Who da man? Who. Da. MAN?

Am I going to let a muffin beat me? No, I am not. The muffin does not drive this bus.

I started thinking about this star-crossed muffin because I was thinking about wooden spoons. I have a motley and beloved collection of them, and I could tell you where I got each one and how each received its distinguishing blemish: the crack in the one that was a party favor at my friend's Maine wedding, from when I used it in my giant Squeezo food mill and got it caught in the works; the chip in the one from the craft fair where I couldn't find my daughter for five harrowing minutes, from when I whapped that one too hard on the side of the polenta pot. And so on. For years my mother had one with one third of the spoon-end missing and it looked like that because in the winter we would make hot bran mash for the horses, and my sister let the pony lick the spoon and he forgot himself for a moment and bit the end off. I understood his enthusiasm. Hot bran mash on a cold morning is pretty enticing, and I dipped into it myself pretty freely on the way out to the barn.

In New York in the 80’s, as I recall, a bran muffin was a hot item. It was big news all of a sudden that bran was good for you, and people in the early morning in New York in the 1980’s seemed often to be looking for something that was good enough for them that it would reverse the effects of whatever they had done the night before.The bran muffin I remember from those days was dark brown and kind of like a shot put that seemed to be made of wood shavings and sugar.Digesting it occupied most of the morning, if you happened to in fact eat it--often enough, I think people felt enough virtuous cleansing from the purchase, from eyeing the doughnut and then ordering the muffin, that they just left it on their desks. ( I have a friend who believes this principle explains why Stephen Hawking's book was a best-seller. People felt smart enough buying it, and having it around, that reading it kind of didn't come up for a lot of them.)

This bran muffin goes down a little easier than those old ones did, though I suppose it won't entice you if I say it tastes more like horse food than something in a city bakery cart. Probably that would only entice me. This one combines oat bran and flax meal, which is high in lots of things we know we ought to get more of, like omega 3s and lignans and fiber (ooh--that last one is something I actually understand!). Flax meal seemed like such a good idea even in the 8th century, before nutritionists, that King Charlemagne passed a law requiring his subjects to eat it.Now there’s some big government action a person can get behind.

I used golden flax meal for this because it is prettier, which may be why I think it tastes better, but you could use the regular stuff. I shred everything on my box grater because it is easy to wash, or at least this is how I console myself for not having a food processor, and also because the choice of grating options means that I can make the carrots less carrot-y, which may nudge these muffins up a few points in the polls in your district. When I grated them coarsely, I heard some grumbling about too many carrots.

Most of the people around here take a dim view of raisins in the muffins, but I think a case could be made for adding them, along with some toasted pecans, if that's how you roll.

pony muffins

makes 12

  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely grated (about a cup)
  • 1 apple, peeled and coarsely grated (a scant cup)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 3/4 c golden flax meal
  • 3/4 c oat bran
  • 1 1/4 c whole spelt flour or ww pastry flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom or 1/2 t crushed cardamom seed
  • 6T butter, melted


  • 1/2 c raisins, soaked in hot water for a few minutes and drained
  • 1/2 c chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350, and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan by lining the cups with paper liners or lightly greasing them.

Set the butter to melting over low heat.

Mix the grated items, the egg, the buttermilk, the vanilla and the sugar in a medium bowl.

Combine the dry ingredients in a smaller bowl. Dump this into the liquid mixture and lightly combine, then add the melted butter and the raisins and/or nuts if you are using them, and mix lightly until dry ingredients are no longer obvious. Divide among the 12 cups and bake about 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when you press them lightly.