Mississippi native returns home for cookbook signing

Booneville native Jennifer McHenry makes crispy oatmeal cookies at her home in New York. (Courtesy)

Daily Journal

NEW YORK – Four years ago, when Jennifer McHenry’s blog bakeorbreak.com was in full swing, she was given the opportunity to write a cookbook.

“But it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t do it,” said McHenry, who lives in New York. “I decided not to worry about a cookbook. I just wanted to focus on my blog.”

And that’s what she did until last fall, when Page Street Publishing, a division of Macmillan, approached her.

“We talked about different ideas and decided to focus on what you can do with a basic baking pantry and then build from there by adding two to five more ingredients,” she said.

Last week, her cookbook, “Quick-Shop-&-Prep 5 Ingredient Baking” made its debut. And Thursday, McHenry will be at About the South in downtown Tupelo signing and selling copies of it from 3 to 7 p.m.

So, what’s a girl from Brooklyn doing in Tupelo?

“I’m a Booneville native,” said McHenry, 42. “I went to Booneville High School and Northeast Mississippi Community College for two years and then to Ole Miss for pharmacy school.”

It’s that Mississippi background that started her baking journey.

“My grandmother baked a lot,” she said. “I think that’s where the baking first came from. I helped my mother as well. I just always helped out in the kitchen. Once I got to college, I started cooking and baking as well. I liked to cook for others, but my major didn’t allow a lot of extra time for it.”

After graduation, McHenry worked in a retail setting as a pharmacist for 10 years in Tupelo and then in an institutional pharmacy for two years.

And then in 2010, she and her husband, Quinn, got the opportunity to move to New York.

“He got a job here developing apps for iPads and iPhones,” she said. “It was something we’d thought about doing for a long time. We were just waiting for the right opportunity.”

McHenry had started her bakeorbreak blog in 2006 and by the time they moved to New York four years later, she had quite a following. It’s now her full-time job.

“Baking is a relaxing thing for me,” she said. “I enjoy it more than cooking, although I cook as well. I like the sharing aspect of baking.”

“Quick-Shop-&-Prep 5 Ingredient Baking” is a testament to that love, with recipes for cookies, brownies, cakes, bars, cobblers, pies, cheesecakes, muffins, bread puddings and crumbles. The softback cookbook with 192 pages, 80 recipes and color photos sells for $19.99.

“If I had done the cookbook a few years ago, it would have been really, really hard,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, doing this on top of a full-time job. There’s always a hypothetical cookbook in my head, but I’m enjoying not writing one right now. I’m focusing now on the blog, gearing up for the holiday season when everyone wants to bake. It’s the busiest time of the year for me.”

Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or email them to ginna.parsons@journalinc.com.

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