Blueberry bran muffins & a cookbook giveaway

Blueberry bran muffins baked with less sugar

Want to make these muffins now? Click here to find the blueberry bran muffins recipe.

Baking with less sugar cookbook cover
Please note this giveaway is now closed. Thanks for visiting!

Finally, something baked on the blog! I know, I know, it’s been quite a while. I think the last thing I baked were those little rhubarb biscuits back in June. June, people! It feels good to be back to my usual “baking all week long” schedule. Oh, how I missed preheating my oven to 350ºF. Still, even though I haven’t been baking, I’m pretty pleased that I now have a whole shelf that is overflowing with jars and jars of homemade preserves. Totally worth the baking break when I look at all the jam jars up there. To get back into baking mode, I thought I’d test out one of the cookbooks that Raincoast Books sent me. So, for the past week or so, I’ve been baking my way through Joanne Chang’s latest book entitled “Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar” (available on Amazon and Amazon Canada) because I am was a baker that firmly believed that every gram of granulated white sugar was absolutely necessary and that not even a teaspoon of it could be spared. I think a lot of bakers would agree. I went into this review with a little skepticism, and I wouldn’t necessarily have believed any of it if it weren’t for Joanne Chang’s name on the cover (remember I tried out her recipe for coffee cake from her first Flour bakery cookbook). She’s good and I trust her.


Blueberry bran muffins
The book is divided into five chapters around the various ways of reducing or eliminating white sugar from baked goods. So, the book opens with a chapter about drastically reducing the white sugar because that is the first thing I think most people try to do when they are trying to bake a little “healthier.” Then follows a chapter about using chocolate instead of sugar to sweeten chocolate baked goods without adding any sugar (because chocolate has some added sugar to begin with, so why add more?) . There’s a chapter about sweetening with honey instead of white sugar, and another about using maple syrup and molasses. The book closes on the topic of “Fruit is Sweet”, a concept that has been explored by others, but I don’t think to the extent that Chang has.

Pecan shortbread

To test this book, I chose to make three of the recipes: one recipe from the first chapter about reducing the white sugar (these blueberry bran muffins with only 1/3 cup sugar in 12 muffins!), one recipe from the chapter using fruit instead of sugar to sweeten baked goods (pecan-date shortbread cookies sweetened with, you guessed it, dates), and a final recipe that is sweetened with honey (fresh peach ricotta tart with 4 tablespoons of honey total for a 10-inch tart). When you look at the quantity of sugar and sweet in most recipes (including mine), and then you look at the recipes in this book, it honestly seems like the recipes in this cookbook can’t work or that they shouldn’t work. I expected that the results wouldn’t be good and that the baked goods would taste bland or under-sweetened. Right? Because granulated sugar plays so many important rolls from preserving and adding moisture to baked goods, keeping them from drying out. Sugar lightens the crumb and allows you to incorporate more air into batters. Sugar brings out the flavour of food. See, clearly I’m a big fan of sugary baked goods with good reason.


Fresh peach ricotta tartAll three recipes I tried were big hits. I didn’t miss the sugar (and neither did my family and friends), and I’d honestly make everything again. Overall, I noted that I had to bake the shortbread a little extra than the recommended time to dry them out a little more, and for the blueberry bran muffins, next time I might try using a half cup less of blueberries just because a couple of the muffins seemed overwhelmed with blueberries (and consequently a little harder to get out of the pan). For the peach tart, I was blown away by the all-butter crust recipe made in a stand mixer instead of by hand or in a food processor, but I wish there was an extra step in the blind-baking towards the end, without the beans, to better dry out the bottom of the crust. I love that the book has measurements in cups and grams, especially that Chang fills her cup of flour differently than I do: when I weigh out a cup of flour, it’s about 125 grams, but when Chang reports her flour measurements, 1 cup is 140 grams, which is a tablespoon-or-so more, and that could make a difference in some of the recipes. By the way, Chang’s conversion of cups of flour to grams is the same as America’s Test Kitchen uses. My only complaint about the book is in the “Fruit is Sweet” chapter, while I appreciate opting for a supposedly more “natural” source of sweetness, like dates, I don’t think we should kid ourselves here: using fruit juice concentrate isn’t ideal either and it is full of sugar, even if it’s not added sugar. Still, I think this book is a big step in the right direction, and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned, and of course, more books from Joanne Chang.

