A woman at a local bakery recently sauntered up to the counter to ask the clerk if the outlet's brand of oat bran muffins could reduce her cholesterol.
"I'm afraid I really don't know," the clerk responded. "Our bakery items are already prepared when we get them. We just bake the dough."
The customer seemed a bit confused, since the young woman behind the magnificent display of baked goods had failed to answer her question. Nonetheless, the customer headed for the bin of oat bran muffins.
To her dismay, the bin was empty--another example of consumer demand for a product with a perceived health effect. And bakeries aren't the only retailers finding it hard to keep oat bran muffins on the shelf.
After being bombarded by weekend shoppers, a Los Angeles membership warehouse chain, where consumers can buy foods and other items at reduced prices, had trouble offering Monday morning shoppers any of their usually large supply of oat bran muffins, even though the rest of the warehouse items had been completely restocked after the busy two-day spree.
It appears that Angelenos are very eager to buy food items that contain oat bran.
Manufacturers have been quick to respond to that consumer demand. They tout oat bran as an ingredient in everything from gourmet cold breakfast cereals to granola-type snack bars. Gourmet cookie makers are even adding bran cookies to their product lines.
Increased Consumer Interest
Health experts claim--and opinion polls indicate--a growing interest by consumers in reducing their blood cholesterol to acceptable levels. But often the amount of oat bran in commercial products--when compared to that given to participants in the study that recognized the cholesterol-lowering effects of the fiber--produces insignificant health benefits.
It is important to keep in mind that the study group consumed two ounces of oat bran each day, which represents about two-thirds of a cup of the insoluble fiber. And they followed a low-fat diet that derived only 30% of its calories from fat.
This can easily be translated into a one-ounce serving of hot oat bran cereal, oatmeal or cold oat cereal in the morning, oat bran or oatmeal bread with sandwiches for lunch, oat bran muffins as an afternoon snack and an oatmeal cookie for dessert. Spoon a tablespoon or two of oat bran into savory dishes or into crust mixtures for oven-baked chicken. Substituting oats for up to one-third of the flour called for in some recipes is another option.
Maintaining a low-fat diet regimen is also vital. Use nonfat milk, lean meat and egg whites instead of whole eggs in recipes. Remove the skin from chicken before cooking and coat the chicken with an oat bran crumb mixture and bake instead of frying.
OAT BRAN LOAF
2 cups water
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons oat bran
2 packages dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
Cinnamon Date Filling, optional
1 egg white
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup oat bran. Blend well. Set aside to cool.
Place 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees) in large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast and stir until dissolved. Stir in oat bran mixture, honey, oil, salt and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough additional flour to make soft dough.
Knead lightly on floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Let rise in warm, place until doubled, about 35 minutes.
Punch dough down. Divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each piece to 16x7 inches. Sprinkle each piece with half of Cinnamon Date Filling. Roll up from short ends to make loaves. Place seam sides down in 2 greased 8 1/2x4 1/2-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 35 minutes.
Brush with egg white, sprinkle with remaining oat bran and bake at 375 degrees 35 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves.
Cinnamon Date Filling
1 (8-ounce) package chopped dates
1 cup oat bran
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 egg white
Combine dates, oat bran and cinnamon in small bowl. Stir in egg white and blend well.
PEACHY OAT MUFFINS
1 (16-ounce) can peach halves, in juice
2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1 cup oats
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
Drain peaches, reserving juice for other use. Chop 2 peach halves and set aside. Puree remaining peach halves to measure 1 cup. Combine peach puree, egg whites, oil, vanilla, orange zest and almond extract. Set aside.
Combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Mix well. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Fold in chopped peaches and raisins. Spoon into paper-lined muffin cups and bake on top oven rack at 400 degrees 20 minutes or until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 12 servings.
ALMOND OAT COOKIES
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine, softened