries.  I'm looking for a muffin that's kinda good for me (most of the time :); one with some texture, but it has to taste good too, and be somewhat interesting.  That's been a rather tall order until recently.

I love bran muffins - they may be my all-time favorite muffin, and lately I've been using this great recipe that uses sour cream, molasses and just a very little bit of brown sugar.  I usually add raisins, but this time I decided to chop up an apple and throw in some nuts and a little cinnamon, and wow, were we ever rewarded with one tasty little muffin!

There is one teeny tiny little drawback here with this recipe.  It does call for 1/2 cup of butter or vegetable oil.  That seems like a lot of fat for a recipe that only makes a dozen muffins.  Don't get me wrong, I love butter as much as the next muffin-head, but I do try and limit my intake.  So in times like these I turn to Earth Balance Buttery Sticks.  (Wow, does that sound like an ad or what?!)

Buttery Sticks are vegan and healthy and seem like a nice compromise between using butter or oil in this recipe.  And in the end, it really did taste like I had put a stick of butter in them.  Yes, the fat and calories are still there, but there are fewer grams of saturated fat than butter.  But go ahead and use butter if you prefer.  The recipe also offers the option of using oil instead of butter, which I have not done, mainly because it seems like it might make them a little dense and heavy. Oh, I also used a lowfat sour cream, but I think next time I might even substitute that with some homemade yogurt.  The version that I'm sharing with you here came out so moist, with just the right heft and sweetness, yet still light.

So, I give you my new favorite morning muffin, infused with the flavors of molasses and cinamon and studded with apples, raisins, and nuts.  A mighty little muffin if ever there was....I can't think of a better way to start the day.

Apple Molasses Sour Cream Bran Muffins

**1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened or ½ cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup raisins
1 apple, diced (golden delicious works best, but if you use a Granny Smith or other baking apple, be sure
         to chop or dice very small.
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup miller’s bran (available at natural foods stores, specialty foods shops, and some supermarkets)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
**see note below

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the butter (or oil) and the brown sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy (will be far less light or fluffy if oil is used), beat in the egg, the sour cream  and the molasses.  Stir in the raisins, chopped apple and nuts.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, the baking soda, the salt, the cinnamon and the bran.  Add the dry ingredients to the sour cream mixture, and stir the batter until it is just combined. (The batter will be a little lumpy.)

Spoon the batter into 12 well-buttered 1/3-cup muffin tins and bake the muffins in the middle of a preheated 400°F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and springy to the touch. Turn the muffins out onto a rack and let them cool.

Makes 12 muffins.

** After receiving a comment from a reader about substituting applesauce for the butter, I gave it a try and it was great.  So, if you don't want to use the butter or oil, I just made some baked applesauce (keep some apple chunks in it) and then substituted 1/2 cup (heaping) of the applesauce for the butter and omitted the raw apple.  I also used 1/2 cup yogurt and 1/2 sour cream instead of all sour cream.  These came out just great.