Wednesday, November 19: Dedicated Issue: HMH Cookbooks

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Culinary Titles

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Marcus Off Duty by Marcus Samuelsson

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: BHG New Cook Book

Editors' Note

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Cookbooks

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness offers a delicious taste of the expanding cookbook program at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The stories were written by Shannon McKenna Schmidt.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

Books & Authors

Recipe for Success

From beginner home cooks to sophisticated food enthusiasts, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's bountiful, wide-ranging culinary line--which includes many James Beard and IACP award winners--has something to satisfy every taste and interest. "We think of our cookbook program as being one of the broadest and deepest in trade publishing," said Natalie Chapman, v-p and publisher. "We're proud of the mix and quality."

In 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt acquired John Wiley & Sons' culinary backlist, which included bestselling authors like food writer Mark Bittman and celebrity chef -restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson as well as powerhouse brands like Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens. That move transformed its own boutique program, which focused on select authors like Dorie Greenspan, Mollie Katzen and Jacques Pépin under the auspices of a single editor, to the expansive line it is now. The frontlist grew from five to 50 titles annually, while the backlist more than quadrupled.

The majority of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's cookbook sales are overwhelmingly in print format. E-books are routinely issued simultaneously with print editions, and the top digital sellers tend to be the same ones with the strongest print numbers--Bittman's How to Cook Everything and Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook among them. Editorial material is also used in apps and other electronic formats.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's robust fall list "feels like the culmination of what we've been building for years," said Chapman. Readers are reaping the rewards with highlights such as Bittman's How to Cook Everything Fast, an instant New York Times bestseller; Samuelsson's Marcus Off Duty, which invites fans into his Harlem kitchen; blogger and first-time author Jessica Merchant's Seriously Delish; and the 16th edition of the perennially popular Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Bakers will be busy with offerings from the reigning queens of baking, Greenspan (Baking Chez Moi) and Rose Levy Beranbaum (The Baking Bible). Other notable fall favorites are Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen, Penelope Casas' 1,000 Spanish Recipes and a revised edition of the James Beard Award winner WineWise.

Next year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt plans to expand significantly in the health and diet realm. The cornerstone of the category will be The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig, authors of the recent bestseller It Starts with Food. Also forthcoming are books by a TV chef, a YouTube sensation, a food critic and a cowboy poet.

A distinguishing factor in the success of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's culinary line "is the expertise, passion and deep category knowledge of the people who work on cookbooks," noted Chapman. A number of staffers, Chapman among them, previously worked at Wiley and joined Houghton Mifflin Harcourt after the acquisition. A team of 19 employees in editorial, marketing and publicity now work exclusively on culinary books "and live and breathe this category."

Keep up with what's cooking at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Seriously Delish by Jessica Merchant

Dorie Greenspan: Baking Chez Moi

The phrase "French pastry" conjures visions of fancy desserts displayed in shop windows and served at restaurants. But there's a flip side to these intricate confections that Dorie Greenspan calls "French comfort baking."

In her latest cookbook, Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, the award-winning author presents desserts the French bake at home for family and friends--many of them elegantly simple and tied to memory and tradition. "This is a book for everyday baking," said Greenspan, whose previous works include Around My French Table.

Some of the recipes in Baking Chez Moi came from people Greenspan has met during several decades living part-time in Paris. (She also spends time in New York City and Connecticut.) A good friend gave her a recipe for the annual birthday treat he has enjoyed since childhood--Moka Dupont, a cake constructed with store-bought cookies dunked in sweetened espresso and layered with buttercream. A stylist at her hair salon provided one for boozy, slow-roasted pineapple, while a stranger in a bistro offered one for Cannelés, petite rum-and-vanilla flavored cakes. The impossible-to-resist Dark Chocolate Mousse recipe came from pastry chef Pierre Hermé.

Others are Greenspan's creations, including desserts that blend American and French cultures. When cream cheese arrived amid fanfare in supermarkets in Paris (where locals call it "Philadelphia"), she treated friends to a Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart, a classic French sweet shell with a cream cheese filling and topped with a blueberry and corn mixture. Along with the palate-pleasing recipes in the book, she serves up anecdotes about French culture and her Parisian life.

