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Claire Saffitz ’09 returned to Cambridge on Friday night to discuss her newest 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” spoke about her recipe development process, inspirations, and favorite Thanksgiving desserts from local restaurants and bakeries during the event, which was hosted by the Harvard Book Store.
There wasn’t an empty seat in sight at the sold-out event. Guests, with cookbooks in hand, had the opportunity to ask Saffitz about baking techniques and recipe tips. Saffitz was joined onstage by moderator Megan Zhang, a journalist who writes about the intersection of food, identity, and culture for Saveur.
Saffitz rose to prominence through her role in the popular series on Bon Appétit Test Kitchen’s YouTube channel, Gourmet Makes, which featured Saffitz recreating popular candies and snacks with classical pastry techniques. Before joining the Test Kitchen, Saffitz trained at 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 her exit from the company and began creating her own content, including “Dessert Person.” Her personal YouTube channel Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person has amassed over one million subscribers and 57,000,000 views.
“What’s for Dessert” provides easy, accessible options for bakers of all skill levels, with drool-worthy photos throughout. In the introduction of the cookbook, Saffitz writes, “If you’re a beginner, rest assured: No dessert in this book is out of your reach.” The 100 recipes included a vast spectrum of desserts, including cakes, cobblers, pies, pastries, puddings, crepes, cookies, and more.
“It was really about making the book as accessible as possible to people at all skill levels, and also to provide a wide variety of different kinds of recipes that cater to different tastes,” Saffitz shared. “‘Dessert Person’ was so much about my point of view as a baker, and I think this book is a lot more outward looking.”
One 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 whipped cream tres leches cake with hazelnuts at six hours and moderate difficulty. Importantly — especially for people with less equipment and space — Saffitz does not require a stand mixer for a single recipe in the book.
Zhang pointed out that “What’s for Dessert” departs from Saffitz’s debut cookbook in that it incorporates a variety of techniques.
“For ‘Dessert Person,’ most of the dishes were baked, but for this book, you have frozen desserts and dishes you make on the stovetop,” Zhang noted during the discussion.
Saffitz emphasized the role that her background, which spans casual Midwestern bakes to classic French pastry, plays in recipe development. At the end of the book, she includes a section called “Essential Recipes & Techniques,” which contains recipes for things like pastry dough, marshmallows, and meringue. Saffitz also includes how-to guides for key techniques like creaming butter and sugar, which are central to any recipe, underscoring her commitment to accessible baking.
“For me, dessert, historically, has meant something baked. But I felt like that was in a way limiting and that I owed it to myself as a recipe developer and as a dessert person to expand my own horizons,” Saffitz explained. “And then that goal dovetailed with the goal of accessibility for these recipes.”
The cookbook comes just in time to impress relatives and friends at Thanksgiving. Saffitz recommended her easy apple galette, cinnamon-and-sugar apple pie, and walnut & oat slab pie as potential options for audience members. For the non-bakers in the audience, Saffitz recommended her favorite Cambridge bakery, Sofra.
Saffitz’s appearance at the Brattle Theatre, which brought community members together to celebrate a Harvard alum, certainly answered the question “What’s For Dessert.”
—Staff writer Caroline Gage can be reached at email@example.com.
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