By Stephanie Verkoeyen
Award-winning American breadmaker Dawn Woodward first came to Canada in the late 1990s. Ten years later, she and her husband, Ed Rek, made the move permanent. Very much rooted in farm to table, the couple was excited to find a diverse and dedicated local food movement in Toronto. After visiting several farmers’ markets, Dawn noticed that, while breads had their place in the markets, there was an auspicious absence of crackers. Coupled with the discovery of locally produced Red Fife Whole Wheat, a once endangered heritage wheat, Ed and Dawn quickly moved to fill this void. Since that day four years ago, Evelyn’s Crackers, named after the pair’s young daughter, continues to grow, along with the desire and expectations for local food.
As Ed said, “it’s all about the grains.” “We just try things that we like and let the flavors of the grains direct us.” One of their favourite crackers, ‘Currant in the Rye,’ is a perfect example of this. Rye is a denser stronger flavored grain and oftentimes paired with caraway. To this Dawn added anise, fennel and kefir, which offer a little tartness (think of the effect sourdough has in bread dough). After some test batches, the spices were still quite intense, so currants were added to mellow the profile, changing the name from ‘Cracker in the Rye’ to ‘Currant in the Rye.’ The rest of the crackers have been inspired by what’s available locally, be it lavender, honey or cheddar, while Dawn’s extensive traveling in Southeast Asia led to the spicy dal cracker.
The goal of Evelyn’s Crackers is “to offer the quality of a small retail bakery on a larger scale,” all while expanding their product line using only locally available whole grains. Sourced from farmers dedicated to organic practices, crop diversity and sustainability, these ancient grains and landrace varieties thrive and adapt to soils and climates. From a health perspective, the use of whole grains has a higher nutritional value than processed white flour, easing digestion and leaving gluten levels at a more natural state.
With each new product creation, whether it’s a different cracker flavour, or new cookie, it looks like Evelyn’s Crackers will continue to ensure agricultural diversity by keeping these ancient grains alive for a long time to come.