The former Bon Appétit contributor and host of the hit YouTube series "Gourmet Makes" joined "Good Morning America" Monday to share two easy recipes from her new book, "Dessert Person," for fall, winter and the upcoming holiday season.
From the speediest trick for slicing apples to the best way to check if an apple is firm enough for baking, check out Saffitz's full recipes and tips below.
"The book is filled with recipes for everyone from the novice to the experienced baker, and aims to help even those who think they can't bake to get more comfortable with the fundamentals," Saffitz explained about her first publication on Instagram. "But more than that, it's a defense of baking and what it means to be a dessert person -- because food is pleasure and it's always okay to eat dessert whenever, however, and with whomever you like!"
Double apple crumble cake
Her double apple crumble cake recipe calls for using firm apples so that they don't break down too far into mush. Saffitz also amps up the apple flavor with concentrated apple butter in place of traditional applesauce, giving the cake it's double apple name.
"I saute the apples in a little butter and that just makes it so that the apples inside the cake are really tender and soft. It also drives off excess moisture so that the cake doesn't get too wet, because there's a lot of apples inside," Saffitz said.
Saffitz also shared a hack for slicing apples that she picked up in culinary school, to use the tip of a chef's knife "rather than further down, and the apples don't stick so can you slice much, much more quickly."
Serves: 10 to 12
Season: Fall / winter Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, plus time to cool Difficulty: 2 (Easy, but with several steps)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1.5 oz / 43g)
4 medium Pink Lady apples (about 1¾ lb / 794g), peeled, halved, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
Butter for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour (9.2 oz / 260g)
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons baking powder (0.21 ounces / 6g)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 cup apple butter (7.8 ounces / 220g)
1 cup sugar (7 oz / 200g)
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream (4.2 ounces / 120g)
¼ cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (2 ounces / 57g)
2 large eggs (3.5 ounces / 100g)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
All-purpose crumble topping (recipe below)
Precook the apples: In a medium skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the apples and cook, tossing often, just until the slices have begun to soften and turn slightly translucent, 10 to 15 minutes (it's OK if some of them start to brown, which could happen if you're using drier, cold-storage apples). Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Meanwhile, arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of the springform pan with room temperature butter, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, smoothing to eliminate air bubbles. Set the pan aside.
Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt to combine. Set aside.
Mix the wet ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the apple butter, sugar, crème fraîche, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth.
Mix the wet ingredients into the dry: Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the apple butter mixture. Whisking from the center of the bowl outward, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet just until you have an evenly mixed batter.
Fold in the apples: Using a large flexible spatula, fold the cooled apples into the batter, leaving any liquid behind in the skillet and mixing thoroughly to distribute the apples evenly.
Fill the pan and top with the crumble: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the batter, breaking up any pieces larger than a marble.
Bake and cool: Bake until the crumble is browned and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake slides easily through the apple slices and comes out clean, 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Serve: Cut around the cake with a paring knife, then remove the ring. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into slices.
Additional Notes and Tips
The cake, well wrapped and stored at room temperature, will keep up to four days.
Use a 10-inch springform pan if you don't have a 9-inch one. The cake will be slightly thinner, so start checking it for doneness after about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Use whatever variety of apple you prefer, just as long as it's very firm and has some natural tartness. Try to avoid older apples that have been in cold storage for a long time and have a tendency to turn mealy when baked. To test an apple for freshness, press the tip of your thumb firmly into the skin. If you can't make an indentation easily, it's a good apple.
Don't use an apple butter with added sugar or spices. Try to find one that lists apples as the sole ingredient.
All-Purpose Crumble Topping
Makes: About 3 Cups
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¹⁄³ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, chilled
In a medium bowl, toss together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt until combined. Add the butter and toss to coat, then use your fingertips to work the butter into the flour mixture until no visible pieces of butter or floury spots remain. It should naturally clump together and hold its shape when squeezed. Cover and refrigerate the crumble until ready to use.
Cranberry pomegranate mousse pie
Saffitz said this would be "a great one for Thanksgiving because it is light and airy and tart and refreshing. I think it's a great alternative to heavier Thanksgiving desserts like pecan pie."
The crust is made with crushed speculoos cookies, which she said are "a lovely compliment to the pomegranate flavors in the mousse."
