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Claire Saffitz Doesn’t Need To Defend Dessert (Live) «

Dan Pashman: This is The Sporkful, it’s not for foodies, it’s for eaters. I’m Dan Pashman. Each week on our show we obsess about food to learn more about people. And today we’re coming to you live from SiriusXM Studios in New York City!



Dan Pashman: Thank you all so much for being here for this special taping at SiriusXM. Holiday baking season is upon us, so it’s the perfect time to turn to today’s guest, who’s one of the internet’s most beloved baking stars, and one of America’s foremost dessert evangelists. She’s the host of the YouTube channel Dessert Person, the former host of Bon Appetit’s Gourmet Makes. And she’s the author of two cookbooks, Dessert Person and the brand new What’s For Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People. Please welcome Claire Saffitz!


Dan Pashman: So, welcome. 

Claire Saffitz: Thank you.

Dan Pashman: It’s great to see you. 

Claire Saffitz: You, too. 

Dan Pashman: Congratulations on the new cookbook.

Claire Saffitz: Thank you.

Dan Pashman: Let’s just start off by setting up sort of your philosophy on dessert …

Claire Saffitz: Yes. 

Dan Pashman: And baking. 

Claire Saffitz: Yes.

Dan Pashman: You’ve said that you wrote your first cookbook, Dessert Person to celebrate and defend your love of desserts.

Claire Saffitz: Yes.

Dan Pashman: Why does your love of desserts need defending?

Claire Saffitz: So that book came out a couple of years ago, and I had come from working in food media for years where I felt like I was around people who kind of turned their nose up at dessert. Like savory, got all the love and sweets were just sort of for people who like had lower sort of taste levels in a way. And I was like, that’s not fair at all. Dessert is part of the meal, and people that love baking and love sweets, like, we should celebrate that. And now, you know, I’m on — my second book just came out and now it’s like I have so kind of left that behind. It’s like I’m so far in sort of my own, like acceptance of my own tastes that I just am here to celebrate it. Like I don’t even — it doesn’t even occur to me to defend it anymore, in a sense.

Dan Pashman: Well, that seems like progress.

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, definitely.

Dan Pashman: What changed? 

Claire Saffitz: I think — I mean, I think a few things changed. I think I sort of became more comfortable with my own appetites and tastes and style and and judgment around recipes and baking and food. I think I’ve also created a community of people that are like-minded. And so it’s like I just sort of exist in this space with other dessert people. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Calire: And like no one — like we don’t have to defend it to each other. Like we’re all into it.

Dan Pashman: Right. Like we’re all on the same page here.

Claire Saffitz: Right.

Dan Pashman: Dessert’s good. 

Claire Saffitz: Right. 

Dan Pashman: Before — are you telling me that before your first cookbook, before this community, you were — it sounds like you were sort of doubting yourself, doubting your own tastes.

Claire Saffitz: Maybe a little bit. I mean, I knew that dessert was a good thing and that I liked it. 

Dan Pashman: Right, right. [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: But I felt like, oh, I am — do I have sort of like a lesser taste level because I’m so into this thing? But it also kind of coincided with my own kind of journey around like intuitive eating and learning to sort of have no judgment around foods. And I say in the introduction to Dessert Person like food has no moral weight, so to sort of overall really loosen a lot of my sort of stricter thinking around food and eating generally.

Dan Pashman: And what does it mean to be a dessert person to you today?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, I think being a dessert person like that’s how I self-described, is about embracing food as a fundamental source of pleasure in our lives and a sort of an uncomplicated view of food in a lot of ways. So being a dessert person is, I think, having like an attitude of always saying yes when it comes to food.

Dan Pashman: I can hear already some listener saying. But, but, but but but …. Americans eat too much, which I guests like, there are are valid concerns around health. When people say that, how do you balance these things?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, I mean, I think about — as a recipe developer, I always strive to have my desserts taste of the thing that it is and not be overly sweet. So, you know, there should be the right amount of sugar. Dessert should be sweet, but it should be sort of part of an otherwise balanced diet. And I like to practice intuitive eating, which is just kind of about like giving my body what it wants when it wants it. It just all kind of balances out.

Dan Pashman: It’s funny to me that when we met up in the green room beforehand, you looked in the little mini fridge there and you were like, “Ooh, they have Diet Coke.” 

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: “I’m going to allow myself one of my three Diet Cokes per year.” [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: Well, I drink Diet Coke sometimes, so what’s wrong with that? You know? But it’s funny to me that you’re like, I’ll eat all the cake, but I only have three Diet Cokes a year. 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Well, I don’t — I’m wary of, like, substitutes, like, whatever it is, the fake sugar and Diet Coke, aspartame or whatever it is. I sort of don’t do substitutes for, like, normal ingredients, you know? 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Claire Saffitz: That said, I do love the taste of Diet Coke. So it’s like my — it’s something I have on vacation where it’s like, I’m like celebrating, sort of.

Dan Pashman: Would you like me to get like a cocktail umbrella to stick in your can of Diet Coke? 

Claire Saffitz: That sounds delightful.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] You say that writing this new book taught you more than you imagined possible about the fascinating and delicious realm of sweet flavors, that is dessert. What exactly did it teach you that you didn’t know before?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. I mean, so Dessert Person was a book all about baking, like every recipe is baked.

Dan Pashman: Cakes, cookies, brownies, pies …

Claire Saffitz: Pies. Yeah. A lot of pastry … breads. Like, everything was baked. And in this book, only about half of the book is actually baked. Everything else is kind of like stovetop or it’s chilled or it’s frozen or it’s a combination thereof. And I realized, like generally when I’m baking, the kind of structure of the recipe comes from flour, like in a cake or a cookie or in pastry. And that gives you kind of, one, that gives you something. And then in all of these other recipes, the structure comes from eggs, which I thought was really interesting and gives you sort of such a different tool to experiment with texture. So it’s like you can make something light and moussy. You can make something dense and rich and custardy like a pot de creme. So I just sort of realized like, oh, there’s this entire sort of other like side of this discipline that I’m really exploring and getting into and understanding in a way that I hadn’t before, because I was so kind of singularly focused on baking – which I love and will always be like my sort of primary love. But I was like, wow, there’s so many other fascinating things you can create when you don’t use flour, sort of as your primary scaffolding for your recipe.


Dan Pashman: So, Claire, we know that you’re well qualified to take baking and cooking questions from our listeners. Later on when we take a live call from a couple struggling with a food related relationship dispute that would make it a little more complicated.

Claire Saffitz: Okay.

Dan Pashman: Well, let’s warm up right now [Claire Saffitz: Okay.] with some voice memos that we got when we put out the call to our listeners. Are you ready for this?

Claire Saffitz: I’m ready. 

Dan Pashman: All right, let’s hit it.

CLIP (MOLLY): Hi, this is Molly in Orange County, CA. And my question is about rolling out dough for all those great holiday baked goods. It seems like I’m constitutionally incapable of rolling out dough to a specified shape. So if I’m supposed to be rolling out a round for pie dough, it comes out as a pie dough amoeba. And if I’m supposed to be rolling a yeasted dough out to a rectangle for cinnamon rolls, it comes out as cinnamon amoeba. Do you have any advice so that I can break the dough amoeba cycle?

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: So generally, whatever shape your dough is in before you chill it or you let it rise, that is the shape it’s going to want to be. So when you’re making a dough, whether it’s pastry or a bread dough, you have this kind of network of gluten and it’s sort of organized in a particular way. So I would say try to really form your dough into like a nice sort of even shape before you chill it. If you’re trying to roll out something round, often it helps to like keep the dough moving on the surface. So I mean, and that will help you anyway just to prevent sticking. So I like to kind of like constantly rotate the dough. I don’t give it more than really two passes with the rolling pin before I rotate it. So kind of constantly rolling over like a different area of the dough will also help you work it out evenly. And as far as rolling into a rectangle, I think that can be tricky when you’re working with like a yeasted dough and it’s very common to get like rounded sides or corners of that kind of thing. So what I like to do is just sort of like tug at the four corners. You can kind of like make fake corners of your dough basically when you roll it out, but just know that it takes practice.

Dan Pashman: Right. That’s one that I struggle with. When I — I mean, I’m not a huge baker, but when I roll dough, it’s a mess.

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: I can’t get it to go in the right direction — this has been very helpful to me.

Claire Saffitz: I mean, one thing with dough is like if it’s fighting you, just let it rest. That’s — like the dough just needs to chill out for a minute, sometimes literally. You know? 

Dan Pashman: So basically, slam my rolling pin down, and be like, I’m going for a walk.

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. Walk away.

Dan Pashman: Right. Okay. All right. Got it. 


Dan Pashman: All right. next one.

CLIP (HEATHER): Hi Sporkful team and Claire. My name is Heather and I’m from Dublin, PA. Obviously, it’s preferable to try to bake something at the correct time and temperature specified in the recipe. Sometimes this just can’t be accomplished and the baked item has to be baked with other items at a different temperature than the recipe originally called for. What are the best and worst items to adjust the temperature for? Thanks!

Dan Pashman: So what Heather is saying is she’s putting multiple things in the oven at once. The recipes call for different times and temps, and she knows that may not be ideal. But look, this is real world. Okay, sometimes this happens.

Claire Saffitz: Right. 

Dan Pashman: What are the types of desserts that give you a little bit of flexibility versus the ones that like have to be just so?

Claire Saffitz: The main issue with baking multiple things in the oven at the same time is that they’re kind of like pulling from the same heat source. And so they tend to like bake more slowly and then like the rise sort of isn’t happening as it should, because like this other thing is in the oven, like pulling heat away from this other thing that you’re trying to bake. So things like cakes, brownies, bar cookies, those tend to be okay if you are putting them in the oven with something else. But you don’t want to be like 75, even 50 degrees off of the actual temp. Twenty-five degrees in either direction is probably okay. But if you can, it’s actually best to — if you can stagger when you’re putting them in the oven, that’s better. Like if you can avoid putting a cookie sheet and a cake pan in the oven at the same time, maybe like the cake’s almost done and then you put the cookies in because then that cake is already up to temperature in a sense. Just really rely heavily on the Dungeness indicators, because the time — if you’re putting it in with something in the oven and not at the temperature in the recipe, then the timing that the recipe gives is going to be totally irrelevant. 

Dan Pashman: And the other thing we can tell, Heather, is that you should pick up your new dessert cookbook, which has many stovetop desserts.

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] Yes. 

Dan Pashman: Right?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. Free up the oven.

Dan Pashman: Free up the oven. Make a stovetop dessert.

Claire Saffitz: They should buttons that say, “Free up the oven”, or something. 

Dan Pashman: Right. Free the oven.

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. Free the oven. Yeah. 


Dan Pashman: All right, we have another voice memo.

CLIP (HANNAH): Hi, I’m Hannah.

CLIP (KEVIN): And I’m Kevin.

CLIP (HANNAH):  And we’re calling in from Sunnyvale, CA. So a few weeks ago I was making pumpkin muffins. And Kevin walked by and asked if I was going to frost them. I told him, “Of course not, I’m making pumpkin muffins, not pumpkin cupcakes.” To me, the main distinguishing factor between muffins and cupcakes is whether they’re frosted. You can have a banana muffin, but once you frost it, it becomes a banana cupcake.

CLIP (KEVIN): But I completely disagree. I think that the batter, not the toppings, differentiates muffins from cupcakes. Have you ever had a poppy seed cupcake?

CLIP (HANNAH):  No, because they’re never frosted!


CLIP (KEVIN): Have you ever had a vanilla muffin? No, because the flavor of the batter helps determine muffins from cupcakes. The other element is the ratio of ingredients in the batter, which leads cupcakes to be sweeter and fluffier than muffins.

CLIP (HANNAH):  Have you ever had a chocolate chip muffin from Dunkin’? It’s so sweet and fluffy, but definitely a muffin.

CLIP (KEVIN): We’re at quite the impasse here, Dan. Please help us out.


Dan Pashman: All right, Claire, how do you rule here? What’s the difference in muffins and cupcakes? 

Claire Saffitz: So there are a couple of distinguishing features between muffins and cupcakes. So cupcakes are obviously cake. There is something called the muffin method when making muffins. And it’s basically you’re combining wet and dry and that’s it. So often, like your fat is oil or it’s melted and mixed with sour cream or yogurt or buttermilk or whatever it is. Then you have your dry ingredients and you just fold them together and you put them in the muffin liners and you bake it. Now, a cake, on the other hand, is typically starts with creaming together the butter and sugar. So you’re working more air into the batter. And so you are getting this kind of fluffier texture. So that’s kind of a technical difference. And I do understand the idea that like, you know, you’re not generally having a … like a flax cake. You know, you may have like a flax muffin or something. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Claire Saffitz: Or a bran muffin. You’re not having a bran cake. But I think …

Dan Pashman: Not unless you’re really fun.


Claire Saffitz: Right. Right, right. I don’t know anyone who’s having that.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS]

Claire Saffitz: But I do think that when it comes to like bakeries or like stores, when you’re buying a muffin, there is so much sugar in them that there’s no functional difference. Like there’s a technical difference, but I don’t think there’s a functional difference.

Dan Pashman: And of the muffins that are being sold in bakeries and coffee shops, how many do you think are actually made using this muffin method?

Claire Saffitz: Well, it’s so easy. I’m guessing probably quite a few. But I … 

Dan Pashman: Does it have to have frosting to be a cupcake?

Claire Saffitz: I think yes.

Dan Pashman: I agree that it has to have frosting to be a cupcake. But I disagree with Kevin’s idea that like the flavor base is part of it. Because like you can have a blueberry muffin and a blueberry cake. 

Claire Saffitz: Right. 

Dan Pashman: So that destroys that part of his argument. But I think part of this and what you’re kind of getting to is that there’s a larger societal problem here, which is the cake-ification of muffins.

Claire Saffitz: Yes. Yes. 


Dan Pashman: And that is upsetting to me because like a muffin shouldn’t be like this grapefruit sized ball of sugar.

Claire Saffitz: Right.

Dan Pashman: It’s supposed to be like a mild baked good that you might actually have in the morning and not feel like garbage after.

Claire Saffitz: Right, right. And I understand bakeries that are like loading up their muffins with sugar because it’s a preservative. So it’s like keeping it moist and, you know, so it’s not drying out in the pastry case. So I understand that. But muffin … muffin is cake …I believe that muffin is cake, mostly.


Dan Pashman: So as part of this debate, Hannah says, “Have you ever had a chocolate chip muffin from Dunkin? They’re so sweet and fluffy, but definitely a muffin,” so …  

Claire Saffitz: Oh. Oh, no. Oh God.

Dan Pashman: We got a chocolate muffin from Dunkin. 

Claire Saffitz: Oh, no. 


Dan Pashman: It’s a little homemade sound effect for you. 

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: Let’s have a piece of this chocolate chip muffin from Dunkin. 

Claire Saffitz: Okay. 

Dan Pashman: And just we’re going to judge, is this a muffin? Is this cake? What is it?

Claire Saffitz: Okay. 

Dan Pashman: You mind if I do the honors here?

Claire Saffitz: Please. 

Dan Pashman: I’m going to peel the paper off of my fingers. All right. 

Claire Saffitz: This is a quite a large muffin.

Dan Pashman: Just pick any piece you want. 

Claire Saffitz: Okay. 

Dan Pashman: You can just take a piece.

Claire Saffitz: I already know what I think of this. 

Dan Pashman: You took a bottom and not a top?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah … because … 

Dan Pashman: Record scratch! What?


Claire Saffitz: Because I want to taste what the — I want to taste the interior.

Dan Pashman: That is some chef shit now. 

Claire Saffitz: I don’t want to have a false impression of the top because the top has sugar on it. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Claire Saffitz: And it’s going to be really good and crunchy. 

Dan Pashman: All right. Fair enough. When you took that piece, you said, “I already know what I think of this muffin.”

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Which is what?

Claire Saffitz: I already think.


Claire Saffitz: Based on … 

Dan Pashman: Based on how it feels?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, based on how it feels. 

Dan Pashman: Hmm. 

Claire Saffitz: It tastes like cake. Not saying that’s bad, but I just think if you’re cake, you should say that your cake … and not that you’re a muffin. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Claire Saffitz: Because it does have like a bit of a health halo. But there is nothing — I mean, this is just cake.


Claire Saffitz: Wait, this is so funny. I’m washing down my Dunkin’ chocolate chip muffin with my Diet Coke. [LAUGHS] 


Dan Pashman: All right Claire we’re gonna take a quick break, when we come back we’ll have more listener questions, I’ll subject you to a lightning round, and we’ll take a live call from a couple with a food-related dispute, we’ll see if we can help them out. Sound good?

Claire Saffitz: Sounds great.

Dan Pashman: All right. Stick around. 



+++ BREAK +++



Dan Pashman: Welcome back to The Sporkful, I’m Dan Pashman, and we’re live at SiriusXM Studios in New York City! 


Dan Pashman: Now I’m sure as you listen to this episode you’re hearing how fun it is to be able to send in a voice memo to The Sporkful and hear yourself on our show, right? Well, you have another chance to do it right now. It’s time for your New Year’s food resolutions. This is our annual tradition, record a voice memo with your name and location and tell me: What food do you resolve to eat more of in the new year and why? Send it to us at [email protected] and we might just feature it in our last show of the year. Again, that’s [email protected].

Dan Pashman: I’m joined once again by Claire Saffitz, whose new cookbook is What’s For Dessert: Simple Recipes For Dessert People. Hello again,  Claire …

Claire Saffitz: Hello!


Dan Pashman: Claire, what food do you resolve to eat more of in the next year and why?

Claire Saffitz: This is very specific. I feel like I’m gonna eat more cabbage in the new year. I think it helps, like we have a long winter in New York and like it’s a great winter vegetable and it’s so versatile. And every time you eat it, I’m like, “Why don’t I eat more of this?” And I was just thinking about it the other day because I really am obsessed with cabbage ware. You know, like the plates and bowls and stuff that’s like looks like cabbage?

Dan Pashman: That look like cabbage?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: I … cabbage ware, that’s a — 

Claire Saffitz: Like cabbage ware. That’s a thing. 

Dan Pashman: Is that related to cottagecore?


Claire Saffitz: Yeah, it’s probably not unrelated to cottagecore.

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHING] I mean, this is a brand extension for you. Claire. 

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: Cabbage ware by Claire Saffitz.

Claire Saffitz: Oh, I would love it. Yes.

Dan Pashman: All right. That’s a good one. We’re going to open the phone lines to try to help some listeners having a food related relationship issue. But before we get to that, Claire, I want to talk about the role of food in your relationship with your husband, Harris. So Harris is Harris Mayor Selinger, who’s the chef owner of Cream Line in Chelsea Market. Right?

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: Serves amazing burgers, fries, shakes, grilled cheese and tomato soup. How would you characterize your respective cooking roles at home?

Claire Saffitz: I think that we make it work by very clear division of labor. If at any time we’re making something, one person is in charge. And that the other person takes their cues from them. And often we’re in the kitchen at different times, so it’s like homemade dinner, I’m not involved. I show up and eat and clean up. You know, or it’s the other way around. Although he never really cleans up …


Claire Saffitz: And I’m pretty much always cleaning up. And often we’ll — I’ll say, like, I’ll make the salad. You make this. It works really well. And I will say that he has, especially in the years that I’ve been writing these books, like taken over a lot of the kind of just like household cooking because, A, he’s really good at it, and B, I’m busy with like all the recipe testing.

Dan Pashman: Why doesn’t he help more with the dishes?

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] Oh, my God. You just ask him. I, I’m not, I … great question.

Dan Pashman: Is …

Claire Saffitz: He’s going to be so mad at me that I said this. He’s going to be like, I do the dishes.

Dan Pashman: But, like, sometimes I think and I will admit to being guilty of this sometimes, like I load the dishwasher because I have very specific ideas about how it should be loaded. 

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: And so, like, my wife drives. When our family is driving anywhere, she drives because she’s an excellent driver and she has very strong opinions about how the cars should be operated.

Claire Saffitz: Uh-huh. 

Dan Pashman: Sometimes some people just care more about the other people and that.

Claire Saffitz: Yes. And that — and to be fair, that is me. I am you with the dishwasher. 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Claire Saffitz: So I get that. But I also think it’s like he cooked in restaurants for so many years and never really cooked at home that he only has one way of cooking. And that is as a professional chef. I mean, he’s no longer cooking professionally in restaurant operations, but he cooks like he would in a restaurant. You know, like multiple pans and high heat. And I’m just like, this is crazy. Like, you … like this is … you cook like a maniac. 

Dan Pashman: Right. [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: So it is — sometimes I am just like, you need to go. Like, I’ll just … I’ll take care of it.

Dan Pashman: And you typically end every meal, as you say in the intro to the book, by asking, “What’s for dessert?”.

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm.

Dan Pashman: Who takes the lead on dessert?

Claire Saffitz: I mean, what’s for dessert is in many ways kind of rhetorical, because sometimes it will be, like, very obvious. We’ll have something like out on the countertop that I made or cookies in the freezer or that kind of thing or just — or ice cream is like a go to. But sometimes we really don’t have dessert. And then I’m like — I short circuit a little bit and I’m like, I need you to figure this out for me. And so Harris is really good at kind of like MacGyvering dessert sometimes. It’s like we have graham crackers and we have some Nutella and we have heavy cream or something. So it’s like he kind of put something together, and then I’m like — the relief that washes over me and I’m able to enjoy it. So — 

Dan Pashman: The dessert panic recedes.

Claire Saffitz: Yes.


Dan Pashman: So, Claire, I think we have a good sense of the role that food plays in your own relationship. Let’s see if we can help out another couple. All right.

Claire Saffitz: Okay. 

Dan Pashman: It’s time to go to the phones. Hi. Who’s this?

Emma: Hi, this is Emma.

Conor: And this is Conor.

Emma: And we’re from Manchester, England.

Dan Pashman: Emma and Conor, say hello to my friend Claire Staffitz***.

Emma: Oh, my God. Hi Claire Saffitz.

Conor: Hi, Claire Saffitz!

Claire Saffitz: Hi! Hello! [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: Thank you so much for joining us. What can we help you with today?

Emma: So essentially, we’re both really into food where we’re a couple who enjoys food and we out all the time together. And we’ve got a little bit of a foodie disconnect. And I was wondering how best we could meet in the middle. I’m somebody who really likes to be a foodie all the time. I take a lot of pride in knowing what I’m craving, going the extra mile to satisfy what I want and just to know that I’m getting the best thing possible breakfast, lunch and dinner. And we can get bit tense in certain situations when I’m being maybe too specific or like if something is a bit of a stressful situation but I am trying to prioritize food. Or if Conor makes a suggestion and I just think that’s absolutely abominable, why would you think of that.


Emma: So in short, like I am team breakfast, lunch and dinner and nothing less than the best.

Conor: So I’m very happy to indulge Emma. But sometimes I think I’d prefer a bit of an easier option. I think sometimes we end up going into the classic debate of, well, what do you want for dinner? I don’t know, but it better be delicious, times like a million. And I need to say that in a practical sense, if Emma wants something specific, it’s often me go into the shop to source these various marvelous ingredients, sometimes missing out on things like extra hungover time in bed, say for example, if Emma develops [DAN LAUGHING] key craving this for cantaloupe melon and salted pretzel bites. That’s the key one at the moment. Sometimes I need to make my meals quicker because I have a bit of a busy job. And God forbid we end up on a long road trip together because whichever service station we stop in will depend on a very particular set of planets and vendors aligning. 


Conor: I am team: If everything’s special then nothing’s special.

Dan Pashman: Oh, okay. That’s an interesting philosophical idea. So, so but just so understand, Conor, when Emma insists upon eating something very specific at the end of the day, like, is it usually delicious?

Conor: Oh, always. Every single time.

Dan Pashman: Well, that’s a big point in Emma’s favor.

Conor: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Claire Saffitz: So, Conor, you are the primary cook, is that correct?

Conor: No. And Emma … Emma knocks it out the puck every time. I’m a very functional cook in the same way a goblin might cook. Yeah.


Dan Pashman: By killing people and boiling them in giant cauldrons?

