There is something particularly alluring about late-night noshing. Perhaps it's the absolute quiet. Perhaps it's the perfect darkness outside. Perhaps it's just the thrill of the forbidden, but no meal holds a more powerful sway over the childhood imagination than the midnight snack. And some of us never grow out of our fascination with meals eaten well beyond bedtime.
I like to eat midnight snacks, nutritional advice be damned. I like to tiptoe into the kitchen several hours after dinner and eat leftover cold pasta out of the serving dish with my fingers.* I like to eat spoonfuls of ice-cream straight from the carton. And some of my best college memories involve late-night meals: ordering buffalo wings at one am, running to the pizza place right before closing, and making excursions to twenty-four hour diners for bacon cheeseburgers.
(Mum, should you ever stumble across this blog, the paragraph above is complete fiction.)
I also like to bake late at night. I lived in a vegetarian hippie co-op for a year, a co-op in which all members were assigned weekly duties. Two of the duties were bread-baking and cookie-baking. Like most college students, the vegetarian hippies kept erratic hours, so a lot of the baking happened late at night. I am fairly indifferent to American cookies, but I rapidly discovered that bread warm from the oven, slathered in butter, is an exceptional midnight snack. And so I kept the bakers company, and sometimes I baked things along with them.
The following teacakes are light and fragrant, and not too sweet. They go well with lemon curd, or butter and apricot jam, though you could also glaze them with lemon juice mixed with a little icing sugar. Just don't eat too many before bedtime. You don't want bad dreams, do you?
Adapted from Joy Hui Lin's Madeleine Non Madeleines.
(Makes one dozen. They'll keep for a day or two before turning stale.)
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a dozen-cup muffin tin.
Combine three-quarters of a cup of white flour, a pinch of baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a big bowl. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer, beat two eggs with one-third of a cup of sugar until light and foamy. Gently fold the eggs into the flour mixture. Stir in the grated zest of one lemon, a few drops of vanilla extract, and five tablespoons of melted butter (half a stick, plus a little extra) until the batter is smooth.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tins - approximately two tablespoons per cup. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until teacakes are golden brown around the edges and pull away slightly from the edges of each cup. Serve with tea. Any leftovers can be lightly toasted and eaten for breakfast.
*Particularly baked pasta with cheese. The crispy bits soften and turn deliciously chewy.