popping over . . .

by mulberryshoots

It’s really amazing what you can learn by watching YouTube clips. I can see now how learning from watching a “show-and-tell”video is so much accessible and easier to grasp than merely reading recipes, for example. Our Christmas Dinner is on the English side this year, roasting a filet of beef and yorkshire pudding. I’ve made yorkshire pudding before in a large skillet where you cut up the puffed up creation into wedges and serve with the slices of roast beef and pass the gravy around.

I’ve also made popovers which is a favorite in our family and they are heavenly to see and eat, with a little sweet butter and some honey.That is, when the popovers rise and when they don’t stick to the pan. I even have special “popover baking pans.” Okay, so many of you will know that yorkshire pudding is identical to popovers. The word “pudding” makes us think it’s, well, something different. But it isn’t.

Anyhow, I started looking at some Youtube clips yesterday for how to make yorkshire pudding. It was really interesting with home videos of elderly ladies in very plain kitchens throwing the ingredients together in an old plastic bowl, scraping it around, putting lard into the pans to heat up before filling with batter half way up the muffin tins. The results were small, flat, small, flat little yorkshire puddings. They seemed to be very pleased by this (small, flat) tradition in their family, though. I moved on to other cooks who put the four ingredients, flour, egg, salt and milk, always making a “well” in the flour before adding the egg; some beating up the egg before mixing with the flour but always in that order. One let the batter sit for an hour before baking but I wasn’t sure why.

All used some kind of shortening (lard, golden crisco, vegetable oil) to layer the bottom of their muffin tins which they heated to smoking hot in the oven before taking back out to pour the batter in the muffin cups halfway. On the fourth clip, some guy said he liked his puffed up so he poured his batter all the way to the rim. That made sense to me too. And his started to look like what we know as popovers.

So if you are still reading, I’ve arrived at the final and most definitive process to make what they call sky-high yorkshire pudding (or popovers) every time. And you know what, it’s really different, although there are still only the four ingredients. This lesson truly demonstrates that cooking is sheer chemistry, and that’s all. So here goes.

In the first place, this is the first demonstration that mixed up the milk and three eggs FIRST with a mixer. Then beat in an extra EGG WHITE (a la souffles and such.) So the guy is beating up the milk and eggs with a mixer incorporating lots of AIR, right? THEN, he adds the flour, but only in little bits so that it gets incorporated little by little into the batter. ALL of the other recipes instructed you to make a well in the flour, add the egg, beaten or not, and mix it together into a PASTE (translate: NOT airy.) Then add the salt and milk to it. The difference, shall we say, is night and day.

But there’s more. After this light, airy batter is well mixed, put it into a container with a spout in the refrigerator OVERNIGHT. Something must happen to the gluten in the flour during this standing step. The next day, heat up your muffin cups with the grease in it until smoking hot, stir your batter lightly to incorporate after resting, and quickly pour the batter to the TOP. Apparently, the temperature deferential between the smoking hot oil in the pan and the very cold batter that’s been sitting causes an EXPLOSION which results in huge popovers! Put them into the oven and do not open the door for 25-45 minutes depending upon how many you’re baking.

These babies are amazing–HUGE puffed up tops almost toppling over from their bases and they pop right out of the pan too (couldn’t resist that.)

So, I’m excited about trying this out for our dinner. I have every confidence that they will turn out to be sky-high too. If you’d like to watch that YouTube clip too, here it is.

Oh, and he forgets to tell you how much flour to use so there’s a footnote underneath. If you’re like me, you’ll have to Google the conversion from milliliters of milk and grams of flour. I already did it so I’m happy to share with you that it’s about a cup and a half of each when all is said and done.


Postscript: I’m happy to report that the recipe here will work well, as long as: a) you don’t put in too much oil in the shallow muffin pans so that oil spills over into the bottom of your oven at high heat and “catch fire” (that’s right!) and b) you let them bake at high heat 425-450 degrees for 15-20 minutes until they pop but don’t take them out yet, turn the heat down to 350 and let them bake for about 15 minutes longer. On Christmas Eve, they popped hugely (and the grease spilled over) but I took them out too early and they immediately deflated into little wisps of nothing.

Tonight (New Year’s Eve,) I made them again without the fussiness of making the batter and letting it sit overnight although I did whisk two eggs and 1 cup milk together first and added 1 cup flour/pinch of salt in small amounts into the liquid and let the batter sit on the counter while waiting to bake. I heated the oven to 450 degrees, sprayed Pam in the cups along the sides and used my deep, cone-shaped popover pan instead of the shallow muffin pan. I put a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of each cup and let the pan heat up in the oven for 10 minutes. As a precaution, I lined a cookie sheet with some aluminum foil and placed it on the lower rack underneath where the popover pan would go. I took the hot pan out and filled the cups almost to the top (less 1/8 inch) and the batter filled five cups, not six.
popovers for post
The popovers popped with huge heads in about 15 minutes; I turned down the heat without opening the oven door and let them cook about 15 minutes longer so that the popovers would actually bake. When I took them out, they came out easily and ratained their shape, crunchy outside with a smooth popover-y inside. Smeared with sweet butter and honey, they were sublime. In fact, now that this popover recipe has been tweaked (to death!) I have come to think about how they might serve as the main attraction for any meal–with a nice fruit salad with greens or a cup of soup. Mostly, people fight over the popovers (we split the fifth one.) Hope this will inspire you to try it yourself. . . and that you will enjoy this simple, delectable treat with self-satisfied smiles between bites: that’s how we enjoyed them tonight!