Conor: More, more take in last night’s pasta’s bake out of the fridge and putting it on a fajita wrap, maybe with a bit of Cholula in between meetings. [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: My husband is someone who has very specific cravings. So I’ll say to him, “What do you feel like for dinner?” And I’m expecting an answer that something like, oh, maybe, maybe Japanese or, you know, I feel like having fish or that kind of thing. And he’ll be like, “Okay, I want chicken parm with a side of like broccoli rabe, ” and it’s like so specific. And I’m like … 

Emma: Yeah. 

Claire Saffitz: I’m like, okay, like that’s — I wasn’t asking for, like the actual thing you wanted to eat.

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Claire Saffitz: It was more of just like, what’s your feeling? Emma, tell me if this sounds like it sort of describes you. Do you feel like you are always trying to optimize your food experience? Is that part of it?

Emma: Yes, completely like exactly what you just said with your other half. Like if I’ve got a very specific craving, I’m like, if there’s like a disconnect, I don’t know. It just ruins my whole — well it doesn’t ruin my whole day, that’s very dramatic. But it ruins a portion of the day.

Claire Saffitz: You sound like you’re someone who’s very kind of attuned to your needs and feelings and kind of fluctuations in both. So I understand that. But I also understand sometimes it could be like — like Connor, does it feel like there’s a lot of pressure to deliver on these desires or it like will sort of cast a sort of gloomy shadow or that kind of thing?

Conor: [LAUGHS] Sometimes it does feel like, what investment am I putting in for the preference when maybe I’ve got work to do and I simply don’t have time for what is bound to be a magnum opus? And why can’t we just have macaroni and cheese?


Dan Pashman: How long the two have been together? 

Emma: Eight years.

Dan Pashman: And how long have you lived together?

Together: Six. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. And are you married? 

Emma: We’re engaged.

Dan Pashman: Okay. And do I understand correctly, you’re about to be traveling together for an extended period of time.

Emma: Yes. So we’re taking a gap year next year. And so another one of the big places that we do have these little farts — not little farts, but like it’s attention is travel and being away. And like basically, when I’m at home, I’ve got my home comforts. I know what’s available to me, what’s around the corner and I can get what I want when I want it. So tips on maybe not amplifying these feelings when I go away and I feel like I’m not missing out on anything at all, not putting Conor in a situation where if I don’t get the food that I want, he takes the brunt of it on like a 12-hour sleeper train from Bangkok to God knows where.


Dan Pashman: Right. Okay. What are your thoughts Claire? What do you recommend?

Claire Saffitz: I as a former like food optimizer all the time, I did notice like an indirect correlation between sort of like my — the hopes that I pinned on a meal and my enjoyment of it. And I actually think that I started to enjoy food a lot more when I wasn’t trying to optimize so much, every meal that I had. 

Dan Pashman: I think what you’re getting at, Claire, is that the more emotional build up there is to a meal, the …

Emma: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: The more likely it is that you’re going to be disappointed.

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: And, you know, I do — I identify with Emma a little bit because I certainly am someone who like, I don’t — it upsets me when I waste a meal. You know?

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm.  

Emma: Yeah.

Dan Pashman: Well, when I’m when I’m rushing around and I have to eat something like depraved, like a hard boiled egg from some crappy corner store because I just need protein and I’m starving or like, you know, there’s something — it’s like that kind of it’s something delicious if I plan my day a little bit better. But at the same time, like, you just can’t live life with that much riding on every meal you’re really going to make yourself miserable. My advice to you is pick one meal a day —

Emma: Ohh. 

Connor: Oh my. 

Dan Pashman: Pick one meal a day that’s going to be a special meal.

Emma: Okay.

Dan Pashman: And the rest of you gotta like let it go a little bit.

Claire Saffitz: I think Dan’s idea is great. Like, maybe it’s dinner or maybe it’s the time that you can spend together, and that can be sort of where you plan and decide and really are thoughtful about what you’re craving. And then in the other meals, I think just building in a little bit of flexibility of like maybe it’s not the one thing you had, but I think leaving a little bit room to enjoy other dishes or other foods that maybe aren’t the one you have in mind. I think that’s going to be really helpful when you travel, because the most enjoyable travel experiences can be when you kind of discover something that you hadn’t planned. And I have definitely been traveling where I’m like, okay, we have to go to these five places that I have on my Google map because I read about them beforehand. And it becomes — it can be a slog a little bit like you’re just sort of checking boxes to check the boxes, you know?

Dan Pashman: Right. Right. You get so focused on like checking everything off your to do list that it becomes more about that and it just about like enjoying yourself, you know?

Claire Saffitz: Right.

Emma: Yeah. I love that advice. I knew this was a safe space. 


Dan Pashman: All right. Well, Emma and Conor, good luck on your travels. And we hope that you managed to find deliciousness without too much stress.

Emma and Conor: Thank you so much. 

Dan Pashman: Take care. 

Emma: Bye. 

Connor: Bye.