Greenspan is currently on the road in the U.S., sharing her baking smarts at bookstores, bistros, bakeries and other venues. Upcoming events include the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on November 22, the Princeton Public Library Girls' Night Out on December 2 and the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Conn., on December 7.

"It's exciting to talk to readers. I like people. I love bakers," said Greenspan. She's looking forward to meeting in person members of the virtual groups Tuesdays with Dorie and French Fridays with Dorie. (Greenspan launched a blog to keep in touch with the food enthusiasts, who cook and bake their way through her books.)

A self-described "baking evangelist," Greenspan would like everybody to get into the kitchen and try turning out sweet treats. She is delighted when readers show up at her events toting less-than-pristine copies of her cookbooks, a sign they're being put to good and frequent use. "Is it dog-eared? Does it have butter stains on it?" she said. "I love when somebody brings me a messed-up book to sign, a dirty, chocolate-coated book."

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Pillsbury's Big Book of Easy Baking

Mark Bittman: How to Cook Everything Fast

For those who crave home cooking but have minimal time to spend in the kitchen, food writer Mark Bittman--a New York Times columnist and Today Show regular--has the solution. How to Cook Everything Fast: A Better Way to Cook Great Food is packed with 2,000 recipes plus tips and strategies for swiftly making delicious dishes like Cucumber and Salmon Salad with Caper and Mustard Dressing; revamped classics like Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs with Tomato Sauce; and globally inspired fare like Potato and Spinach Saag.

What inspired the idea to do a fast take on home cooking?

I hear all the time that people simply don't have time to cook. How to Cook Everything Fast addresses that: it makes cooking as efficient, enjoyable and delicious as possible. None of the recipes take more than 45 minutes, and the vast majority take less than 30. Some things that used to take 40 minutes now take 20.

To accomplish that, I had to build a better recipe. I've been writing recipes for 30 years and using them for more than 40, and to this point, nobody--myself included--had published a recipe that captures the efficient rhythms of the kitchen. This book completely reimagines how recipes are written, trading the standard style of mise en place--preparing ingredients before you cook them--for a method that promotes prepping and cooking simultaneously. While the pan is heating, chop an onion; while the onion is sautéing, mince some garlic. Taking advantage of the natural lulls that cooking provides is the only way to truly make the most of your time in the kitchen. This is how I (and most experienced cooks) cook every single day, and I wanted to write recipes to match.

You note in How to Cook Everything Fast that as a society we've become more time challenged and yet, as eaters, we've also become more sophisticated. How does this book bring these two aspects together?

It's not hard to cook something fast: scrambled eggs take maybe three minutes. What is challenging is finding the time in our increasingly jam-packed schedules to cook meals that actually excite us. Even for home cooks who only have 30 minutes to get dinner on the table, pasta with jarred tomato sauce and bagged salad with bottled dressing isn't going to cut it. So, my goal in writing this book wasn't to compile a bunch of recipes that just so happen to be fast, but to show how to cook interesting and delicious food--like Ricotta Dumplings with Spinach and Brown Butter or Stir-Fried Beef with Skillet Kimchi--as well as dishes that are normally "slow"--like roast turkey with stuffing or chicken Parmesan--in less time than ever before. Lucky for us, the key to cooking fast without sacrificing flavor is a skill that anybody who's strapped for time is plenty familiar with: multitasking.

How will both kitchen beginners and experienced cooks benefit from the book?

These recipes do all the thinking for you; they're easier than ever to jump right into and harder than ever to screw up. There's no need to prep anything in advance or even to read through the recipes beforehand. All you have to do is make sure you've got all of the ingredients on hand and start cooking. Not only can beginners just dive in head first, but they can cook truly exciting food--spanning a huge range of techniques and cuisines--right from the start, instead of having to first master the standard-issue recipes--roast chicken, lasagna, omelets, etc.--that are the hallmark of most basic cookbooks.

