Did you know that Arizona was once called a "breadbasket," and that the state's wheat fields were once used to feed armies? Or that commercial wheat takes in 100-plus chemicals on its way to becoming bread?
These are just some of the facts you'll learn in Emma Zimmerman's new book, The Miller's Daughter: Unusual Flours & Heritage Grains: Stories and Recipes From Hayden Flour Mills
. Zimmerman is the co-owner of the Valley's Hayden Flour Mills
, which is dedicated to stone-milling ancient heritage grains.
The mill was founded by Charles Hayden in 1874. While traveling, Hayden found himself stranded in Tempe because of the high waters of the Salt River. Standing on Tempe Butte, he surveyed the vast, fertile lands around him and imagined a mill. He eventually brought his dream to fruition, and Hayden Mills stayed in business until 1998. Emma Zimmerman and her father, Jeff, revived it in 2011.
Asked what inspired her book, Emma says, “We’ve had a lot of media coverage, and the stories mostly covered our success. I wanted to tell it first-person and talk about the challenges we've faced.”
The book's early chapters provide a glimpse into Zimmerman's life and explore the history of grains, milling, and the business itself. Those are followed by the Cooking Notes section, which comprises recipes developed by the author that revolve around heritage grains.
Zimmerman’s involvement with Hayden Mills started out as one of her father’s wacky ideas, she says. Jeff Zimmerman is an idea generator, and Emma has had to learn to manage which ideas she says yes to.
Emma was a Ph.D. student of neuroethics (a combination of bioethics and neuroscience) at McGill University in 2009 when her father floated the idea of restarting Tempe’s historic Hayden Flour Mills. Jeff was, and still is, an avid bread baker. Bread bakers love to experiment as they improve their skills, and Jeff started to mill his own flour for his bread. When he did, he noticed a decided improvement in the bread's depth of flavor. That's when the light bulb went off. He wanted others to benefit from the flour.
At the 2010 Local First Arizona’s Farmer+Chef Connection Conference (an event that connects local farmers and chefs), Jeff rented a table with nothing to sell, just a sign that said he was looking for farmers who wanted to grow wheat and chefs who wanted to use the resulting flour.
By 2011, Chris Bianco, looking to use local wheat for his pizzeria, gave Jeff and Emma a space to set up their mill in one of his restaurants, free of charge. On August 13, 2011, the father-daughter team ordered
a 32-inch Austrian stone mill, or stone grain grinder, and officially started their business. They named it Hayden Flour Mills, after Charles Hayden’s milling company.
A kernel of grain has three parts: the bran, which is the protective outer layer; the endosperm, or the starchy part; and the germ, the oily part. Milling separates the endosperm from the rest. But the results can differ substantially depending on the process used.
The separation can be done by stone milling (how milling got started) or by sending the grain through multiple metal rollers (how it was done after industrialization).
A stone mill comprises two round, furrowed stones. The grain is dropped into the center, then milled through the rotation of one stone against the other. The final product exits at the periphery.
In roller mills, the grains go through pairs of fluted metal rollers with a much smaller contact area. As a result, the grain needs to go through multiple rollers. The different sizes are then separated by weight. The industrial sieves are so precise that they remove all the bran, thus robbing the flour of its nutrients — hence the need for fortification with added vitamins.
The Zimmermans noticed that stone milling yielded a better flavor, because no matter how well they sift the flour, some bran always remains in the final product.
During their research on wheat that grew before the industrialization of agriculture, they came across white Sonoran wheat, grown in northern Mexico, southern Arizona, and southern California for 400 years. The seed was hard to find until Gary Nabhan, the founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH
, offered to help. Founded in 1983, Native Seeds/SEARCH is a bank of drought-resistant seeds native to the Southwest, some of which are in danger of extinction.
A family friend, Steve Sossaman, agreed to plant the first crop of 1,000 pounds of white Sonoran seeds. Sossaman Farms is still one of the Zimmermans' major farmers.
