Miller's biscuits on corncob


and the story of the watermills in Serbia 

 I was looking forward to this outing even before we departed from London but exploring the surroundings of the town I left almost two decades ago proved to be more than I expected. That afternoon I aimed for a relaxed time out spent surrounded by nature with friends that I don't get to see very often and I got that, and a bit more, as I was overwhelmed with the simplicity of living and realisation that you don't need much to be happy in your heart and your stomach.

From the road above, all I was able to see were contours of what appeared to be a small derelict, stone lodges hidden between the greenery and I began to wander where our host was taking us, as the watermill that we were going to visit,was nowhere to be seen. No sign of the idyllic postcard picture of a wood log house with a water wheel on a side, that I had in mind. 

To my surprise, we entered that dusty, stone house I saw from the main road and if it wasn't for the miller's warm welcome at the door, the whole experience might have had a bit of spookiness added to it.
It took all but a few seconds after we entered for the smell of freshly stone-ground flour to hit our nostrils and to start breathing the dusty air smelling of life. My friend Bilja (picture below) and I share a love for making and baking dough and always taste the flour before we use it, so I suppose that it's probably totally pointless to say here that neither of us had tried flour like this before - the whole grain, organic flour, still warm coming underneath of the grounding stones. 

This area rich in fast mountain waters  occasionally looking more like a brook, used to have at least 13 watermills.We visited two on  the River Vucjanka that runs from the Kukavica mountain through Southern Serbia.  No one could tell us for certain how old they really were. 
I did a little bit of research which led me to an interesting article, claiming that Serbia had 7125  watermills  in 1876. There is no evidence of how many survived or are in use today but since they were predominately made out of wood, most of them are gone or are beyond repair. Still, the author claims that there is a trend to get as many as possible working  and as we witnessed,some of them not only survived,but are making noise again,  producing some great  flour.

In the second mill which was a bit modernised and didn't give us the same feeling of stepping into the last century, we met uncle Stanko whose father and grandfather were both millers and today he shares the watermill with at least 18 other users. I wished I had a recorder, or just a plain piece of paper and a pencil with me. Uncle Stanko was a living watermill encyclopaedia.
It was obvious from his stories that they played a very important part of peoples life in the old days. I suppose the fact that the mills were a main food supply source for both people and cattle gave the watermills a whole new level of importance, so big that the gathering to make important community decisions would take place there, healing rituals took place there, and they were  places to avoid at night as all sort of dangerous creatures, like vampires were coming alive. It's said that every miller claims that he is not afraid to sleep in his mill, but that actually none of them ever did it. Not alone.

Before we left  for the 100 years old Hydro-power Plant ( I will write about it sometime during the summer) further into the mountains I was given a going-away present, a bag of freshly ground flour and bunch of dry corncobs. That was all I needed to make my biscuits .

The two of us could't wait to start baking when we got home that night. We made the dough straight away, but because it was quite late we had to  placed  in the fridge overnight. We met at her place at 9 o'clock the following morning. 

Miller's biscuits on the corncob
Oven temperature 180C/356F/gas 4

500 g flour
250 ml milk
1/4 packet of fresh yeast ( 1 tsp dry)
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lard (or oil)
50 g raisins (optional)
mixed cinnamon and sugar for dusting (optional)

Dissolve the sugar and yeast in warm milk, then make  quite soft dough with the rest of the ingredients,. Add the raising at the end if using. You can leave it in a fridge overnight, or make two small bowl spread some lard over and let it rise in a warm place for one hour. 
Roll the each dough into a thin rectangular and cut into at least 4 long strips. Roll the strips around dry corncob creating a spiral then place onto a lined baking tin to rest. You can use your cone, or any other mold you might have. 
You could egg-wash them and sprinkle with some sugar before they go to the oven.
Let it rest for half an hour, the bake in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until light golden in colour. Leave them to cool, then gently take the cob out. You can dust them with icing sugar and chocolate powder, or cinnamon, or fill with whipped cream, maybe ricotta cheese. 

Me? I like them plain, pealed off  from the cob and just taken out from the oven.

This post has been submitted to YeastSpotting

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