Recipes from the Old Mill: Baking with Whole Grainsby Sarah Myers, Mary Beth Lind
Simple grains yield rich breads that range from the mystically light to the substantially chewy. These breads offer incontestable food value and flavor; they will satisfy and delight those sensitive to nutritional concerns.
- Skyhorse Publishing
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 7.40(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Read an Excerpt
In 1954, when our father, a country doctor, bought land on which he wished to build his medical clinic, an old building sat at one end of the acreage, and a stream flowed through the property. This old building and this stream were a water-powered grist mill and a mill stream.
We spent many happy hours boating on the mill pond in summer and ice skating on the mill pond in the winter. Inside the old building, the smells of wood, water, and flour blended into an incense which seemed timeless. It was a wonderful place to sit -- feeling the throb of the mill stones rhythmically turning, hearing the water rushing into the turbine, and seeing the grain entering the hopper only to reappear as flour. Somehow, that hard, dry, whole grain was turned into a fine, soft flour.
When our uncle, the miller, wasn't looking, we would slide our hands quickly under the spout and grab a handful of flour, quietly stuffing it into our mouths. Then sputtering as we choked on the dry flour, we were chased away, temporarily. I say temporarily, because there was something about that timeless smell of wood, water, and flour that drew us back.
And so, years later, we are drawn back to this old mill. As adults we no longer steal fresh ground flour from the spout and savor it in our mouths; instead we grind the grains and bake fresh breads which we savor and share.
This heritage and joy of fresh whole grains and baking is what we would like to share with you.
-- Sarah E. Myers and Mary Beth Lind
Chapter 1 -- CORN
Corn originated in the Americas. In fact, most early American civilizations were based on it. The Aztec and Mayan cultures of Central and South America, as well as the Appalachian Seneca Indian culture in West Virginia, were all corn cultures. While our present day diet is not based on any one grain, the grain most often raised in this part of Appalachia is corn. At our mill most of what we custom-grind is corn.
Not all corn is alike. There is flint or dent corn, open pollinated or hybrid, yellow or white, field corn or sweet corn. When grinding corn for cornmeal, we most often use a yellow, field, dent, hybrid corn. Yellow is most common and best liked locally. However, if you live further south, you probably prefer white corn. The difference between the two is mostly skin-deep. Yellow corn does contain more Vitamin A than white corn.
The corn most commonly ground is field corn. It is usually dried well, which enhances its grinding and keeping quality. (If you have trouble with your cornmeal molding, either the corn was not dried properly before it was ground, or you are storing it improperly.)
Most often, field corn is a dent corn. The name comes from the dent that forms at the top of the kernel when the corn is dried. Each kernel is composed of both hard and soft starches. When ground, these starches yield the characteristic cornmeal texture.
Flint corn, the alternate of dent corn, is better known as Indian corn. Its kernels contain soft starch in the center with a coating of flint-hard starch all around it. When flint corn is ground, it makes a corn flour because of the flint-hard starch surrounding the kernel. Corn flour or cornmeal, unlike wheat flour, contains no gluten and so cannot be used alone when you bake with yeast.
At our mill, when a farmer brings corn to be ground, we accept toll or cash payment. Toll is 1/10 of the grain or flour as payment for the grinding. If I happen to be around when my husband is doing the grinding, and I realize that the corn being ground is a traditional corn such as Bloody Butcher, I whisper to my husband, "Ask the farmer if we can take toll instead of cash." This way I get some good cornmeal!
Whatever corn we used to grind your cornmeal, you may choose whether to buy it sifted (bolted) or not. This is mostly a matter of personal preference. Sifting, which takes out some of the bran, gives a more even textured meal, but one with less fiber. You may want to choose based upon how you plan to use the cornmeal. I prefer a sifted meal for spoon bread but an unsifted meal for cornbread.
When I think of cornmeal, I immediately think of bread. However, which bread? Cornbread, the family favorite, or Yogurt Cornbread, my personal favorite? Then, too, there are the variations such as Spoon Bread, which is delicious with a pot of baked beans, or the whole range of muffins, from Cornmeal to Sweet Tofu Corn-Oat. In this section you will find Buttermilk Cornmeal Biscuits. And for an adventuresomely different, but very traditional, bread, try Salt-Rising Bread.
Breads are not the only things to make with cornmeal. Start the day with Crunchy Cornmeal or Tender Cornmeal Pancakes or a bowl of Cornmeal Mush. For a snack try Corn Chips, and for a showy dinner roll try Corn Bubble Ring.
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