And the focus on prepping and cooking simultaneously helps new and experienced cooks alike. If you've never cooked before, then you won't have to un-learn the ubiquitous--but totally impractical--recipe convention of mise en place. If you are in the habit of preparing all of your ingredients first, then this book will show you how to take your cooking to the next level by using your time in the kitchen as efficiently as possible. And if you're a veteran who has always multitasked in the kitchen, then there's finally a collection of recipes that captures the way that you actually cook.

What are some of your favorite recipes in How to Cook Everything Fast--including one for dessert, which you say "isn't a luxury but a necessity?"

Fastest Chicken Parmesan is probably my favorite recipe in the whole book. Not only is stacking and broiling chicken and sliced tomatoes way faster than dredging and pan-frying, making tomato sauce and baking, but it's better too because the breadcrumbs stay crunchy and the whole thing tastes incredibly fresh. I've also been kind of hooked on the Broken Wonton Soup. Wonton soup is the kind of comfort food that I want on a weeknight but would never take the time to make all those dumplings. This recipe acknowledges that actually forming the wontons has no bearing on the taste of the soup (plus they fall apart when you eat them anyway). You just make the filling into meatballs and cook the wrappers like noodles. The Skillet Fruit Crisp distills that dish down to its core: tender fruit and crunchy topping. Baking is probably the slowest conceivable way to achieve that result; with two skillets--one for sautéing the fruit and one for the topping--you make it happen in a fraction of the time.

As a self-taught cook, what words of wisdom or advice do you have for home chefs?

Don't let anybody tell you that you're in a "dinner rut." I cook basically the same thing--some combination of grains, vegetables and fish--all week, and I'm totally fine with that. It's not a rut unless you say it is. If you're feeding yourself and your family food that keeps you healthy and makes you happy, then you're doing something majorly right. And if it happens to be repetitive and you're fine with that, so be it. 

Rose Levy Beranbaum: The Baking Bible

Creating a cookbook is no simple feat. "It's like making a wedding cake," said Rose Levy Beranbaum. "Your whole kitchen is a disaster and yet here is this pristine, perfect creation."

Several years in the making, Beranbaum's The Baking Bible, her largest book in scope, brings together a lifetime's worth of baking knowledge, from cakes and pies to breads and pastries. It's a mix of creative, all-new recipes as well as old favorites that have been revisited and improved.

An essential ingredient in a baking book is the photography. "With baking, you really need to see it more than anything else," Beranbaum said. "If you're doing savory food, it's inspiring to see the plating, and it entices people to make it. But in baking, you learn something from the photo because you know what you're aiming for."

As a result, it took a nearly three-week photo shoot at a house in New York's Hudson Valley to take the images of Caramel Buns, Mango Bango Cheesecake and other delectable dishes featured in The Baking Bible. A team of 10, including Beranbaum, an art director and a food stylist, had to contend with challenges like ovens that couldn't be leveled because they were bolted to the wall or temporarily being without heat and hot water.

Another key ingredient of The Baking Bible was testing the foolproof, precisely detailed recipes for which Beranbaum is legendary. Beranbaum got some unusual help in this area--from the Beta Bakers, a group of baking enthusiasts headed by Marie Wolf, a Minneapolis attorney who once sent Beranbaum a cantankerous note about a bread recipe she couldn't get to work, never expecting to hear back from the author. Instead Beranbaum responded immediately, and the two went on to become friends. Besides testing, Wolf also wrote the book's foreword.

Wolf is not the only reader who became a Beranbaum friend and collaborator. She and Woody Wolston became acquainted when they began corresponding about recipes he made from her cookbooks. Their epistolary relationship evolved into Wolston becoming Beranbaum's assistant. He relocated east from Minnesota to work with the "diva of desserts" on The Baking Bible and now lives not far from her New Jersey home. The book's Fourth of July Cheesecake and Black and White Brownies are Wolston's masterminds.

"Knowing how happy people are going to be when they make one of these recipes is my greatest gratification," said Beranbaum. For the holiday season, she suggests the Cran-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake, which she served last year at her Thanksgiving table, or the Frozen Pecan Tart. The latter is a terrific choice for those who are especially busy because it's best served straight from the freezer and can be made well ahead of time.

