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Low-fat bran muffins provide a healthier alternative to sugar-rich pastry or cupcakes. They're also lower in fat and higher in fiber than many conventional muffins, but baking them can be tricky. There are several elements to the process of making these muffins, including sifting and measuring dry ingredients, preparing wet ingredients, and the actual mixing of the two. Bakers should stick closely to the recipe, measure ingredients carefully, and avoid untested substitutions to get a muffin that's low in fat without being dense, dry, or undercooked.
Measure all flour carefully, sifting it first, to keep the muffins from becoming dense or dry. If possible, use a recipe calculated by weight, rather than by volume, as this method of measurement produces more accurate results. Using a specialty low-gluten flour, such as cake or pastry flour, instead of all-purpose flour works well to increase muffin tenderness in recipes with less butter or oil.
Pre-soaking bran in water or milk before adding it to the batter can prevent dryness. Too much bran can make the muffin heavy, however. Use only about 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) of bran for each cup (240 ml) of flour in the recipe.
To reduce the fat contributed by the eggs in a muffin recipe, bakers can substitute two whipped egg whites for each whole egg, retaining at least one whole egg to prevent dryness. People with dietary restrictions that prohibit eggs can substitute 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of flax seed meal for each egg in the recipe. This substitution reduces fat by about 1.8 grams per egg, but offers similar binding power.
Shortenings produce lighter, fluffier low-fat products than vegetable oil. The water in butter, vegetable shortening, or margarine creates air pockets in the muffin. Oils are pure fat, and produce a heavier muffin.
When combining wet and dry ingredients, cooks should avoid over-stirring. Muffin batter should be slightly lumpy. Mixing it until smooth activates the gluten in the flour and can produce chewy muffins. Baking the batter immediately after mixing reduces the chance of gluten developing over time.
Baking times can also affect the quality of low-fat bran muffins. Avoid opening the oven until the last five minutes in the baking period, since low-fat foods are more sensitive to temperature shifts. Reduce baking times slightly when using low-fat recipes to prevent the food from drying out.
Many recipes for low-fat bran muffins substitute fruit purees or dairy ingredients for part of the oil in a conventional muffin recipe. Applesauce, pumpkin puree, yogurt, and sour cream can all decrease the fat and calories in a muffin, but also tend to produce a denser, wetter result. Replacing all of the fat in a recipe with these ingredients may cause the muffin to bake poorly.