Stoke Newington’s Luminary Bakery releases cookbook filled with recipes and stories of hope
- Credit: Archant
Rising Hope is the first collection of recipes by Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise that works with women who have come through adversities
“Anyone can bake, you just have to be shown how,” says Rachel Stonehouse, pastry chef and head of training at Luminary bakery on Allen Road in Stoke Newington. “It can be so therapeutic. Kneading dough is a really physical way of getting out frustrations and when you’re decorating a cake or focusing on something, it gives you a moment to not think about everything else that is going on in the background.
“It’s also a quick satisfaction,” she adds. “In an hour or two you have physically made something which you can share with the people you love and care about, which they then enjoy. That can bring you a real sense of worth and pride.”
Rachel is also co-author of Rising Hope, Luminary’s first collection of recipes and stories from women who have passed through the social enterprise’s kitchen.
That’s as bakers, interns, apprentices, or as graduates of Luminary’s six-month baking programme designed to help vulnerable women into employment and arm them with life skills to create a better life. This is done through baking classes and holistic development sessions on employment skills, healthy relationships and personal financial management, and through professional and personal mentoring and support for a further two years.
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The cookbook started out as an email inviting women in Luminary’s orbit to send in recipes and asking programme graduates if they would like to share their story of experiencing violence, poverty or disadvantage and coming out the other side.
Luminary communications officer and co-author Kaila Johnson worked with graduates to write their stories, while Rachel worked one-on-one with recipe contributors.
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They test-baked and tweaked bread, biscuit, traybake and cake recipes (including a squash layer cake that has a “similar vibe” to the carrot cake made to mark the birthday of Meghan Markle, who has previously visited and championed the charity) so that “anyone could make them from their home kitchen”.
“It’s a really collaborative book,” says Rachel. “It was this big group of women coming together to write a book that reflected them and the community we have at Luminary.”
For Tracey, a graduate of the programme’s first cohort, it was important to share her story of surviving domestic abuse. “At such a low point in our lives, we were given hope. If other women are in our situation, if they take anything away from the book, it is that they will be able to have hope in their lives as well.”
Tracey, who had no previous baking experience, joined the baking programme when she was living in a hostel after being imprisoned by her husband and abused for 20 years.
Recalling her first day on the programme, Tracey says, “I was anxious and panicking - I hadn’t been out of a room or spoken to people. But by the end of that first night, I was so excited to have met other women who had been in my situation and survived.”
Tracey now teaches bread, cake, roll and scone making at mother and baby hostels. She also teaches young men in mental health facilities how to bake bread. “Even if they’ve just got flour, eggs and water - if you don’t have a lot of finances, you just need the basics, and I’m quite proud to see people prosper with the skills I’ve given them.”
Tracey has taught her grandchildren how to bake as well, who in turn are teaching their parents. This brings the grandmother of nine a great sense of achievement, and she sees the recipes she shares and the skills she passes on as her legacy to her following generations. “I feel so proud of this book,” she says. “I will pass it on to my granddaughter and hopefully it will be passed down in the future.”
Rising Hope is out now through Harper Collins. Continue reading for an included recipe.
Amaretti meringue nests with cherry compote
Grace originally came up with this stunning dessert after receiving an invitation to a dinner party. As someone who felt isolated from everyday relationships, Grace wanted to impress! Suffice to say, her crunchy amaretti biscuit meringues filled with fresh cherry compote with its vivid pink colouring were a culinary game-changer. Not only did Grace’s new friends enjoy her dessert, but it helped her find the courage to take a chance on life again. Grace decided to dedicate this recipe to Erin Pizzey (who started the first domestic violence shelter in the modern world, in 1971) - a driving force for safety and friendship, opening up doors to people who are isolated. “She set a precedent that coincides with my journey. Without her, people like me may not have been helped!”
For the meringue
75g egg whites (from about 2 eggs)
1/4 tsp almond extract
150g caster sugar
6 crunchy amaretti biscuits, such as Amaretti di Saronno (80g), plus an extra 2 biscuits to decorate (see tip)
For the compote
150g frozen cherries
30g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
For the mascarpone cream
100g mascarpone cheese
50ml double cream
25g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 100°C/80°C fan/Gas Mark 1/2 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites, using an electric mixer on a medium speed, until they have doubled in size and form stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted sharply out of the bowl. Turn the whisk to a higher speed and add the almond extract, then add the caster sugar, a spoonful
at a time, until the mixture is glossy and you can’t feel any grains of sugar when it is rubbed between your fingers.
Crumble 6 of the amaretti biscuits into 6 separate circles on the baking tray. Carefully pipe or spoon the meringue mixture onto each biscuit mound in a nest shape, making a dimple in the middle. Try to keep the biscuit crumbs on the base of the meringue.
Bake the meringues in the oven for 2 hours, or until they lift off the baking paper easily but before they have browned.
Meanwhile, make the compote. Place the cherries, caster sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and cook for 20–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries have cooked down. Set aside to cool.
To make the mascarpone cream, simply place the mascarpone in a bowl and beat it briefly to loosen. Add the double cream, icing sugar and vanilla, and whisk together until the mixture forms soft peaks – be careful not to over-mix or it will become grainy.
Once the meringues and compote are cool and you are ready to serve, top each nest with some of the mascarpone cream, followed by a large spoonful of compote, letting it drip down the sides. Crumble over the remaining amaretti biscuits and serve immediately (they will go soggy if you do this in advance).
If you’re making this as a gluten-free dessert, ensure you buy a brand of amaretti biscuits that doesn’t contain wheat.