Last Thursday night, it was 80-something degrees outside and even warmer inside my apartment. For some reason (general insanity?), I’d opted for open windows instead of air conditioning, and the atmosphere in my kitchen was thick and—though I didn’t know it at the time—it was only getting warmer.
Around 10 pm, my lazy, overheated gaze landed on a bowl of peaches on my counter. They were too soft, I realized. I knew they would not last the weekend. But I was about to leave town for a few nights, so I stood up, walked to the oven, and cranked it to 375F.
And I thought, as I often do: Am I normal?
More specifically, I wondered how normal it is to turn on the oven for some summer baking when your home feels like the steam room at the YMCA. The very site you’re reading often suggests that, at the very least, it’s not a great idea. Drink your coffee iced, we say. Use your grill and stovetop as much as you can. Do whatever you have to—just keep your oven off when it's summertime.
It’s not just Epicurious, of course. There’s “beat the heat” advice on every cooking website, in every food magazine, on every local newscast from May until, well, now—the peak of sweaty summer.
And yet I turn my oven on. And on. And on. Because even though I love fresh, unadulterated fruit, I like pie more. Blueberries on yogurt are great, but I think they’re better in a galette. I think fruit exists to give us two experiences—the snappy juiciness of raw, and the jammy depth of cooked. And I refuse to be satisfied with just the former. So my oven’s on.
My oven’s on for a blueberry-packed coffee cake with entire boulders of streusel. My oven’s on for an authentically southern peach cobbler. My oven’s on for lemon cake with blackberries, and my oven's on for brownies. (Yes, I know brownies aren't made from fruit, but if you’re not eating brownies in summertime, what are you eating at barbecues?)
My oven’s on in solidarity with other bakers around the country, like my friend Claire Saffitz. “My oven is on twelve hours a day in summer,” she told me.
Claire’s oven is on because in the summer, a new round of ripe fruit rolls out every couple of weeks. “It starts with rhubarb and goes all the way to apples and pears. There’s nothing I’m not excited about,” she says.
Elsewhere in New York, baker and cookbook author Samantha Seneviratne has her oven on for summer baking, too. “How can you pass up perfect, in-season fruit?” she said. But she tends to make her doughs at night when it’s (usually) cooler, and she sticks to tarts and quick breads and galettes (pies “take too much time with the oven on,” she says). And she also spins ice creams and sorbets. (Ice cream maker: On!)
That soft spot for cold, no-bake desserts is shared by baker Vallery Lomas (“So many fruits scream ‘sorbet me!’,” she said). But a few years ago Lomas didn’t have air conditioning, and still “I was like, oven’s on! Stove’s on! I was even frying doughnuts. Sweat pouring down my face and everything.”
Sweat dripped down my back as my boyfriend and I made a peach crumb cake that Thursday night. It took an hour to bake, and I don't know when the oven finally cooled down—all I know is that I could feel its heat in my bedroom as I tried to sleep. I wasn't mad about it. It wasn't the heat that was keeping me up, but rather the anticipation of eating peach cake for breakfast. Or maybe just the anticipation of fully experiencing summer in cake form. Hot nights are summer. Peaches that have melted into cake are summer. Wiping the sweat off my face with a kitchen towel as I stare into the oven where a cobbler or pie or crumble is baking is summer. Summer, it seemed to me, was finally on—and it was all because my oven was on, too.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious