Dawn Woodward (The Baker):
Inspired by her mother, Dawn began cooking at a very young age. Following a degree in Philosophy from Bard University, she continued her interests in professional cooking and baking to positions as a Pastry Chef in New Orleans and Head Baker at artisan bakeries in New York and Toronto. Extensive travels expanded her repertoire by exposure to such cuisines as: Eastern Mediterranean, Thai, Chinese, Cambodian, Georgian, and Middle Eastern. Committed to using heritage grain varieties grown close by, Dawn sources from Ontario farmers and millers and is constantly experimenting in ways to incorporate them into the crackers. In addition to leading all production at Evelyn’s Crackers, she is a speaker an educator at the annual Kneading Conference in Maine/Seattle, and at grain conferences in Toronto, London, and Los Angeles.Edmund Rek (The Chef):
While growing up in a diplomatic family, Edmund experienced a wide array of foods and cultures. Drawn to the face-paced world of professional kitchens, he began his career cooking in small family style Italian restaurants. After culinary school in he established his cooking career in competitive 4-star luxury hotels and celebrity award-winning restaurants in Washington DC and as a sous chef for Iron Chef Morimoto in Philadelphia. After taking yearly food sabbaticals to California, New York City, Europe and Asia he opened a farm-to-table restaurant advocating organic and local food. After moving to Toronto he jumped at the chance to participate in the local farmers markets and has been instrumental in building Evelyn’s Crackers brand spearheading, production sales and marketing In addition, Edmund offers small business consulting services and mentorships to food entrepreneurs.Our Beginnings:
We discovered Red Fife wheat from a well known cookbook author and friend (Naomi Duguid). It’s a wheat that dates back to the 19th century settlement of Otonabee Township Ontario. This versatile and very flavorful grain, which helped settle the Canadian prairies, became the perfect muse for the crackers. We began thinking about how we could bring Red Fife products to farmers markets and began experimenting with crackers. Among the many people that sampled our crackers was Elizabeth Harris – Founder and former Manager of the Brickworks and Riverdale farmers’ markets. Elizabeth loved them and gave samples to Chefs Jamie Kennedy and Anthony Rose, of Rose and Sons – they were impressed! The next spring we were at the Brickworks Farmers Market and have been growing ever since!
As the chef dreams to be a farmer, not so much for the hard work of toiling the soil, but to get closer to the most flavorful harvest, most perfect fruit, berry, or vegetable, and to be participate in the growing process. As bakers we are no different.
Not that we want to grow our own grains, not yet anyway. We are starting to mill them, however, much for the same reasons as the prescribed chef scenario, and others too. Let’s be clear, a miller is not a baker. With that logic, as bakers, we are not millers per se, rather bakers who mill. We have been doing small batches for the past couple of years and we are hooked!! Small batches for the home baker and for ourselves. At some point we may set loftier goals. But for now, the way things are, baby steps.
Why do we like to mill our own whole grains so much? Well, its fresher, duh. Seriously, stepping into the world of whole grain baking is an invitation into unpredictability. Similar to the unpredictability farming due to weather, pests and market fluctuations all dictate whether a silo of grain sits for months, or is milled right away. And the moisture content and protein levels from the harvested grain before it was milled, how, and for how long it was stored, all influence the baking quality of the flour. Once and awhile a recipe flops for no apparent reason; and is fine with a different batch of whole grain flour. Would milling our own flour prevent this from happening? Maybe not. Would the same mistake happen with white flour? Surely not, its inert and, sadly, coveted for it’s predictability not for nutrition, or sustainability. The predictability, however is very limiting. By committing to whole grain baking we open a blank canvas of creativity. You might be thinking, yeah right. But wait… Pie dough – cornmeal, buckwheat and rye, equal parts. Hair blown. Tastes amazing. All the boxes are checked. We have no reason to even consider no-purpose flour. Milling our own flour gives us a little more control, the ability to test the coarseness of the grind and see how it affects the baking.
Thanks to a strong community of baker millers mentors here in North America who are a supportive stubborn group of advocates that are changing the baking landscape, forming lasting relationships with farmers committed to driving the direction of whole grain bakers to set the bar, and set it high. The spirit of change is happening all around us. Following the sheepish shuffle towards the conformity from past generations of limiting the options to three commercialized wheat byproducts of no-purpose white flour, bread flour and pastry flour, having to be enriched as they are void of any sustenance sounds pretty bleak. But don’t worry the future is bright. We have working with amazing millers over the past decade and would not be here with out them. True heritage varieties are being grown in larger quantities that haven’t been seen in recent memory. But there needs to be a bigger market to give the farmer more incentive to grow these older varieties. The consumer, home and professional bakers can drive this bus. Make the expectation be that whole grains, grown nearby is the expectation not the exception.
So what are you waiting for? If you are a baker of any level and are interested in exploring the world of whole grain baking, come on in, the water is warm.
We named the crackers after our daughter, Evelyn. She was 2 years old at the time and so intense in everything she did – walking, jumping, talking- so we approached the crackers in the same way. As she is getting older we realize we are creating a transparency in the food system that will offer her sustainable food choices in the years to come. We make the crackers with her in mind.
Being part of the Local and Slow Food Movements is key for us– educating, spreading the word and creating new products from these heritage grains in as many form as possible. With more cookies, granola, new cracker flavors we can help ensure agricultural diversity by keeping these ancient grains alive.