You can get your hands on Joanne Chang’s Baking with Less Sugar: Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar on Amazon and Amazon Canada, and you can also try to win a copy in this giveaway!


Raincoast Books wants to send one of you (with a mailing address in Canada or the US) a copy of Joanne Chang’s awesome book Baking With Less Sugar!

To enter this giveaway:

  1. Leave me a comment below telling me if you usually cut the sugar in your baking recipes, or do you substitute honey or maple syrup for the granulated sugar? Does cutting or swapping out the sugar tend to work for you? I want to know what your experience has been!
  2. For an added bonus, tweet about the giveaway to your followers: ” There’s a #bakingwithlesssugar giveaway on @ktchnhealssoul! Enter here:” and don’t forget to leave me a link to your tweet in a separate comment below!

Contest is now closed. Contest closes on Monday, August 24th, 2015, at 11:59 PM. Winner will be chosen at random via

And while you wait for your copy, Raincoast Books let me share the blueberry bran muffin recipe with you, which is quite different than my honey blueberry muffin recipe or my date bran muffins.

Blueberry bran muffins recipe


Blueberry bran muffins
5 from 1 vote

Blueberry bran muffins

Low sugar blueberry bran muffins are perfect for breakfasts and snacks. These blueberry muffins are loaded with blueberries and not too sweet. 

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 270 kcal
Author Janice


  • 245 grams all-purpose flour 1 3/4 cups
  • 60 grams wheat bran 1 cup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 70 grams sugar 1/3 cup
  • 115 grams unsalted butter 1/2 cup, melted and at room temperature
  • 120 grams whole milk 1/2 cup, at room temperature
  • 180 grams crème fraîche 3/4 cup, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 375 grams blueberries 2 1/2 cups, fresh or frozen)


  1. Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, wheat bran, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche and vanilla until well-combined. Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the dry ingredients and fold gently, using a rubber spatula, just until the ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the blueberries until the fruit is distributed well. The batter may seem lumpy, but don’t try to smooth it out.
  3. Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop a heaping 2/3 cup batter into each prepared cup of the muffin tin, filling the cups to the brim (almost overflowing) and making sure the cups are evenly filled. You might think you have too much batter, but you can fill these to overflowing and then you will get nice tops on your muffins. (If you prefer smaller muffins, spoon about 1/2 cup batter into each cup and decrease the baking time to 25 to 35 minutes. You will get up to 18 smaller muffins.)
  4. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the muffins are entirely golden brown on top and they spring back lightly when you press them in the centre. There’s a lot of fruit in these muffins, so make sure you bake them enough so the insides of the muffins don’t get soggy. Let the muffins cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, and then remove them from the pan.


Raincoast Books offered me one copy of this book, plus the opportunity to host a giveaway. As always, please know that I wouldn’t work with a sponsor nor recommend a product if it wasn’t worth it. I tested three recipes from the book before coming to the conclusion that this book is awesome. 

Baking With Less Sugar Blueberry bran mufins

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36 Responses to Blueberry bran muffins & a cookbook giveaway

  1. June @ How to Philosophize with Cake August 18, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    I don’t usually cut sugar in baking, but I do appreciate a good low-sugar recipe on occasion! Particularly for breakfast, like these muffins 🙂

    • Karen Gianni August 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

      I use Splenda, both the white and brown sugar and the recipes are just fine. An even swap.

  2. Chloé August 18, 2015 at 7:05 am #

    I usually try to replace sugar with anything fruity or good old maple syrup!

  3. Steph August 18, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    I don’t like overly sweet desserts so I usually choose less sweet recipes

  4. Steph August 18, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    I tweeted!!

  5. Adrienne August 18, 2015 at 10:07 am #

    I tweeted,

  6. Adrienne August 18, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    When measuring sugar I measure out a little less than what the recipe calls for. I use honey in smoothies instead of sugar.

  7. joy August 18, 2015 at 10:19 am #

    i often just use less sugar when baking without repercussions…it isn’t even noticed if i put in less than indicated!

  8. Lynn August 18, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    Depends what I’m making. In a cake recipe I’ll usually leave the sugar as is because I don’t want to mess things up. But in fruit pies I’ll usually cut the sugar drastically and replace with honey. Peach bourbon pie sweetened with a bit of honey is the best.

