Book Club Tuesday: The Miller’s Daughter

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There is something both fascinating and dynamic in the way Emma Zimmerman describes how she and her father resurrected the historic Hayden Flour Mills in Tempe, Arizona in her cookbook, The Miller’s Daughter. From her father’s original yearning to restart the mill, which called her home from her PhD studies at McGill, to all of the people in their community (chefs, farmers, Native Seeds/SEARCH), Hayden Mills came from the earnest desire to combine milling techniques with a keen interest in biodiversity: “We knew that if we were going to approach milling with such a detailed attention and radical commitment to craft, we needed to demonstrate equal care with what we actually milled.”(17) And, throughout the first part of the book, Zimmerman gives a detailed account of how Hayden Mills started over a decade ago and, how their business diverges from the large-scale U.S. commercial milling operations.

The Miller’s Daughter is organized into two main sections. The first section tells the story of the mill and the grains in four parts: Sow, Grow, Harvest, and Mill. From there, Zimmerman guides home cooks through the different recipes which comprise the other ten chapters which focus on specific heritage ingredients milled at Hayden Mills: White Sonora, Heritage Bread Wheat, Farro, Barley, Einkorn, Corn, Durum, Chickpeas, Oats, and Rye. For anyone who is unfamiliar with cooking or baking with heritage flour and grains, there is the section, Cooking Notes, that offers helpful information on how to get started. Now, some of you might be thinking: “I don’t have access to any of the Hayden Mills products — is this a book for me?” Unequivocally: yes! At the end of the book, there is a small flour and grain resource guide which provides names and websites for mills in United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and United Kingdom. So, while I live in Canada, I was able to source ingredients from Flourist (located in Vancouver, B.C.) to use when making the recipes (I was able to find some of the ingredients in my local grocery store too).

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Overnight Oat Bake w/ Cherries + Almonds, p.194

One of my favourite chapters in the book is focused on Einkorn — a flavourful grain that makes such a delicious flour. When my parents came to Halifax on a recent visit, my mom noticed the big bag of Einkorn flour in my pantry and, she wondered what it was, as she had “never heard tell of it.” The only way to understand the difference between commercial flour and a flour made from a heritage grain is to taste it. Serving them the Einkorn Waffles showed the flavour and texture that this flour offers (and, how it eclipses regular grocery store flour). If their visit had been a week earlier, then they would have also tasted the Einkorn Blondies w/ White Chocolate and Raspberries that I baked. Such perfection — chewy and nutty, the white chocolate and raspberries are a great compliment to Einkorn. Needless to say, the blondies were long gone by the time my folks arrived.

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Einkorn Blondies w/ White Chocolate + Raspberries, p.120

While I was unable to source einkorn berries, I used the substitution offered in the book: wheat berries. So, when I made the Rainbow Einkorn Berry Slaw w/ Mint and Apples, I used the wheat berries instead. This slaw is the ideal accompaniment for our burgers, and I appreciated that I could make it ahead of time. While I love all slaw in general, the wheat berries add a little extra chew which goes well with the crunchy apples, red cabbage, and beets. Another recipe we enjoyed was the Harvest Grain Bowls. Again, the wheat berries play an important part in the composition of this recipe. Roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, and marinated tofu (soy/sriracha) joins avocado, greens, pepitas, and wheat berries in a beautifully fresh bowl, which is finished off with a creamy/tangy dressing made from cashews, cilantro, coconut milk, and lemon. I love these kinds of meals because if I make a little extra of each component then I can enjoy the leftovers the next day.

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Purple Barley Scones, p. 109

Earlier I mentioned one of my favourite Canadian mills to source ingredients – Flourist – so when I ordered a bag of their Purple Barley, I was keen on trying Zimmerman’s recipe for Purple Barley Scones. Since the barley I ordered needed to be home-milled for baking, I used a small mill to grind flour which I then used to make the scones. The barley has such a delicious, moreish flavour which was only amplified by the finely chopped pecans. My mom enjoyed a scone every morning with her coffee while she was here – she’s a big fan of hearty, comforting bakes.

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Harvest Grain Bowl, p. 132

Grains are a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed any time of the day but my preferred meal for grains is breakfast. There is something deeply comforting about eating grains first thing in the morning. Some of my favourite recipes of the book are ones I’ve made for breakfast! I’ve learned that the Retro Oatflour Pancakes w/ Cottage Cheese and Peanut Butter are so good that a double batch needs to be made (and, as I type this, there is a batch of pancakes in the freezer ready for my daughter to enjoy before she heads off for school in the mornings). Maybe you’re wondering what makes these pancakes so special? By blending the cottage cheese and peanut butter into the batter, the resulting pancakes are more crepe than pancake and have such a lovely flavour and texture. With the faint essence of peanut butter, they are perfect when topped with jam.

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Retro Oatflour Pancakes w/ Cottage Cheese + Peanut Butter, p. 197

The Overnight Oat Bake w/ Cherries and Almonds is sublime. There is something about the combination of cherries and almonds that is singular. It’s a useful recipe because you can prep it the night before and bake it in the morning and, I found that freezing the extras is wonderful too. I agree with what Zimmerman says in the recipe notes: “that prepping breakfast the night before helps me look forward to the mornings.” Thinking on oats for breakfast, another recipe I recommend is the Superfood Oatmeal Smoothie! It’s just as the recipe notes say — an all-in-one smoothie that combines oatmeal and coffee along with hemp, chia, and flaxseeds. This smoothie is rich and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness from dates.

The Miller’s Daughter is a wonderful primer for understanding how the heritage grain movement is tied to sustainability and community. Emma Zimmerman tells a poignant story of how her family was able to get a shuttered mill up and running and how they built a family business around it. She offers recipes that have personal connections and, I found a wide variety of recipes to enjoy from the book.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hardie Grant Books and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free review copy. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. 

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Rainbow Einkorn Berry Slaw w/ Mint + Apples, p. 124

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