Luminary Bakery shares yummy recipe and reveals how COVID-19 has affected its small business

By Heather Cichowski

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all our lives. Small businesses have had to make changes amidst lockdowns and government regulations and concerns for staff and customers. It can be an especially difficult time for those going through additional personal challenges who might not have access to resources that others do. With constant updates and uncertainty, it is a trying and uncertain time, but there are still many stories of hope and goodwill.

HELLO! Canada spoke with Luminary Bakery's Communications Officer, Kaila Johnson, to find out how the business is evolving in light of COVID-19 after having to temporarily close its doors due to United Kingdom government regulations. The staff also shared a recipe people can make at home while self-isolating!

Luminary Bakery was founded in 2014 by a team including Alice Williams, Luminary Bakery’s CEO. The bakery and social enterprise, which is based in the U.K. capital of London, offers skills training, paid employment and a supportive community to help women who experience things such as violence, poverty and homelessness, thrive.

In addition to learning how to bake, Luminary's trainees learn about budgeting, finances and computer skills. The initiative has gained the support of Duchess Meghan, who made a surprise appearance at Luminary in November 2019 to help open its new franchise in Camden.

The welcoming café of Luminary Bakery's Camden, London location, with the bakery in the background. Photo: © Lizzie Bielicki/Luminary Bakery

HELLO! Canada: How has the coronavirus affected the business?

Luminary Bakery: On March 25, we announced with heavy hearts that we made the decision to close our cafes and bakery production until further notice. This came in light of the new government guidance and for us to ensure we played our role in keeping everyone safe and helping slow the spread of COVID-19. But, we continue to support our trainees and graduates through virtual, postal and phone contact.

Though our bakeries and cafes are closed, our work continues through our charity in offering support, care and hope for each woman! We were in the middle of training 26 women and supporting 30 of our graduates. Care packages have been sent out and our charity team is working hard to ensure these women are supported through this – particularly for those where home is not safe or pleasant.

If you would like to help us continue our efforts, please donate here. A £10 donation will provide a care package to one of our women in need. (Editor's note: £10 equals about $17.)

Also, we are currently offering weekly IGTV baking videos on our Instagram: Click here for the latest.

Prior to closing their doors, Luminary Bakery had offered Isolation Cakes in March. The cakes were available in all flavours and in Luminary Bakery's new smaller family-size. Photo: © Luminary Bakery

How is the team keeping positive?

As a team, we have celebrated overcoming every single hurdle, creative adaptation and even the small successes during this time of uncertainty for small businesses, charities and those already living in vulnerable circumstances. No matter where our team is at in proximity to each other, we stay in touch, send flowers and encourage one another. I've never experienced such a supportive environment than when working with Luminary Bakery.

Life and community is a gift and it is precious! As a team, we are not overlooking this, but diving deep into it to care for each other, whether that's daily virtual check-ins, sending care packages to those unwell, or simply sharing encouraging words from customers. We are leaning on each other as colleagues, friends and a community.

MORE: Royal pastry chefs release delicious cupcake recipe for the Queen's 94th birthday

What were the most popular items at the bakery prior to shutdown?

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Another super easy treat to make at home if you have limited access to equipment or just can't get your hands on flour or sugar! We hope you enjoy!⠀ ⠀ For the marshmallow squares:⠀ 20g Butter or margarine, plus a little to grease⠀ 150g Marshmallows⠀ 90g Rice Krispie cereal⠀ Pinch of salt⠀ ⠀ Optional extras:⠀ Vanilla extract (about 1 tsp)⠀ Cinnamon (about 1 tsp)⠀ Nuts, seeds or dried fruit (about 50g)⠀ Chocolate chips (about 50g)⠀ ⠀ (1) Grease a 20cm x 20cm baking tin with a little margarine or butter and line with a strip of baking paper. ⠀ (2) Cut the marshmallows into small pieces, about 1cm. (3) Put these marshmallow pieces, along with the butter into a saucepan. ⠀ (4) Gently melt the contents of the saucepan over a low heat, constantly stirring until it’s all melted together. ⠀ (5) Alternatively, you can place the marshmallows, butter and salt into a heatproof bowl into the microwave, pausing it regularly and stirring until it’s all melted together.⠀ (6) Take the pan off the heat and immediately stir in the rice krispies and salt until every grain is covered. If you’re adding other ingredients, stir them in at this time too.⠀ (7) Tip the mixture into the lined tin and press down firmly till flat across the top. Scatter across any optional toppings and press them into the top. ⠀ (8) Leave the tin of marshmallow squares to cool completely - about an hour - before cutting into 9-12 even squares.

A post shared by Luminary Bakery (@luminarybakery) on

Before we closed our doors, for the time being, our Letterbox Brownies [12 brownies that could be posted around the UK] became the most popular, with some being delivered over 300 miles away to Scotland!

We have taken note of this and will look at offering Letterbox Brownies to customers around the UK when we are allowed to reopen.

On a regular day, our celebration cakes are a hit!

Delicious! The mouthwatering Letterbox Brownies. Photo: © Luminary Bakery

Has Duchess Meghan or any celebrities reached out during this time? What about the community and other small businesses?

We are grateful for how supporters and customers have reached out to us during this time. We have such a loyal set of customers, who were amazing and made every effort to support small businesses. So many offered support or help by donating online and buying gift vouchers for when we reopen!

We even had people walk into our cafes when we were still open to not only purchase our products but to donate to our charity!

The exterior of Luminary Bakery's Stoke Newington location in London. Photo: © Anna Stathaki/Luminary Bakery

Would you have a recipe you'd like to share with readers that they could bake while self-isolating?

In August 2020, we will be releasing our first cookbook, Rising Hope, which is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. So, although our cakes can’t travel by plane, you can still have a slice of Luminary in the comfort of your own home.

But to give you a taste of what to expect here’s a Luminary recipe you can make right now:

Pistachio and Apricot Granola Bars Recipe

Recipe from Luminary Bakery’s Rachel Stonehouse

In this uncertain time, we're all having to adapt and adjust more than ever before, and so we need recipes that can do the same! This recipe is seriously versatile and can work around the ingredients you have on hand; the pistachios can simply be substituted for a different nut and the apricots for another dried fruit. They can be made vegan by using dairy-free margarine in the place of butter and gluten-free by using gluten-free oats. Run out of golden syrup?! Use honey instead!

Makes 16

Ingredients:

450g rolled or porridge oats

50g pumpkin seeds

25g sesame seeds

100g shelled, unsalted pistachios

250g unsalted butter

125g soft light brown sugar

½ tsp fine salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

125g golden syrup

100g dried apricots, roughly chopped

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180℃/160℃ Fan/Gas Mark 4 and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin with baking paper.

2. Tip the oats, seeds, and pistachios onto a large baking tray and place in the oven to toast for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. They should start to smell fragrant and go pale golden brown in colour.

3. Meanwhile, place the butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon and golden syrup in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it’s melted together and is about to start bubbling.

4. Tip the toasted oat mixture and chopped apricots into the saucepan of syrup and thoroughly stir together, until you can no longer see any dry oats.

5. Tip the granola mixture into the lined baking tray, spread it out flat, and press down firmly, making sure it’s an even height across the whole tray.

6. Bake for 30-35 minutes until it’s a deep golden brown around the edges and slightly firm to the touch.

7. Leave to cool completely before cutting into 16 squares.


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