Above all, Beranbaum treasures the trust she has garnered among home bakers. "I hear from a lot of people who say that they know when they make one of my recipes they can trust it will work," she said. A final word of advice: "Just be sure to follow the directions."

Jessica Merchant: Seriously Delish

Founder of the popular blog, Jessica Merchant is madly in love with food. Bacon makes her beam, while chocolate evokes shouts of joy. Vegetables, though, are her biggest frenemies.

Merchant brings her culinary passion and sense of humor to Seriously Delish: 150 Recipes for People Who Totally Love Food. Her debut cookbook features inventive dishes organized into chapters like "Breakfast (...for dinner?)" and "Celebrations (for times when calories don't count)." From Amaretto-Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Toast Croutons to Fleur de Sel Caramel Bourbon Brownie Milk Shakes, Seriously Delish takes readers to a place where cooking becomes adventurous and food becomes fun.

A recipe:

Fleur de Sel Caramel Bourbon Brownie Milk Shakes

Serves 2. Time: 15 minutes

A poem:

I like bourbon.
I like milk shakes.
I like bourbon milk shakes. The end.

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups vanilla bean ice cream
  • 1⁄2 cup bourbon
  • 2 brownies, plus an extra for crumbling on top
  • 1 cup caramel sauce, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or flaked sea salt), plus extra for sprinkling
  • Whipped cream, for topping

Combine the milk, ice cream, bourbon, brownies, 1⁄2 cup of the caramel sauce, and salt in a blender and puree until smooth. Fill two glasses with 1⁄4 cup of caramel each and pour the shakes into the glasses. Top the shakes with the whipped cream, an extra drizzle of caramel, and another pinch of salt. Crumble a brownie on top.

Book Brahmin: Marcus Samuelsson

What does celebrated chef Marcus Samuelsson make for his nearest and dearest? Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home presents a plethora of dishes reflecting the flavors he has experienced in his travels--Ethiopian, Swedish, Mexican, Caribbean, Italian and Southern soul. His eclectic, casual food includes dill-spiced salmon; coconut-lime curried chicken; mac, cheese and greens; chocolate pie spiced with Indian garam masala; peanut noodles with slaw (kids love this one); and many more.

Samuelsson is the owner of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem in New York City. He is the youngest chef ever to receive three stars from the New York Times, a five-time James Beard Award recipient, a winner of Top Chef Masters and a judge on Chopped. Among his many other accomplishments, he was the guest chef for the first state dinner hosted by President Obama.

On your nightstand now:

I always read Charles Blow's pieces in the New York Times, so I was really excited to see that he has a memoir out, Fire Shut Up in my Bones. It was given to me as a gift, and I just can't put it down. He is an amazing writer.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Pele: The Autobiography. As a kid, I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player so I really tried to absorb as much of that world as I could.

Your top five authors:

Astrid Lindgren, Bob Marley, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray (for The River Café Cookbook), Gabrielle Hamilton, Langston Hughes. This is a wide mix of writers, but it shows my favorites. A little food, a little music, a little New York, a little Harlem, a little Sweden. They all capture a time and a place, a taste or feeling so well.
Book you've faked reading:

My physics textbook book in high school. Science wasn't my favorite subject (despite my father being a geologist,) so I definitely faked my way through a few of these.
Book you're an evangelist for:

Alex Haley, The Autobiography Malcolm X. I think everyone should read this book. The articulation of blackness in this book is so distinct, and there really is no more powerful voice in black America.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Marco Pierre White's White Heat. Although I love the inside as much as the cover, the cover was definitely what captured my interest first.
Book that changed your life:

Charlie Trotter's first cookbook, Charlie Trotter's.  I honestly didn't think it was possible for someone in the Midwest to be making the kind of food he was making. His recipes were so intricate and special and worldly, which at that time was unheard of from an American chef.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Astrid Lindgren books from my childhood. They are all so positive, fun and adventurous. They really entice the imagination and never get dull.

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