A couple weekends ago, some girlfriends and I hopped on I-5 heading south for a 2 1/2 hour drive. The oldest working water powered flour mill in the state. The September afternoon was bright and sunny, it felt like a much needed mini road trip. The mill is completely volunteer operated, so the hours are limited, but the setting is absolutely beautiful and arriving a little early was nice because we found ourselves exploring around the riverbank.
We were given a tour and complete history by a charming man in overalls named Fred. He even went over the health benefits to eating whole grains vs. processed ones. I was completely blown away at the whole process of how flour was milled in the late 1800′s. The whole system is massive, yet so utilitarian and simple in design. There were huge belts that wrapped around all sorts of large gears and when the water tank was full all you had to do was turn a large wheel to open the water flow and the mill was off and running, at least until the tank emptied. It even powered some of the electricity. I kinda wanted one.
That day there were two different flours milled, soft wheat and hard red wheat. Other times they grind cornmeal as well. We crunched on the different wheat berries and the flavor was incredibly distinct between the two. The sacks of flour Jennifer handed out at the end were warm and really fragrant. For a small donation we each took home a bag of the soft wheat, which is considered perfect flour for pancakes or scone making. Jennifer mentioned that he himself enjoys a short stack several times a week. I think I know why he volunteers! I couldn’t resist taking the guy up on his pancake suggestion.
I’ve made many whole wheat pancakes before, but there was absolutely no mistake about the difference in taste when I used the freshly milled flour. I wish I had one of these mills closer by, because it makes such a difference. I added in some ground walnuts to the batter and topped them with warm brown butter apples. Perfect for the crisp mornings we’ve been having. Have you ever used freshly milled flour before? And what did you make?
Whole Wheat Walnut Pancakes with Brown Butter Apple Cinnamon Compote / makes 8-10 pancakes
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup walnuts
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (2T. flax meal mixed with 6T. water)
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons apple sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 apples, peeled, cored and sliced into wedges
big pinch cinnamon
Place the walnuts into a food processor and pulse until the walnuts just start to become flour-like. Don’t go too far or you’ll end up making walnut butter. Place the ground walnuts, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
In another bowl whisk together the eggs, almond milk, apples sauce, and maple syrup. Pour into the dry mixture and whisk just until everything is wet. Let sit while you prepare the apples.
Start heating the pan you’re going to cook the pancakes on, that way it’s good and hot. In another large skillet or frying pan melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, watch (and smell) closely for little flecks of brown and a nutty smell. Once this happens add the apple slices in one layer, sprinkle with a little cinnamon and let sit for 4-5 minutes, or just until browned on one side. Flip and repeat on the other side and let it get golden. Lower heat and drizzle in a bit of maple syrup. Keep warm over a low heat until the pancakes are finished cooking.
Pour the pancake batter, about a quarter cup at a time, into the hot skillet. Cook until the edges are set and there are lots of air bubbles surfacing. Flip and cook until the other side is dark golden brown. Keep warm in the oven. Serve with the apple compote and more maple syrup.