Hayden Flour Mills has come a long way since the days in the back of Chris Bianco’s restaurant. Ten years ago, Jeff and Emma grew 30 acres of wheat; now they have 400 acres. Aside from the white Sonoran wheat, Hayden offers other ancient grains, two types of pasta wheat from Iraq, a Tibetan purple barley, Gazelle rye, and Einkorn.
Along the way, father and daughter have won multiple grants and accolades, but they've also faced and overcome many obstacles, among them pest-infested grains, broken equipment, and the inability to make payroll. What has kept them going is the conviction that heritage grains taste great and are good for the human body.
The Cooking Notes section of The Miller's Daughter
includes nearly 90 recipes developed by Emma and is divided into 10 parts (nine grains, one legume). In each, she describes the grain’s flavor profile and also provides substitutes.
Her precision is noteworthy. She uses weight and volume as units of measurement, emphasizing their importance over cups and spoons. Because each grain has a different density, one cup of farro is very different from one cup of oats, for instance. However, since the goal is to expose as many people to ancient grains as possible, she also provides cup measurements.
In developing the recipes, Emma thought of her favorite meals growing up and altered them a bit to make heritage grain the star, covering sweet and savory dishes, appetizers, entrées, and desserts. For the baked goods, she sought the help of pastry chef Tracy Dempsey, owner of Tracy Dempsey Originals
The recipes are intentionally universal, "so, for instance, you can pick up some freshly milled polenta from any local mill and make pink polenta,” Emma says. Readers will find a list of mills in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom in the resource section of the book.
The Miller's Daughter
comes out on May 17. You can preorder a copy from your favorite bookseller or on Amazon
. Visit the Hayden Flour Mills website
for more information about the company's products and upcoming book events. Emma Zimmerman will teach a class on Milk Street
about baking with chickpea flour on March 16; online registration
The following recipe is excerpted from The Miller's Daughter
Chocolate-Flecked Farro Banana Bread
It’s a bit like choosing a favorite child, but if you really twisted my arm, I would admit that farro is my favorite grain. Besides having the flavor of toasted walnuts, it has the seniority of being among the world’s oldest grains. There are very few recipes for farro flour, so I began by using it in place of half the flour in my favorite baked goods. Recently I tried replacing the whole lot with farro flour and found to my delight that it always works. There’s no turning back now.
This is a very basic banana bread recipe, designed to let the farro flour shine and convince you of the ease and deliciousness of heritage grain swaps in your baking. This is a perfect recipe to bookmark if you’re just getting started, or are perhaps a bit skeptical about baking with these new flours.
3 ripe bananas (see Tip)
115 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) melted coconut oil
110 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) brown sugar
200 g (7 oz/1 1/4 cups) Farro Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
60 g (2 oz) bittersweet dark chocolate
2 tablespoons turbinado or raw sugar
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Grease or line a 23 cm × 13 cm (9 in × 5 in) loaf (bar) pan with parchment (baking) paper, leaving a 5 cm (2 in) overhang on each long side to help lift the bread out easily.
Mash the bananas in a bowl and mix in the yogurt and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the coconut oil and brown sugar together on medium speed, adding the eggs one at a time. Mix for about 3 minutes until creamy and light in color, then add the banana mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Slowly add to the banana batter and mix on low speed until just combined.
Using a sharp knife, splinter the chocolate. This doesn’t have to be a precise process, as varying sizes of chocolate will create a flecked look when you slice into the banana bread. Gently fold the chocolate into the batter — be careful not to overmix or let the chocolate melt into the mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface, then sprinkle the turbinado or raw sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Cut into thick slices. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
I always have a stash of very ripe black bananas in the freezer. I set the bananas on the counter in a bowl to thaw for an hour or two before I start baking. Interestingly, I’ve found that letting the ripe bananas sit out for longer, say the whole day, gives them a nice caramelized flavor.
AUTHOR: Emma Zimmerman
BOOK: The Miller’s Daughter
PUBLISHER: Hardie Grant Books (ISBN 9781743797105)
ON-SALE DATE: May 17, 2022
RRP: $29.99 (Hardcover)
Suggested credit line: Recipes excerpted with permission from The Miller’s Daughter
, by Emma Zimmerman, published by Hardie Grant Books, May 2022.