Serves: 8Season: Fall / winter Total Time: 1 hour, plus 4 hours for chilling
2 wide strips orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
1 cinnamon stick or ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
10 ounces (283g) fresh cranberries (about 2 ½ cups), plus 20 or so for garnish
1 ½ cups granulated sugar (10.6 ounces / 300g), plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (3.5 oz / 100g)
2 cups heavy cream (16 ounces / 453g), chilled
1½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder (0.17 ounces / 5g)
Graham cracker crust, Speculoos Variation, fully baked in a 9-inch pie plate and cooled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
Cook the cranberry compote: In a small saucepan, combine the orange zest, cinnamon, salt, cranberries, 1 cup of the granulated sugar (7 ounces / 200g), 3 tablespoons of the pomegranate molasses (2.5 ounces / 72g) and 1 cup water (8 ounces / 227g). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring often with a heatproof spatula, until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is very thick and reduced to a jammy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes (it shouldn't immediately cover the line left by the spatula as you scrape it across the bottom of the pot). Remove from the heat.
Strain the mixture and stir in some cream: Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium bowl and scrape the compote into the sieve. Set the saucepan aside to use again later. Use the spatula to force the mixture through the mesh into the bowl below, pressing on the solids (discard the solids). Whisk ⅓ cup of the heavy cream (2.7 ounces / 76g) into the compote until the mixture is completely smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate just until the cranberry mixture is cool, 25 to 30 minutes.
Soften the gelatin: Rinse and dry the reserved saucepan. Pour 3 tablespoons cold water (1.5 ounces / 43g) into the saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over it (don't stir). Set aside to allow the gelatin to soften, about 10 minutes.
Whip some of the cream to firm peaks: Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of the heavy cream (8 ounces / 227g) into a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or into a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and beat, starting on medium-low and increasing the speed to medium-high as the cream thickens, until you have firm peaks. You can also do this by hand with a whisk. Refrigerate the cream until it's time to assemble the mousse.
Melt the gelatin and whisk into the compote: Remove the cooled cranberry mixture from the refrigerator, uncover and whisk to smooth it out. Place the saucepan with the gelatin over low heat and warm, swirling often, until the gelatin is melted into a clear liquid free of granules -- you want to make sure it's completely melted or the mousse won't fully set. Whisk the gelatin into the cranberry mixture.
Assemble the cranberry mousse and chill in the crust: Remove the whipped cream from the refrigerator and scrape half of it into the bowl with the cranberry mixture. Fold until just a few streaks remain.
Fold in the remaining whipped cream until you have a light, uniform mixture, then scrape into the prepared crust. Smooth the top and refrigerate until the mousse is set, at least 4 hours. After the first hour in the refrigerator, cover the pie with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
Make the sugared cranberries: While the pie is setting, in a small saucepan, combine the remaining ½ cup sugar (3.5 ounces / 100g), 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (0.9 ounces / 25g) and ⅓ cup water (2.7 ounces / 76g). Bring to a very gentle simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add the 20 cranberries. Simmer very gently just until the cranberries are softened and a few have burst, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cranberries from the saucepan and transfer to a wire rack (discard any that have collapsed or lost their shape). Let sit until the cranberries are slightly tacky to the touch, about 1 hour. Toss the cranberries in some granulated sugar to coat them and return to the wire rack to continue drying at room temperature until the pie is set.
Whip the remaining cream and top the pie: Just before serving, remove the pie from the refrigerator and uncover. Whip the remaining ⅔ cup heavy cream as before until you have soft peaks. Beat in the powdered sugar and scrape the whipped cream on top of the pie. Spread over the filling, making swooshes and swirls, and dot with the sugared cranberries. Cut into wedges and serve.
The cranberry compote can be made up to four days ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated.
The cranberry mousse can be assembled and chilled in the speculoos crust up to one day ahead. Keep covered and refrigerated.
Whip the cream and top with sugared cranberries just before serving.
Additional notes and tips
You can use frozen cranberries instead of fresh in the compote, but note that you won't be able to use them for the sugared cranberry garnish, so skip that part.
Look for pomegranate molasses at well-stocked supermarkets or Middle Eastern grocers. If you can't find any, omit it and replace the 1 cup water in the recipe with 100% unsweetened pomegranate juice. For the sugared cranberries, use ½ cup of the pomegranate juice in place of the water and pomegranate molasses.
If you can't find Biscoff cookies, just make a regular graham cracker crust, or substitute gingersnap cookies.
Try to avoid mixing the mousse more than necessary as you fold in the whipped cream, otherwise it won't be as light. Only fold until no streaks remain, using a light hand to maintain as much airiness as possible.