Skip to main content

Design NYC Magazine. The Magazine of the Architects and Designers Building

Design People

Sweet Home, San Francisco

Baker Hetal Vasavada transforms her kitchen into a bright, welcoming place for family and friends.

Hetal Vasavada

Hetal Vasavada’s redesigned kitchen includes a 42-inch refrigerator from True Residential, and a cooktop, double ovens, and vent by Gaggenau.

The kitchen may be the heart of our homes, but it beats differently in each. In some, the rhythm is slow and steady, a cocooning hum to accompany a solitary meal. In others it races, keeping pace with the hubbub of dinner party preparations. And from time to time, this well-loved space requires a little jolt to function optimally. Such was the case for former MasterChef contestant and the author of Milk & Cardamom, Hetal Vasavada, when she moved into her 68-year-old San Francisco home last year.

With a lack of natural light and outdated cabinets and appliances—and cut off from the rest of the house—it was nobody’s idea of a happy place. “As a recipe developer and chef, I spend most of my workday in the kitchen, and a kitchen this separated would make interacting with family or guests impossible,” says Vasavada. “So, we took out a wall, vaulted the ceiling, and combined the living room and kitchen into an open kitchen space. Bridgette Bennett of Bennett Design Company worked with me to learn more about how I used my previous kitchen space and built out my functional triangle between the oven, cooktop, and sink.”

Hetal Vasavada

Left: Hetal Vasavada at the Gaggenau cooktop.
Right: True Residential’s antique- white-and-brass refrigerator contrasts with the blue cabinetry.

Having struggled with a lack of workspace in small condos, Vasavada was adamant about having a “huge island in her house and she went all out, incorporating a bookshelf, a baker’s station adjusted to her height near the ovens, and a cooktop so that she can face family and guests while she cooks.

Like all of us, Vasavada wanted a kitchen she could feel at home in. But as a content developer, she required one that was camera-ready, as well. “To have a kitchen I can shoot in, I needed counter tops that weren’t too glossy, good lighting, appliances that I can easily wipe down. I also needed the colors to pop, but not take over the scene, which is why a lot of the colors along the perimeter are lighter.” Track lighting allows her to better illuminate the space and offers support for cameras when filming from overhead. And the hood over the island cooktop was hung as high as possible so that it wouldn’t block Vasavada’s face when shooting.

The daughter of Indian immigrants, Vasavada grew up within a circle of dedicated home cooks. She started baking in her college dorm and began blogging as a way to remember her mother’s recipes. Trained in biochemistry, she loves the science of baking. But the essence of sweets is the pleasure they bring, and she puts her heart into every recipe. “These colorful dulce de leche cookies are a bright and cozy cookie that I like to make during Holi, the Hindu festival of colors. They’re a cardamom sugar cookie filled with homemade dulce de leche, like alfajores, the sandwich cookie popular in Latin America. Caramelized milk is used quite a lot in Indian desserts, so the flavors are reminiscent of Indian sweets, but the look is modern.” Yum!

Dulce de Leche cookies
From Milk & Cardamom by Hetal Vasavada

Dulce de Leche cookies


Makes 2 dozen cookies
• 1 can sweetened condensed milk
• 2 1/3 cups plus 2 tbsp (294 g) all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 3/4 cup (149 g) granulated sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup white chocolate
• Edible flowers and sprinkles for garnish (optional)


1) To make the dulce de leche, peel the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk and add it to a large pot. Cover the can with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 3 hours, occasionally making sure the can is covered with water. Remove the can and let it cool completely.

2) Add flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt to a mixing bowl and whisk until well combined. Set aside.

3) Add butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes or until the butter is fluffy and pale. Scrape down the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and mix for 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until well combined.

4) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

5) Divide the dough into three equal portions. Color one portion with orange and one with yellow food coloring by kneading the food coloring into the dough until it’s well blend- ed. Leave one portion plain. Shape the dough into discs, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.

6) To marble the dough, place the plain dough disc onto your work surface and smear
a few pieces of the colored dough on top. Break that dough in half, stack it, and press it down. Keep adding colored dough and smashing, stacking, and pressing until you have a nice marble effect.

7) Roll out dough in between two sheets of parchment paper until it is 1/4-inch thick. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes. Cut the cookies out with a 2-inch cookie cutter. Roll out the scraps with the rest of
the dough and repeat until no dough is left.

8) Place cookies onto the parchment-lined baking sheet 1 inch apart. Freeze the sheet for 10 minutes; this is important so the cookies keep their shape.

9) Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies shouldn’t brown too heavily. Let them cool com- pletely on a rack.

10) Pair your cookies, then pipe 2 teaspoons of dulce de leche onto half of them. Top with the other half.

11) Melt white chocolate in the microwave. Spoon the choc- olate into a sandwich bag or piping bag and snip off a small tip. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cookies and press on edible flowers or sprinkles.