Ogden • The owners of the Greenery restaurant can't swear on a Book of Mormon that the recipe for their hearty muffins was the same one used by pioneers pulling handcarts. After all, Kellogg's wasn't around then to sell one of the key ingredients, All-Bran cereal.
But Rob King, whose family owns the Rainbow Gardens, the building that houses the restaurant, declares the Mormon Muffins a "treasured pioneer recipe." He said they were at the very least inspired by Mormons, who arrived in Salt Lake City 166 years ago on July 24, 1847.
While developing the restaurant's menu, King had wanted to feature a muffin that tasted like the ones he enjoyed at his great-grandmother's house. A woman named Mrs. Parker he can no longer remember her first name took care of his "nana" and made the treats.
"Mrs. Parker was a very good Mormon and my nana was a very good Mormon and they did this right across the street from the stone [LDS] church. It just came to our minds," King said. "We were told [the recipe] was part of [Mrs. Parker's] family heritage."
King said the late T. Upton Ramsey, a chef at The New Yorker restaurant and Salt Lake Tribune food columnist, developed the recipe for the Greenery.
"A gentleman of the first rank, he worked and worked on it and came up [to Ogden] every Saturday with a different version," King said. "We were pretty picky. We said, 'A little more this. A little more that.' "
The Greenery opened in 1976 with the Mormon Muffin on the menu. It quickly became a hit. Today, 300 to 500 are sold a day to those who dine in the restaurant and who order them to go. A single muffin is $2.29; a box of six to go, with honey butter, is $9.09.
King said the muffin was added to the menu at a time when many restaurants offered a signature bread, à la Red Lobster's cheese biscuits. "I don't think anyone is doing that anymore because we're all on diets."
The muffins have inspired plenty of blog posts and speculation about their origins. Some have even wondered if it's the fiber-filled wholesomeness that makes them Mormon. During the 2002 Winter Olympics, the Mormon Muffin even had its own pin. King was once told that about 140,000 were sold, making it the second most popular pin behind the green Jell-O pin.
"We have a lot of people that are just crazy for [the muffins] and they rave about it and they tell their friends," said restaurant owner Peery King. "We sell more of it than anything else."
He's at a loss to explain why, except that they taste good.
The Greenery restaurant even gives away the recipe for Mormon Muffins for free, so fans can make these mini-cakes at home. But it takes patience. The recipe, which includes four eggs and a quart of buttermilk, calls for letting the dough sit overnight, though the restaurant refrigerates it at least two days.
"When people make it, I don't think it turns out quite as well," King said. "They don't have the machinery or convection oven we do."
Why go to all the trouble when you can take a drive to the mouth of Ogden Canyon and eat them warm, slathered in honey butter at the Paris-inspired cafe?
"People will come in and say, 'I've never had a Mormon Muffin before. Is it really worth the [price]?' I'll say, 'Yeah, it's worth it,' " said waitress Katie Smith. "They'll end up taking a box home."
Lois Stuart, 66, brings her mother, Marge Fisher, 85, to the restaurant regularly, and they always split a muffin.
"It's decadent. We love it," said Stuart on a recent morning. "You can't get them anywhere else."
"It's like eating something good that's good for you," Fisher adds.
Gerald Grove, 89, dining at a neighboring table, didn't order the muffins on this day because he already had a stash at home. "They're so tasty. They're rich. They're the best."
Another table of diners also succumbed to the muffins.
"It's kind of tradition here," said Diana Kimber, who makes her own, healthier version of bran muffins with less sugar. "This is kind of a treat to order them here."
Joyce Harmon sometimes brings her out-of-town friends to her hometown restaurant and they invariably ask about the muffins. "I told my friend from New York they have crickets in them, that's why they call them Mormon Muffins," Harmon said. "She didn't get the joke."
5 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups boiling water
1 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 quart buttermilk
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups All Bran cereal
2 cups 40 percent bran flakes
1 cup walnuts, chopped
In a bowl, combine soda and boiling water. In a separate bowl, whip shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs slowly. Mix well. Add buttermilk, flour and salt and mix again. Pour the soda water very slowly. Gently fold the cereals and the walnuts into the mix.
Let mix sit in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins. Spoon 1/8 cup batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Servings • 3 dozen muffins
Source: The Greenery
Finding Mormon Muffins
Where • The Greenery Restaurant at Rainbow Gardens, 1875 Valley Drive, Ogden (at the mouth of Ogden Canyon); 801-392-1777.
Hours • Open Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 to 9 p.m.
Price • A single muffin is $2.29; a box of six to go, with honey butter, is $9.09.