The (Almost) Perfect Bran Muffin

1207921720I love bran muffins. I always have. But all bran muffins are not created equal. Many are too sugary, and most are too dense. So when I moved to the South End and adopted Flour Bakery as my cafeteria a year and a half ago, it was love at first bite between me and their seed-covered bran offerings. They were light but hearty, with raisins inside, and a mix of seeds on top, which lent additional earthiness to the recipe. Even when it was snowing, I woke up early and trekked the four blocks to Flour to get my hands on a lovely bran muffin before they sold out—yes, they were very hot items.

But one day, I arrived at the bakery before 9 a.m., and not a single muffin was in sight. The bran fell off the map, only to be replaced by a cheap, less healthy substitute that tasted more like carrot cake and was called the Morning Glory. For a full year, I asked, I begged, I pleaded to the staff to please bring back the bran.

Meanwhile, I scoured the city for the next best thing, trying out bran muffins everywhere from chains like Starbucks and Whole Foods, to competing neighborhood joints like Francesca’s and the Buttery. But each was brick-like in texture and headache-inducing in the sugar department.

And then, last month, Flour debuted the Mother Nature Muffin—an even heartier, more complex, better tasting reincarnation of the original bran. Like the classic, it’s light yet filling, and it comes with seeds on top. But in addition to the raisins inside, there’s a full medley of dried fruit—apricots, cherries, apples, varying according to whichever are on hand.

After a year of searching and failing to find even a runner up, I’ve had bran on the brain, so I called up a baker at Flour to find out how they achieve the Mother Nature masterpieces. Their secret: Start with a white flour base, then add the bran. Wheat flour might sound healthier, they said, but it’s impossible not to weigh down the recipe with such a dense ingredient. When I first heard this news, I felt a bit cheated. For years I thought I was eating all whole grains, when I was really downing simple carbohydrates. Oh the shame! But then I imagined life back with the Morning Glory and the stone-like bran muffins I’d suffered through, and I found myself appreciating white flour like never before.

-Rachel Baker

Flour Bakery, 1595 Washington St., Boston, 617-467-4300,