Claire Saffitz talks about “What’s For Dessert” at the Brattle Theater | Arts

Claire Saffitz ’09 returned to Cambridge Friday night to discuss her new cookbook, “What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People,” at the Brattle Theatre. The New York Times bestselling author of “Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence” opened up about her recipe development process, her inspirations, and her favorite Thanksgiving desserts from local restaurants and bakeries during the event, organized by the Harvard Book Store.

There was not an empty seat in sight during the sold-out event. Guests, with cookbooks in hand, had the opportunity to ask Saffitz questions about cooking techniques and recipe tips. Saffitz was joined on stage by moderator Megan Zhang, a journalist who writes about the intersection of food, identity and culture for Saveur.

Saffitz rose to prominence through his role in the popular series on Bon Appétit Test Kitchen’s YouTube channel, Gourmet Makes, which featured Saffitz recreating popular candies and snacks with classic baking techniques. Prior to joining Test Kitchen, Saffitz trained at the École Grégoire Ferrandi in Paris and earned her master’s degree in culinary history from McGill University. Amid allegations of workplace misconduct at Bon Appétit in 2020, Saffitz announced his exit from the company and began creating his own content, including “Dessert Person”. Her personal YouTube channel Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person has amassed over a million subscribers and 57,000,000 views.

“What’s for Dessert” offers simple, accessible options for bakers of all skill levels, with drool-worthy photos throughout. In the introduction to the cookbook, Saffitz writes, “If you’re a beginner, rest assured: no dessert in this book is beyond your reach. The 100 recipes included a huge range of desserts, including cakes, cobblers, pies, pastries, puddings, pancakes, cookies, and more.

“It was really about making the book as accessible as possible to people of all skill levels, and also providing a wide variety of different types of recipes that cater to different tastes,” Saffitz explained. “‘Dessert Person’ was so much about my perspective as a baker, and I think this book is much more outward looking.”

A unique feature of the cookbook is its recipe matrix, which plots each of the recipes on axes representing difficulty and time commitment. The distribution of recipes ranges from hot chocolate with marshmallows at five minutes and low difficulty to tres leches cake with hazelnut whipped cream at six hours and moderate difficulty. Especially for people with less equipment and space, Saffitz doesn’t need a stand mixer for just one recipe in the book.

Zhang pointed out that “What’s for Dessert” departs from Saffitz’s first cookbook in that it incorporates a variety of techniques.

“For ‘Dessert Person,’ most of the food was baked, but for this book, you have frozen desserts and food that you make on the stovetop,” Zhang noted during the discussion.

Saffitz emphasized the role that her experience, which spans from casual Midwestern baking to classic French baking, plays in recipe development. At the end of the book, she includes a section called “Essential Recipes and Techniques,” which has recipes for things like pastry dough, marshmallows, and meringue. Saffitz also includes how-to guides for key techniques like butter and sugar creaming, which are central to any recipe, underscoring its commitment to accessible baking.

“For me, dessert, historically, meant something baked. But I felt like that was kind of limiting and I had to as a recipe developer and as a desserter to expand my own horizons,” Saffitz explained. “And then that goal did align with the accessibility goal of those recipes.”

The cookbook arrives just in time to impress friends and family this Thanksgiving. Saffitz recommended her easy apple galette, cinnamon sugar apple pie, and nut and oatmeal pie as potential options for members of the public. For the non-bakers in the audience, Saffitz recommended her favorite Cambridge bakery, Sofra.

Saffitz’s appearance at the Brattle Theater, which brought together members of the community to celebrate a Harvard alumnus, certainly answered the “What’s For Dessert” question.

—Editor Caroline Gage can be reached at [email protected]

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