I love late-night baking. I used to do it in college with cookies, but now I sort of do it with everything all the time. For one, I live with four and a half other people in something like 750 total square feet – possibly less – and at night, I can get my cooking/baking on without getting in anyone’s way or vice versa. For another, after about 10 PM I totally cease to feel the passage of time. Baking after 10 PM is really peaceful and zen, and I can kind of just keep doing it until I get sick of it without feeling pressure to do anything else. (Or until I run out of flour. That has happened also. Endless time, not endless flour.) For another, I’m naturally a night owl, and it’s nice to have something to do other than interact with media late at night. Finally, it means the people I live with get to wake up to tasty surprises, and that feels nice.
The same night I made improv pasta, I also made a fuckton of baked goods. I used one new recipe and two standards: Orangette’s cream biscuits, smitten kitchen’s apple cake, and buttermilk biscuits from Epicurious. I started with the apple cake.
You have to understand, this apple cake is perfect. I’ve made it several times, and it’s the number one thing my family currently requests from me. Everyone in the house is basically obsessed with it. The first time I ever made it, I was having a really stressed-out day and needed to cook something detailed and tedious that would take up lots of time and occupy my brain for awhile. (I wound up making the apple cake for dessert and these pork chops for dinner, which are a whole story unto themselves.) This cake was the perfect choice for that because you have to stem, core, and chop six apples to begin. I have a core-peel-slice apple machine somewhere, but a) that couldn’t help me because this recipe calls for chunks not slices, and b) it’s in a box somewhere, so even if I needed slices I’d have to unpack seventeen boxes to find it, and by the time I did I’m sure I would be totally uninterested in dessert. So I don’t peel the apples, and I stem and core them with a knife. It’s pretty great, honestly. Very absorbing. On another note, I am very interested in the chemistry of this cake because it contains orange juice and no butter. I guess the cup of canola oil is a butter replacement, but I have no idea what the orange juice is for. Additional moistness maybe? Who knows?
I have a tip for you so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. When you are making cake, do not assume you have eggs. I assumed I had eggs, and then I made a 10:45 PM run to 7-11 with two bowls of ingredients sitting out on the counter because I did not have eggs. Always check to see if you have eggs. That said, making this cake is rather uneventful. Dry ingredients, wet ingredients, mix mix mix. One thing to know – the raw batter doesn’t taste very good. The cake itself is outrageous, but most of the deliciousness is due to what the apples do in the oven, turning into little pockets of goo kept in place only by their peel, and dispersing their juices as well as the sugar and cinnamon you marinate them in throughout the batter to the betterment of all involved.
Finally, one of my favorite things about this cake is that it is gorgeous right out of the oven. It seriously looks like this: (picture taken from smitten kitchen). As you know, I seriously hate cake decorating, so an attractive cake is always a plus.
Next I made the cream biscuits, which were a new recipe for me. I’ve been wanting to make these for quite awhile and decided to take advantage of the fact that we had cream. (We’ve actually had cream for months, our fridge is just so overstuffed that I missed it. Lesson: try to keep a better eye on what’s in your fridge than we do around here.) There’s not much to say about making these biscuits except that doing so is a pleasure. The dough just feels nice in your hands. I did burn all the bottoms, though. I’m pretty bad at not burning things like cookies and biscuits – I typically have to make them a few times to figure out the magic window of time wherein they’re done but not burning. This is largely because I despise chewy cookies, and would rather contend with slightly burned than chewy. I’m a rebel, what do you want.
Finally, I made the buttermilk biscuits. I have made these a million times, can have them ready to go in the oven in about seven minutes, and I love them. My grandpa loves them too, which is why I have gotten so good at making them. Way, way more on this in the recipe part of the post, as I have a great deal to say about the process of making these the way I like them.
Late night baking is wonderful.
Notes and Verdicts
mom’s apple cake by smitten kitchen
Notes: I pretty much follow Deb’s recipe to the letter with a few very small changes. For one, I use Granny Smith apples rather than McIntosh because I heard somewhere or was told by someone, I don’t even know, that those are the correct cooking apples. For another, I can’t be even the smallest bit fucked to peel apples, so my apples stay peel-on. I use 1/4 cup sugar rather than 5 tbsp. in the apple mixture (that’s 1 tablespoon less than Deb, for those of you keeping score at home) and usually scant the second cup in the batter. Finally, I don’t use walnuts. Deb doesn’t seem to either. In terms of baking time, I usually go close to the whole 1 1/2 hours, but last time it was done in under an hour. Not sure why. Kinda freaked out by it.
Verdict: This is a slam dunk home run cake of my dreams every time. A+
Cream Biscuits by Orangette
Notes: This was my first Orangette recipe, and I’m pretty pleased with it. I changed nothing. As Molly indicates, the amount of heavy cream you need can vary, so I started with a cup and worked from there. I didn’t measure beyond the first cup, but I’m pretty sure I used the whole 1 1/2 cups suggested, maybe more. I also only needed around 3 tbsp. unsalted butter for glaze. Finally, I never roll shit out and cut into equally sized squares, because that’s not how I roll. (Get it? Roll? And roll? I’m such a jokester.) I tried to eyeball twelve similarly-sized biscuits and came out with eleven. Well done, self!
Verdict: Fresh out of the oven, these are incredible. They taste like heavy cream, only without the artery-destroying “benefit” of drinking it straight from the carton. Which I’ve done. They don’t keep brilliantly, though. I mean, they’re still nice. I’m still eating them. But I love biscuits and cannot be trusted to accurately report. They definitely do not taste of heavy cream anymore, and are now a pretty standard light-tasting biscuit. I feel like these are something where in future I might reduce the recipe and make them as a breakfast treat? I’m not sure. A+ fresh, B+ later.
Buttermilk Biscuits from Epicurious
Notes: Okay, so here’s the thing about these biscuits, and this is sort of a True Confessions moment so imagine I have a handkerchief while I say this and am dabbing my eyes. I have been making them since long before my recent baking renaissance and vow to make everything the right way, and while making them the right way would almost certainly result in a fluffier, lighter biscuit … I don’t want a fluffier, lighter biscuit. I’ve made them the wrong way, and I’ve made them something that wound up closer to the right way (by which I mean, I accidentally overmixed them the one time I made them in my Kitchen-Aid rather than by hand), and in my opinion the wrong way has it all over the right way. It creates a denser, more filling biscuit that is way nicer to start off the day with. So here’s what I do: I melt the butter down anywhere from somewhat to totally, throw all the ingredients into a big metal bowl, and mix by hand. A cool thing about these is that the dough tells you when it’s done. After about a minute or two of mixing, it comes together in the middle of the bowl and starts sticking to itself moreso than to any other surface. You’ll know this is happening because all the dough you’ve had on your hands will suddenly be part of the dough ball, and your hand will be greasy but dough-free.
Verdict: I love these so much. They have a strong buttery flavour, a wonderfully dense bite, and they keep forever. They’re a big hit with biscuit lovers. A