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Tag: popovers

popover lessons learned . . .

popovers in the oven
After the previous post was published, I decided that I wanted to share some lessons learned from my foray into baking popovers. At first, I thought it could just be a postscript to the last post, but it was too long, as you can see below.

Some recipes emphasize the temperature of the batter as being the key factor for success. For example, making it up the night before and letting it sit in the refrigerator so it will be so cold as to “explode” and rise when it hits the hot grease in the popover pans.

Others, like Ina Garten’s recipe, just tell you to have the eggs and milk at room temperature before you mix it together and bake right afterwards.

The gruyere recipe called for HEATING the milk almost to a boil before mixing it with room temperature eggs, flour and salt. In my experiments, ALL of them worked to produce humongous popovers. So, pick your poison.

The one thing that I learned along the way which I did not know previously, and which I believe is the real key to success is this: using a popover pan rather than a muffin pan and putting your ungreased popover pan into the heating oven (375 degrees) while you are mixing the batter.

Before turning on the oven, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack underneath where you will put your popover pan because grease and batter may spatter into your oven (that’s the real price for making popovers–some mess in your oven, and smoking grease (not good) if you use oil rather than Pam in the cups.) Both racks should be in the bottom third of your oven. Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees with your ungreased popover pan in it.

[Before I knew about only spraying with Pam, I followed a recipe that instructed me to put a tsp. of cooking oil into the bottom of each cup. It was a disaster, as we found out on Christmas Eve, because the oil spilled into the oven as the popovers rose, caught fire (yes!) and began smoking into the oven and then, into the kitchen. This was a harsh lesson learned, and it was also the recipe that was fuzzy about baking the popovers long enough for the insides to be cooked. Later, after the oven had cooled, my daughter, M., patiently cleaned the oven by hand that night so that we could use it the next day to bake cinnamon rolls which we have every Christmas morning while opening presents.]

When the batter is ready, carefully take out the dry, very hot pan out of the oven and spray each cup of the heated pan with Pam, including around the tops of the rims where the batter will bake. This worked out well and no popovers stuck in the pan afterwards. There is nothing more irritating than having to scrape around popovers to get them out of the pan.

I mix the batter in a very large 4-cup Pyrex glass measuring vessel that has a spout. It’s perfect for pouring the batter into the popover pan sprayed with Pam. Fill batter up to the top of the cups, not just halfway or 3/4 way. Put the filled pan into the oven and don’t open the door, nor even think about taking it out before 40-45 minutes is up.

A 375 degree oven for the whole time worked well and is less chancey than the 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, then turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake “until they’re done” (too loosey goosey.)

Popping, I’ve learned the hard way (on Christmas Eve when I took them out after 20 minutes at 425 degrees when they were huge and then they all instantly shriveled into little muffin shapes by the time they arrived on the table) is only the first part of baking popovers. They need to pop, THEN, the insides need to bake. Even when the popovers look absolutely done at around 20 minutes and you’re worried about them getting too brown, the last 20 minutes is critical in order to have the popover flesh inside to be baked and not gooey. Do not open the oven door, ever, until they are baked for 40 minutes.

Actually, I’ve not ever come across anyone who doesn’t love popovers, especially fresh out of the oven. The rest of the meal, no matter what you have provided as your main course (prime rib, leg of lamb, roast turkey or baked ham,) quickly recedes into the background when the popovers arrive at the table. We eat them with unsalted butter (I use Kate’s Butter) and Billy Bee honey drizzled on steaming pulled apart crisp pieces of popovers. In my previous post, we found that popovers and a nice salad were enough to make a very satisfying meal.

Oddly, we didn’t go crazy over the gruyere cheese addition to the popover batter. Yes, it was tasty, but I expected more cheesy goodness. So, I think I’ve discovered that for us, classic is best, and I’ll stick to making plain popovers using the heated milk recipe.

I hope these lessons learned will help you if you decide to treat yourself and your family to these gigantic explosions of delight for your table. As mentioned above, I use popover pans, not muffin pans. They are deeper and the shape helps with the pyrotechnics. I have two six cup popover pans that make popovers so big that you can’t get them on your dinner plate. I then bought a twelve cup “miniature” popover pan on that I use instead. The popovers in this pan are plenty huge as you can see from the photos if you remember to fill them to the rim of each greased cup.

Okay, that’s enough on this. If you think I’m a little OCD about making popovers, I’d say you were probably right. Maybe it’s also a reflection of my determined quest to get ALL the many elements required for a four-ingredient recipe to be foolproof, at least for me and my family. Come to think of it, this recipe relies on a combination of the ingredients, physics and chemistry–and maybe that’s why they are so magical when they finally succeed. Good luck making popovers!

My foolproof popover recipe:

2 cups WHOLE milk, heated in a saucepan until almost boiling; then take off the heat
4 room temperature extra-large organic eggs, beaten in a 4 cup glass pyrex vessel with spout
2 cups King Arthur flour, measured and set aside
1 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom rack; both racks in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a dry 12 cup popover pan to heat in the oven while it is preheating.

