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:
In 2007, 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 helped settle the Canadian prairies. It became the natural muse for the crackers and we began selling them at farmers markets soon thereafter. It didn’t take long until specialty stores asked how they could get some for their customers.
We have been thinking about different flavors and using other varieties of heritage grains in sourdough breads other baked goods ever since.
As the chef dreams to be a farmer, not so much for the hard work, or toiling the soil, but to get closer to the most flavorful harvest, the perfectly ripe fruit, berry, or vegetable, and to participate in the process. As bakers we are no different. Not that we want to grow our own grains, not yet anyway. But, we are starting to mill them, much for the same reasons.
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 milling small batches of flour, a few kilos at at time, for the past couple of years. Mostly for our home baker customers and for our own production. At some point we may set loftier goals. But for now, 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 of farming due to weather, pests and market fluctuations, the consistency for freshly milled whole grains can can be affected if the grain sits in a silo, or is milled right away. The moisture content and protein levels from the harvested grain before it was milled influences the baking quality of the flour, as well.
Sometimes a whole grain recipe flops for no apparent reason. Then can be fine simply with a different batch of milled flour, even from the same miller. The issue is not always known. Does milling our own flour prevent this from happening? Sometimes. With white flour? Surely not. Even though “all” purpose flour is inert and lacks any nutritional value. Sadly, coveted for its predictability in baking, rather than for nutrition, or sustainability.
If unpredictability of using whole grains continues to be challenging because of this and other reasons why do we do it. Well, by being fully committing to whole grain baking we are opening a blank canvas for creativity. You might be thinking, yeah right. But wait. The first time we tried a simple pie dough made with equal parts – cornmeal, buckwheat and rye, we were blown away by it’s flavor. It tasted amazing! All the boxes were checked – flavor (check), texture (check), flaky crust (check). The crust wasn’t just a vehicle for the filling, it added more flavor. Another easy whole grain substitution can be made with the classic chocolate chip cookie. Try it a few times and tweak the recipe until is comes out the way you like it. Remember, whole grain flour has flavor. It can be sweet, or nutty and bring nuances to your baking, or cooking that never in a millions years will no-purpose flour even come close.
Thanks to a strong community of bakers and millers who are a supportive, stubborn group of whole grain advocates, we are working together to change the baking landscape. By forming lasting relationships with committed farmers we are changing the direction of whole grain baking to the forefront and setting the bar high.
The spirit of change is happening all around us and the future is bright. True heritage varieties are being grown close by in larger quantities than have been seen in recent memory. But there needs to be a bigger consumer market to give more farmers bigger incentives to grow these older varieties. The consumer, home, and professional bakers can drive this bus and make the expectation that local whole grains are being used, and 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.
The iconic photo of Evelyn
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 forms as possible. With more cookies, granola, new cracker flavors we can help ensure agricultural diversity by keeping these ancient grains alive.