Popovers: A Kitchen Experiment
In response to a reader request, the popover is the subject of today's little ditty.
The popover, ladies and gents, is a culinary relic, a descendant of Yorkshire pudding, the 18th-century English batter pudding seasoned with meat drippings and originally eaten with gravy (before the meat course) to help curb the appetite.
By the next century, the popover made its way into kitchens on this side of the Atlantic, albeit smaller and more of a handheld treat that could be eaten for breakfast. In fact, the first documented popover recipe in this country appeared in Mary Newton Foote Henderson's 1876 cookbook, "Practical Cooking and Dinner Giving, " in which she refers to them as "breakfast puffs or pop-overs."
Simple and straightforward, the batter is primarily composed of milk, flour and at least two eggs, which act as the chief leavening agent (unless of course, you decide to add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, which would be worth trying). The result is eggy and (ideally) light and tender, but instead of a brioche, it's hollow rather than dense. This is not quite a roll, not quite a quiche -- in fact, I'd liken it to a savory Ã©clair (which is made from the eggy pâte à choux).
As I researched recipes (including two reader contributions -- thank you!), I quickly discovered that for nearly every cook there is a different school of popover thought. I read a dizzying array of recipes, each with its own playbook, including varying amounts of eggs (from two to six) and flour, a range of baking temperatures, plus the addition of sugar, baking powder and/or melted butter.
One rule that all cooks seem to agree on is to keep the oven door closed -- no peeking! -- for the first 30 minutes of baking. The popovers rely on the enclosed environment for proper rising, so curious cats please take a chill pill. I also noticed most recipes suggesting the preheating of the muffin pan, which also encourages a rapid rise.
My popover experience thus far remains limited to the recipe below, from the very reliable "Simple Soirees" by Peggy Knickerbocker, who grew up making Saturday morning popovers with her father. The recipe is easy enough to tweak and tinker with; next time I might try adding baking powder and a little bit of ground mustard for flavor.
At minute 32, my popovers were indeed puffed, crowned and golden. In hindsight, I would have kept them in the oven for five more minutes, as they were just a tad wet on the inside (but nonetheless delicious).
If you're making these to go with supper, make sure everything else is ready to go because the popovers need to be served immediately before they start sagging (which happens when you're not looking).
Now it's your turn. If popovers are part of your repertoire, share your tried-and-true tricks and tips, or variations. I would love to hear if anyone has ever done a "toad in the hole" or added cheese successfully.
Today is chat day; join me and the other merrymakers at Noon ET for another round of What's Cooking.
Adapted from "Simple Soirees" by Peggy Knickerbocker
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
A few tablespoons melted butter or your favorite non-dairy spread to grease pan
Equipment: Popover pan, 6-cup cast-iron or heavy aluminum muffin pan
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Remove top rack from oven; popovers will be baked on lower rack.
Place muffin pan in oven and preheat for at least five minutes.
Meanwhile, combine flour, milk, salt and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk or beat until smooth.
Remove pan from oven and immediately generously grease insides of each muffin cup with melted fat (I like to use a silicone brush to do this). Using a ladle or a lipped measuring cup, pour batter into prepared muffin cups until halfway full.
Bake for at least 30 minutes, and up to 40 minutes. Don't peek before the 30-minute mark!
Remove from oven and serve immediately; popovers will fall before your very eyes.
Makes six popovers.
By Kim ODonnel |
February 26, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
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