2. Hand whisk the eggs and salt in the Pyrex bowl. Slowly add the heated milk into the eggs and keep whisking to combine (I was afraid of scrambling eggs at this point)
Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments into the egg mixture until it’s incorporated. Don’t beat, just combine it until everything is mixed in. lumps are okay. Scrape the edge of bowl to make sure everything is combined.

3. With a potholder, take the very hot popover pan out of the oven and spray each cup AND the rim space around the top with PAM.

4. Put the pan down and pour batter into each cup up to the rim. You should have exactly enough to fill all twelve cups.

5. Place in oven, close the door and don’t open it for at least 40 minutes. If your oven is dicey, leave them in for 45 minutes.

6. Shut off the oven; open the door, and leave the popovers in the oven for a couple of minutes to allow them to adjust to the cooler air coming in.

7. Set the popovers on the counter or stove; gently take them out and put on a platter–they should come right out. If not, you didn’t spray enough Pam around the top surface of the pan where the popovers adhere at the rim tops.

That’s all she wrote! (Finally!)


easy does it . . .

popovers in the ovenWe’ve spent all day working on a document that had a deadline and required all our attention. First, G. worked on it for the last couple of days; then I took over last night and was transfixed until 3:30 a.m. Resumed the task at hand from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30. Then G. reviewed what I had done and we finally wrapped it up around 5 in the afternoon. Some Easter day, huh?

It’s a good thing our kids are grown and the granddaughters have bunny business with their families where they live. It was refreshing, actually, to be able to dedicate our time and attention to something singular like this. It was rather a breakthrough in our thinking and so we were also buoyed up by the possibility of progress being made, slow and arduous as it seemed at times.

So, by 5 o’clock in the afternoon, we cleared away the mounds of paper and G. heated up the oven to 375 degrees for the long-awaited black pepper and gruyere cheese popovers I wrote about some weeks ago. I’ve been tweaking popover recipes since the holidays now and so was looking forward to yet another variation for mixing up these few ingredients: room temperature eggs, salt, pepper, whole milk this time heated up almost to boiling in a saucepan, flour in the same proportion of milk.

I slipped the popover pan into the heating oven, deciding to use the twelve cup smaller popover pan instead of the six cup big popover pans. It was the right choice because the batter filled the cups to almost the rim just right. I left a hair of space on the top so that when I dropped small cubes of gruyere cheese into the tops of the batter, it came just up to the top. The heated popover pan from the oven was sprayed with Pam to ensure that the beautiful puffs of golden magic would pop out when baked. The other trick was to leave the popovers in the 375 degree oven for exactly 40 minutes. They pop up amazingly about half way through and the temptation to take them out as they brown and brown some more before the allotted time is so tempting. STAY FIRM. Even if they’ve popped, the softer insides need the time to bake so that the popovers don’t fall immediately after taking them out of the oven. Let the buzzer run out. Open up the oven and let the popovers sit for just a few minutes (while you take pictures if you want) or set out platters to put the popovers on, sprinkling more gruyere cheese on top of them when they’re still hot.

popover closeup

Usually, or in the old days (a few months ago,) I would have probably also made some rack of lamb, rare and on the bone with fresh rosemary, garlic and mustard a la Julia Child. Maybe a small bowl of baby brussels sprouts. But recently, I have been cutting out one dish, then another and G. and I have been happy and satisfied eating this way. So, tonight, along with these gruyere popover treats, I made a salad in the blue spongeware bowl:
spongeware salad

rinsing hearts of romaine in cool water and spinning them dry, broken up in crisp bites first in the old blue bowl. Then, half an asian pear, cored and cut up in medium-ish slivers, crisp and cool; about half a log of garlic herb goat cheese in small chunks, and best of all, a generous handful of those sinful maple glazed walnuts we’re not supposed to have. I made a small amount of vinaigrette with grapeseed oil, a squeeze of Meyer lemon, Japanese Marukan seasoned vinegar, and a dash of maple syrup. Whisked together and dressed in the salad, the light ingredients were a perfect foil for the rather robust popovers. We drizzled Billy Bee honey on the popovers halves pulled apart and steaming. Somehow, this brand of honey has more body and a taste that is discernably sweeter than other honeys we’ve tried.

It was satisfying to enjoy this simple meal together after all the hard work we had spent doing the rest of the day and also the day before. It was oddly also pleasant to have a holiday where we were free to spend the day on something else.

After cleaning up, G. left to take popovers to a neighbor who had been in an automobile accident earlier in the day; and some for his mother and brother who live across the street. We have three popovers left, perhaps for breakfast, or later for a midnight snack if we’re still up.

So, that’s the popover follow-up I promised. Hope you had a good day too.

popping over . . .

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!