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March is National Flour Month at The Old Mill

  old mill muffins
Wheat flour muffins made at The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. Image by The Old Mill.

PIGEON FORGE, TN - Springtime in the mountains brings the blossoming of flowers, and it also draws our attention to a "flour" of a different sort - the one we use in the kitchen every day. March is National Flour Month, a time to explore new ways to bake with flour.

At The Old Mill General Store you can step back to the 1800s with some old flours and explore some relatively new ones on our shelves. For example, we’ve been milling Corn Flour as long as we have been stone-grinding grits. Corn flour is the fine powdery flour that is sifted off in the process of making grits. It is perfect for folding into cornbreads, muffins, pancakes, and cookies. And it makes some of the best homemade corn dogs!

Whole Wheat Flour, also ground right in our historic mill, is the most delicious and fresh whole wheat flour you will ever taste. Wheat berries are crushed and ground into a flour perfect for muffins, like Morning Glory Muffins, as well as pancakes, cheese straws, and loaf breads. Use our whole wheat flour anytime you want a better and more nutritious substitute for white flour.

Another interesting whole wheat flour sold at the General Store is a White Whole Wheat Flour. That's right - it's white. But it tastes and bakes like whole wheat. This special flour milled from Montana hard wheat berries is a bread flour just right for baking into loaves, dinner rolls, even pizza crust.

Also from America's West is our medium Rye Flour, which bakes much like whole wheat flour and can be used in any baking recipe calling for whole wheat. It adds a nuttiness to recipes, and it is delicious in sweets, from cakes to chocolate chip cookies. America’s frontier cooks used to substitute rye flour when wheat wasn’t available.

Cold weather climates bring us our Buckwheat Flour, which is not a flour at all but ground from the seeds of the buckwheat plant, a cousin to rhubarb. We've been selling buckwheat flour and buckwheat pancake mixes to happy customers for many years, but with the rise in interest in gluten-free baking, more people are getting interested in buckwheat. Try ours, and your pancakes will never taste so good. You can also use buckwheat in banana bread and muffins, substituting buckwheat for half of the white flour.

Without a doubt, the Southern flour that has the deepest history in our region is Self-Rising Flour. It's a staple in kitchens throughout the South, where in the early 1900s it became the flour that made the best, most reliable, biscuits. The secret is a soft winter wheat flour that is lower in gluten (protein) than other flours, and the baking powder and salt are mixed right into the flour. There's no measuring of leavening, and that's a time-saver we can appreciate today. Try it in your biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, and cakes.

Here is a recipe for a perfect morning muffin called the Morning Glory Muffin. It is made with The Old Mill's freshly-milled Whole Wheat Flour, and it's just the way to salute National Flour Month.

Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 12 muffins
Prep: 10 to 15 minutes
Bake: 18 to 23 minutes

1/2 cup raisins, softened in hot water
2 cups The Old Mill Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated peeled carrots
1 apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
3 large eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set aside a muffin pan with 12 wells. Soak the raisins in hot water to cover and set aside.
2. Place the flour, brown sugar, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the carrots, apple, coconut, and pecans. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla. Stir the ingredients together until just mixed.
3. Spray the muffin pan with vegetable oil spray or line with paper liners. Scoop batter into the pan, filling each well nearly to the top. The batter will fill 12 to 14 wells. Place the pan in the oven, and bake until the muffins brown and are just firm on top, 18 to 23 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Self-rising flour is a time-saver in this two-ingredient biscuit recipe. The leavening – baking powder - is already in the flour. The cream acts both as the liquid and the fat, making these biscuits rich and flaky. And easy!

Sweet Cream Biscuits

Makes about 14 2-inch biscuits
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 10 to 14 minutes

2 cups The Old Mill Self-Rising Flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
Extra flour as needed for rolling

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the flour and sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine. Pour in nearly all the cream, and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together. If needed, add the rest of the cream to get the dough to pull together. It will be sticky.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with a couple tablespoons flour, and turn the dough out onto the flour. Press with floured hands until the dough is 1-inch thick. Fold one half of the dough over the other like closing a book, then press down to 1-inch again, and cut into 2-inch rounds with a floured biscuit cutter. Press together scraps to make additional biscuits. Place biscuits about an inch apart on baking pans, and place in the oven. Bake until golden brown, from 10 to 14 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

No one would guess you added rye flour to these chocolate chip cookies! And yet, it is the rye flour that adds structure and a slightly nutty flavor to this American favorite.

Chocolate Chip Rye Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 9 to 11 minutes

1 cup The Old Mill Rye Flour
1 cup The Old Mill Unbleached White Flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Place the rye flour, unbleached flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugars in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture a little at a time, beating on low speed until all the flour has been added and the dough is smooth. Fold in the chocolate and pecans. Place the dough in the refrigerator at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Scoop dough onto ungreased baking pans using a 1-inch scoop. Place one pan at a time in the oven and bake until golden brown but still a little soft in the center, 9 to 11 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let cookies cool on a rack until time to serve. These freeze well.

Published March 13, 2018

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