Thursday Gourmet — Popovers25 June, 2009
My mother grew up in the Boston area. One of her family dishes, a good New England dish (though I’ve also read that they are popular in, of all places, Arkansas) — popovers. One day, my mom announced that she would be making this family specialty. She had made them before, when we lived at Death Valley, and I vaguely remembered how good they were.
She neglected to consider that we were no longer living at sea level (Death Valley) but were now about 7,000 feet (2100 metres) above sea level — Grand Canyon, Arizona. That meant, of course, high altitude recipes for cookies, cakes, even boiled eggs and pasta (water boils at a lower temperature, so things cook more slowly). Popovers depend upon expanding steam to give them loft. At high altitude? Hockey pucks. No air bubbles at all. Weapons. Anyway, here is the recipe:
1.5 cups flour (I use a blend of bread flour and unbleached/unbromated all-purpose flour)
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups milk
1.5 Tablespoons salad oil (not olive oil, but corn, rapeseed, or something like that)
3 medium eggs
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit). Grease and flour 8 to 12 tins (if you have popover pans (the ones in the photo: deep and held together with heavy wire)
this recipe will make 8 popovers. If you are using a muffin tin, it will make a dozen smaller ones. I confess that I use the flour and oil spray, far easier than using butter, tossing in the flour and then tossing the flour out. Place an inch of warm water in any tins which are not being used.
Place the mile in a large mixing bowl. Put it in the microwave for a minute to a minute-and-a-half (it should be warm, but not hot (if you have ever heated milk for a baby, a little warmer than that)). Put the eggs in the milk (without the shells!) and whip with a wire whisk until combined. Add the oil and salt and mix again. Add the flour and whisk it together until almost smooth. Do not beat it too long — it will start to activate the gluten which will ruin the popovers.
Pour the batter into the tins. It should come up about 1/2 of the way up the popover tin or 2/3 of the way up the muffin tins. Place in the oven and let it bake for about 20 to 30 minutes. Take them out when the outer shell is a medium caramel brown. They should be crispy on the outside, soft and custardy on the inside, with a large (I mean LARGE) cavity in the middle.
If you are having them for breakfast, serve with butter, honey, strawberry or blueberry preserves, or maple sugar (or combinations thereof). If served as a dinner roll, serve them with butter, or butter and honey.
I have had good luck whisking in a half-cup of finely shredded Asiago or Reggiano Parmesan cheese (omit the salt) and add a little more on top of the poured dough. A good sharp yellow cheddar will also work. I’ve also sprinkled a quarter cup of cleaned fresh wild blueberries over the poured batter — they sink in and make for a nice surprise. If you are serving them with, say, a nice pot roast, add some finely ground herbs which complement whatever you are using on the meat.
A good popover should have a 3 to inch puffed head and a cup-shaped bottom. There is no polite way to eat them. Just tear them apart, pour on the toppings, and eat.