‘What’s for Dessert’ Review: Claire Saffitz Delivers Exquisite Recipes and Sweet Stories | Arts

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A stressed dinner host plans the evening’s menu: appetizers, a jaw-dropping entree, and complementary side dishes. After gathering recipes and finalizing a grocery list, the all-important question comes to mind: what’s for dessert?

Claire J. Saffitz ’09 has the answer. Her latest cookbook, “What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People,” features over 100 accessible, innovative, and delicious recipes to serve as a satisfying sweet treat at the end of any meal. After sampling one of his recipes, the Harvard Crimson Arts board gave Saffitz a resounding stamp of approval.

The YouTube star is a warm and welcoming guide through the book’s range of “happiness-inducing desserts”, from simple bread cakes to elevated souffles. Saffitz befriends readers in the introduction by inviting them to her home, where the question of what’s for dessert is a daily occurrence. Through charming personal anecdotes and advice on how to cook with less anxiety, she presents herself as a friend rather than a celebrity, adopting an informal tone to offer years of culinary wisdom.

The most unique and useful element of “What’s for Dessert” is its recipe matrix. Saffitz presents the name of each recipe in the book on two pages, arranging them on an x-axis of total time and a y-axis of difficulty, which ranges from very easy to moderate. The tool is perfect for readers who don’t feel like flipping through hundreds of pages to find a recipe that fits their needs; they can identify everything from an easy last-minute bake like his melted chocolate olive oil cakes to a moderate six-hour recipe like his fluffy donuts without turning a page.

Saffitz remains a constant presence throughout the cookbook, introducing each recipe with a blurb describing her personal connection to the dessert. Most importantly, his instructions are simple and straightforward; “What’s for Dessert” is far from pretentious, allowing both new and experienced bakers to complete recipes with ease. She anticipates any questions that might arise, ending her recipes with a “Can I…” section that covers ingredient substitutions, whether the dessert can be made ahead, and more. In Disney’s “Ratatouille,” Chef Gusteau tells his fans, “Anyone can cook.” Saffitz is the real-life equivalent of the lovable chef, encouraging his readers with the unspoken message that anyone can cook.

Putting Saffitz to the test, The Harvard Crimson decided to bake their salty cashew blondies. The recipe was chosen for its minimal ingredients – ideal for students who don’t have access to a full pantry – and the total prep time of just one hour and 15 minutes. The instructions for making the dough were clear and easy to follow, but still required enough attention and effort to make anyone feel like a true competitor to the ‘Great British Baking Show’. The addition of cashews covered in homemade caramel elevated the blondie-based batter to something that, when baked, could be presented with a bit more pride.

The final product was distributed at an Arts Council production night. Editors mumbled praise between bites, ranging from “It’s really good” to “It’s so fluffy.” They were impressed with the blondie’s crispy exterior and chewy interior, a rich caramel flavor that didn’t cross the threshold of sickly sweetness, and the perfect amount of cashews – all in all, a resounding success.

Saffitz’s latest release is a valuable resource for anyone who identifies as dessert. It acts as a useful and instructive guide while leaving room for flexibility, adaptation and exploration. The book is also a work of art: with bright and colorful food photographs, it can serve as a coffee table book as well as a collection of recipes. “What’s for Dessert” thrilled the arts council, and so will desserts around the world.

—Editor Nina M. Foster can be reached at

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