  9. Eva August 18, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    I normally replace it with honey (depending on what I’m making) or just cut down the sugar. But the outcomes totally depend on luck!

  10. Amanda | The Cinnamon Scrolls August 18, 2015 at 2:29 pm #

    I usually replace sugar with either honey or maple syrup. I actually love using a combination of maple syrup and raw cane sugar in baking recipes. I love the caramelly taste it gives baked goods!

  11. C-Jay August 18, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    I always reduce the sugar a bit each time I make a recipe. I keep reducing and reducing until I feel the recipe cannot handle any more reductions. My family is becoming so used to low sweet, that regular recipes often seem “too” sweet now.

  12. SB August 18, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

    I have a friend who went to pastry school (I know, I’m a lucky girl) and she told me that they always cut the sugar and usually swap in brown sugar for white sugar. So with her blessing, I usually cut the sugar in a recipe by at least one-third and use brown sugar unless I think that will affect the texture or something. If I’m baking for friends, I reconsider my operating procedure, but often go ahead and use my usual formula – they almost never notice!

  13. Natalie V August 18, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

    Applesauce or Agave

  14. Todd g August 18, 2015 at 10:57 pm # Love Joanne chang and the book looks way cool!

  15. Natalie V August 18, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Hi tweeted! ttps://

  16. Todd g August 18, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    We often cut the butter in recipes but haven’t done much with sugar other than to substitute in some honey. Will try these muffins this week though. Thanks!

  17. Angie@Angie's Recipes August 19, 2015 at 5:04 am #

    I like to replace at least 1/3 of sugar with applesauce in baking. These muffins look heavenly!

  18. Linda August 20, 2015 at 12:30 am #

    I’ve been cutting down the sugar in my baking for years. For example, no one has ever noticed that I halve the sugar in my banana bread, and there’s never a smidge leftover! And these recipes all look just great, and I’m eager to try rhem right now!!

  19. Emilye August 20, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    I usually cut sugar by at least one third, sometimes half, when i bake. doesn’t seem to affect the results too much.

  20. Megan August 22, 2015 at 1:57 am #

    I usually reduce the sugar when in baking, and I’ve dabbled with different sugar alternatives like Splenda, stevia, maple syrup, honey, agave, or just sweeten with fruit like dates and overripe bananas. I think this cookbook sounds really interesting!

  21. Teresa August 22, 2015 at 4:15 am #

    This is a cookbook that’s been on my list for a while. So many members of my family are trying to cut back on processed sugar, for various reasons. I’ve always been like you – ALL the sugar is necessary, you just have to share. But, I think I’d bake more often if I baked less sweetly, as I’d have more takers. So far, I’ve experimented with honey a bit, but my partner is vegan, so that’s out for him. I really need to learn more.

  22. Teresa August 22, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    And here’s the link to my tweet:


  23. Carolsue August 22, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

    I have some cookbooks that have recipes where you can substitute honey or Splenda – there are many ways to cut down on sugar and still have good desserts!

  24. Carolsue August 22, 2015 at 8:07 pm #


  25. Olivia @ livforcake August 23, 2015 at 2:00 am #

    Funny, I was JUST talking to my friend the other day about reducing sugar, etc, and that it would be really hard for me as a baker (mostly in buttercreams, which I LOVE). I didn’t know this book existed but am now going to check it out!

  26. ELAINE August 23, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    My go to is usually maple syrup. Sometimes I use coconut sugar, but I’ve learned it needs to be ground finer to use in baking recipes.

  27. Erika August 23, 2015 at 11:11 am #

    I do cut the sugar occasionally but I’m also very excited to learn about using honey and otger sources as well!

  28. Jessie August 23, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    I never cut sugar in recipes, but I do like recipes that use maple syrup or honey instead of sugar!

  29. Joyce August 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    To be honest, I never look into reducing sugar in my baking, but as we get older and try to eat more responsible, this is something I’m interested in learning and experimenting. This cookbook will be a great starting point for me!

  30. Alisha Duncan August 23, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    I love using maple syrup and honey in my baking – I try to use them more often now, but there are still times I use granulated sugar…

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