Tasty blog to delicious book

Miriam Pascal used her popular site to land a cookbook deal with "Something Sweet."

Strawberry rhubarb hand pies (photo credit: MIRIAM PASCAL/ARTSCROLL)
Strawberry rhubarb hand pies
Can you turn a blog into a bestselling cookbook? Miriam Pascal, a bubbly, enthusiastic 27-year-old from New York, did just that.
She started her recipe blog, “Tales of an Overtime Cook,” in 2011, posting recipes for soups, salads and sides – but mostly delicious desserts. Fast forward to 2015, and Pascal has just published her first book with Artscroll Mesorah: Something Sweet: Desserts, Baked Goods and Treats for Every Occasion.
“I started my blog because I was bored – and now I so can’t remember what it’s like to be bored,” Pascal joked to Magazine in an interview last month. She first labeled herself the “overtime cook” because she pursued her culinary hobby alongside a fulltime job. And when it came to publishing the book – including doing all the recipe creation, testing, photography and editing herself – she did the same.
“I’m still working full time and I think that’s a big part of what makes my blog and my recipes relatable to people,” she said. “I’m not someone who has all day in the kitchen and can tinker for hours and do all kinds of fancy things… I don’t have time to make fancy complicated recipes, and neither do most of my readers.”
Working “overtime” on the book from start to finish was quite a challenge, but one Pascal embraced.
“It took me probably just under a year but it was the most intense crazy year,” she said. “Writing a cookbook is so much work, more than I realized when I went into it.”
But all that hard work paid off, and Pascal has produced a beautiful, comprehensive tome. The book is divided into chapters from cookies and bars to muffins and pastries; candy and chocolate; and drinks and frozen treats, plus everything in between.
Each recipe – be it lemon cheesecake mousse cups; hot gooey caramel pie; mango peach sorbet; or brown sugar rum bundt cake – gets a stunning, full-page color photo taken by Pascal herself. The instructions are clear and well laid out, and Pascal includes a plethora of helpful tips, from ways to plan ahead, storing instructions and variations on the recipes.
“When I was writing the book, I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t a narrow dessert book, but rather one with any dessert you’d need,” she said. “No matter what the occasion is – whether you wanted something fancy, something simple, whatever it is, you’d find it in my book.”
To that end, some recipes are a bit simplistic – and certainly familiar to – a more experienced baker, such as apple spice muffins, oatmeal cookie wedges and chocolate truffles. But Pascal’s creativity comes through in other places, from chocolate peppermint mousse trifles to salted chocolate peanut butter tartlets; s’mores, crumb cake and bourbon pecan snowball cookies.
The comprehensive introduction chapter – including guides to ingredients, equipment, substitutions and basic techniques – will be very helpful to a more novice baker.
But with more than 300 published recipes already on her blog, was she worried about finding new ideas for the book? “I always worry that one day I’ll be totally out of ideas, but thank God, the inspiration just hits and you just come up with ideas,” she said. “Before I started I was a little nervous about it; I actually started making a list of a bunch of ideas just to make sure I would be OK. Then of course I came up with new ones as I went along.”
After years of posting recipes for free online on her blog, Pascal was slightly concerned readers would be less inclined to now start paying for them.
“I was a little nervous about that,” she admitted. “But my loyal followers have been so supportive. Some people have told me ‘I never bake but I bought your cookbook for a friend just because I felt like I had to support you.’” And the comments she gets from those who have purchased and used her book are all the motivation she needs.
“It’s so satisfying. There’s someone who said, ‘I made eight things for Rosh Hashana from your cookbook,’ which is amazing.”
Pascal encourages her readers to post photos online of the recipes they’ve tried out from her blog or book. Her Facebook page has more than 8,000 likes, and she has over 8,500 followers on Instagram.
“In my Facebook group I have people all day, every day posting pictures of things they made.
“Some cookbook authors don’t have the privilege I have of interacting with the readers. Even if your cookbook is selling really well and you know people are enjoying it, they don’t have the close interactions that I have, to see people love this recipe or love that recipe and it’s so cool,” Pascal said. “That reaction has just been really mind blowing.”