Every time the postman comes my dog Oscar snatches the mail in his jaws and shakes it until it is still. My review copy of Stacie Stewart’s debut cookbook Stacie Bakes received just this treatment, hence the puncture wounds on the cover. I guess it doesn’t matter. The mark of a good cookbook is the number of tears, stains and creases it gathers on its pages. As I say: be weary of a cookbook that doesn’t look nibbled.
For those who are unfamiliar with Stacie Stewart, you won’t be for long. She is the second most glamorous foodie celebrity to wear a beehive after Gizzi Erskine. Stacie first hit our screens as one of the 2010 MasterChef finalists. She has since had a number of telly gigs and toured the festival circuit with her vintage-inspired cake and catering business Beehive Bakery. From this month we have been seeing more of Stacie still, as a judge on Simon Cowell’s new reality TV series Food Glorious Food. To coincide, her book came out only last week.
The first thing I notice about Stacie Bakes is that it is jam-packed with recipes for things you really shouldn’t be eating every day, but I guess that’s just baking for you. As someone who tends to make more bread than cakes and pastries I flick through Stacie Bakes thinking ‘mmm, that looks good for a party, I haven’t been to one of those in a while.’
Stacie Bakes’ design is a modern take on mid-century with quirky lettering, a bright palette, and plenty of smiley photos of Stacie looking modish in loafers. The book is organised into sections inspired by the seasons and key events, although many of the bakes use dry ingredients and would work equally well all year round. Expect no shortage of uses for chocolate and caramel.
My favourite chapter has to be the one devoted to breakfast. It features solid-sounding recipes for granola, croissants, muffins, banana bread and Stacie’s Northern Soul stack – a hollowed-out loaf filled with the contents of your fridge. I also love the sound of singing hinnies, named after the noise they make while cooking and served as either savoury or sweet treats; and Stacie’s homity pie, which I was going to make on Saturday until I saw that it serves a family much bigger than my own.
It’s not just Stacie’s penchant for classic bakes, sixties dress and tiered trays that place her at the fore of what seems to be a new vogue for old school cooking. For me, the most interesting spreads in the book are the ones illustrated with old photos and memories of Stacie’s family members, particularly Granda Ernie’s tea loaf infused with ‘a strong brew’ and plenty of whisky. It seems 2013 is going to be the year of cooking like nana.
As a Sunderland born-and-raised family girl, Stacie is a foodie fit for hard times. She cites her Nana Jean as her number one influence, seconded by the all-nighters she attends in full Mod-getup with a hollowed out loaf in her handbag. In austerity Britain we need proper people to cheer us up with a tall hairdo and plenty of sugar and fat, and so we are presented with Stacie and some jolly nice cakes. I can’t see much wrong with that.
Full disclosure: I have not accepted any form of payment for publishing this review but I was sent a complimentary copy for the purpose of writing it.
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