Claire Saffitz: Bye


Dan Pashman: All right. I think we did some good work there, Claire.

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] I think so. 

Dan Pashman: Are you ready for the lightning round? I’m ready. All right, here we go. Snacking cake. This is something I hear about, I think it was a whole cookbook. I see it on Instagram a lot. 

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm. A great book.

Dan Pashman: Aren’t all cake snacking cakes?

Claire Saffitz: I don’t know. I don’t think a layer cake is a snacking cake. I think it’s snacking. It is something very specific, actually.

Dan Pashman: Really? 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: Like you don’t ever have a layer cake for a snack?

Claire Saffitz: No. Do you eat layer cake as a snack like a birthday cake?

Dan Pashman: Hell, yeah.

Claire Saffitz: Oh, interesting.

Dan Pashman: I’ve ordered my own birthday cake and just eating it by myself over the course of two weeks. 

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] I mean, everyone has their own personal definition of what is a snacking cake … 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: But that’s not what I think of. I think of like a loaf cake or a single layer cake. Something that can kind of sit out on your counter is not too sweet. Maybe it has frosting, but it’s not like an elaborate layer cake. It just feels like a simpler thing. 

Dan Pashman: But it might not have frosting at all.

Claire Saffitz: It might not have frosting at all. 

Dan Pashman: You know what that sounds like?

Claire Saffitz: But then it’s like, is it a — right. A muffin? 

Dan Pashman: A muffin? 

Claire Saffitz: No. 

Dan Pashman: Yeah. 


Claire Saffitz: Well, no. Well, no, not if it’s in a loaf. [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: Okay. All right. All right. So a loaf shaped muffin is a snacking cake.

Claire Saffitz: But it could — but, like, I want it — it should have glaze on it. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. 

Claire Saffitz: And it should have something on it. 

Dan Pashman: Okay. You’ve said bread is your favorite food. 

Claire Saffitz: Mm-hmm. 

Dan Pashman: You’ve also said whipped cream is your favorite food.

Claire Saffitz: Uh-huh. 

Dan Pashman: Claire, this is a direct contradiction. 

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: Take a side.

Claire Saffitz: There should be ten more things on that list cause I say — I say this a lot about a lot of different things.

Dan Pashman: So desert island, you got to pick one.

Claire Saffitz: Okay. It’s bread, but it’s bread and butter.

Dan Pashman: Okay.

Claire Saffitz: You can’t live off of whipped cream. 

Dan Pashman: [LAUGHS] 

Claire Saffitz: That’s mostly air. Bread and butter, like good bread and butter.

Dan Pashman: I’ve heard you say that one of your favorite dessert genres is caramel flavored desserts. 

Claire Saffitz: Uh-huh. 

Dan Pashman: I’m that way, too. My favorite desserts are the more buttery — that butterscotch caramel toffee. I feel like chocolate people— or there’s a certain personality profile, a certain machismo [Claire Safftiz: Mm-hmm.] of these chocolate people who are like, I’m a chocolate person. 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: They self-identify. 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. 

Dan Pashman: And then they’re like, there’s no point in dessert if it’s not chocolate,

Claire Saffitz: Right.

Dan Pashman: Show me the menu. Where’s the chocolate?

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] 

Dan Pashman: What’s the deal with those people? 


Dan Pashman: And should we caramel people be self-identifying more loud and proud?

Claire Saffitz: Oh, this is part of the lighting round? This is — doesn’t feel like a lightning round question. 


Claire Saffitz: This is a — this requires a lengthy response.

Dan Pashman: All right. All right. Go on. 

Claire Saffitz: The chocolate dessert person is a real category of dessert, people. And it also tends to be the people who are like, the darker, the better, you know, like cocoa, like super bitter. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Claire Saffitz: Which is sort of not my preference. And it’s like also kind of like maximalist, like the more — like chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, [Dan Pashman: Right.] which is sort of also not my thing, but also chocolate and caramel is such a great combination and I am someone — I’m pretty particular about what I combine with chocolate. But caramel is like on the short list of things that I like to eat with chocolate. So I think the chocolate dessert people and the caramel dessert people should like find common ground. I also — like I’m just also just a fruit dessert person. 

Dan Pashman: Right.

Claire Saffitz: And I don’t really do fruit and chocolate together. That’s kind of a particular quirk of mine.

Dan Pashman: All right, Claire, since we’re here in front of a live audience, we can take a couple of questions from our audience members. If anyone has a question? Go on. Yes, sir? Step right up please. Please tell us your name and where you’re from before you start your question. 

Jay: Hi, I’m Jay from Hoboken, New Jersey.

Dan Pashman: Hey, Jay, welcome.

Jay: Thank you so much. So when I go to the bakery, one of the — if they have it, I’m going to order a chocolate chip cookie. That’s going to be my judge on if this is a good bakery for me to go back to. Is there a specific food that you would get at a bakery that that’s your judge?

Dan Pashman: Oh, I like this question.

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, great question. I agree with you that chocolate chip cookie is a great benchmark. For me, it’s also a croissant. What is the texture? Does it have that chattering exterior and like silky soft interior? You know, when you pull it apart, like how does it kind of — to me, a croissant is also a great benchmark.

Dan Pashman: I think, like for me, if I’m trying a new pizzeria, that’s supposed to be very good, I will always get a margherita. 

Claire Saffitz: Right. 

Dan Pashman: And I think — so the universal theme, whether it’s chocolate cookie or croissant or margherita, is it like if you’re trying to really evaluate a place, get the basics for … 

Claire Saffitz: Right. 

Dan Pashman: Like if they’re good at what they do, they’ll be able — they should be nailing the basics.

Claire Saffitz: Exactly. Agreed.

Dan Pashman: We have one more question. All right, step right up.

Karen: I’m Karen from Stony Brook. And my niece’s step mom makes the best — really good oatmeal cookies and she will not give the recipe to anyone. 


Karen: So I got a few of the cookies and they’re in my freezer. And I cut ‘em in quarters so I could — how do you approach trying to duplicate a recipe?

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. So I have a theory about people that won’t to give out their recipes, which is that it’s like a recipe on the Quaker Oats box or something, you know? 


Claire Saffitz: Like that’s my … that’s my theory is that like the secret recipes are just … 

Dan Pashman: Right. 

Claire Saffitz: They don’t want to tell you that it’s the recipe like a Quaker …

Karen: Or it’s a mix. 

Claire Saffitz: Right. Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Dan Pashman: It’s a mix. In other words, it’s actually nothing special.

Claire Saffitz: [LAUGHS] Right.

Dan Pashman: Right. So check the Quaker Oats box.

Claire Saffitz: Yeah, right. Right. But, you know, it’s specific to the recipe. So for cookies, it has sort of its own answer because every single ingredient in cookies has a particular function and affects the outcome of mostly texture. So if it’s like a chewy oat cookie, I’m going to say it’s like there’s probably probably a mix of white sugar and brown sugar, but like possibly a little bit more brown sugar.

Dan Pashman: Brown sugar makes it chewier.

Claire Saffitz: Yes. Typically, with cookies is like a higher proportion of white sugar gives you crispiness. More brown sugar will give you chewiness because of like the kind of molasses content.

Dan Pashman: So brown sugar makes it better.


Claire Saffitz: Yes, yes, yes.

Dan Pashman: Okay, I got it right. 

Claire Saffitz: If you’re — yes, I love — I prefer a chewy cookie. So yeah. And then the spread of the cookie, are they like very thin or do they kind of stay thicker?

Karen: They’re pretty thin and they were super chewy. 

Claire Saffitz: Hmm. So probably also a pretty high proportion of butter. When you hold them, I know that they’re cold, but once they’re in room temperature, do you get any like little butter residue on your fingertips or anything like that?

Karen: Probably.

Claire Saffitz: Okay. 

Karen: I’m going to have to go back in the freezer.

Dan Pashman: You should probably, yes. Okay. Yeah. 

Claire Saffitz: Yeah. Try another quarter when you get home. 

Dan Pashman: Yeah. 

Claire Saffitz: So they’re probably — the spread is probably about the butter content that they’re like very buttery. So it has maybe a slightly higher amount of butter. I really would start with the Quaker Oats recipe and then — but like make those changes. Like, I’m going to add two additional tablespoons of butter. I’m going to, you know, switch the proportion of — you know, I’ll use some — instead white sugar, I’ll, you know, add some brown sugar and start there and see where you get. if you start with like a pretty tried and true recipe, and your family doesn’t mind having a ton of, you know, oatmeal cookies around, then I could be like lifelong. You could just be like forever tweaking it, you know? And because you’re never going to have something that you don’t want to eat in the end. 



Dan Pashman: All right. Well, that’s all the time that we have. For listeners at home who are kind of like, oh, there was a live Sporkful taping? We didn’t hear about the tickets. That’s because this this was open exclusively to people who subscribe to the Sporkful email newsletter, the most hardcore fans. So if you’re not already on that list, get on it already, people. There’s always more cool stuff that we’re giving out through the mailing list at Sporkful.com/newsletter.

Dan Pashman: Claire Saffitz, host of the YouTube channel Dessert Person and she’s the author of the new cookbook, What’s For Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People. It’s out now. Big hand for Claire Saffitz!


Dan Pashman: And keep the applause going for everyone who works on the show at SiriusXM. The Sporkful is produced by me along with senior producer Emma Morgenstern and producer Andres O’Hara. Our editor is Tracey Samuelson. Our engineer is Jared O’Connell. Music help from Black Label Music. The Sporkful is a production of Stitcher, our executive producers are Colin Anderson and Eric Eddings. And I’m gonna need your help on the end here. Until next time I’m Dan Pashman reminding you to … 

Audience: Eat more, eat better, and eat more better! 

Dan Pashman: Thank you very much! Good night!

Claire Saffitz: Thank you for coming! 


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