Sunday, February 27, 2011


I first got excited about popovers watching my favorite Christmas movie, Remember the Night, with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. In it, the New York D.A. (MacMurray) gets stuck with a petty thief (Stanwyck) over Christmas. It turns out they're both from Indiana, and he takes her with him to his family farm. There his kindly mother and aunt who, together with a somewhat half-witted hired hand, run one of the most beautiful, clean, homey farms in the Midwest, make her worthy of marrying their dear man.

As part of Stanwyck's rehabilitation, the mother teaches her how to make popovers. Stanwyck paces in front of the oven saying, "Have they popped? Do you think they've popped??" just dying to open the oven door. And when she does, and they have indeed risen up over the pan, she jumps up and down with excitement. Well, after I saw that, I went right out and bought a popover pan!

And there is something magical about pouring eggs, milk, flour and salt in a greased tin and opening the oven door 25 minutes later to find piping hot, golden, risen egg pastries. Today the monastery is electing a prioress, and for some reason I just wanted to make popovers. I haven't made them in years, but the kitchen is put back together and it just seemed right for this day full of expectation.

Steve wondered about their origins, and I said I thought they were an American dish. Where else could the word "popover" come from? And they feel like frontier food-- taking simple ingredients and turning them into a souffle, albeit a much less pretentious souffle-- more like a muffin. Indeed, according to Wikipedia, they are American in origin, adapted from Yorkshire pudding, first appearing in American cookbooks in the 1850s.

Here's the recipe from Epicurious that is about as easy and good as they come. I have to say these were the best-looking and best-tasting popovers I've ever made (see photo!). Note that the real key to popovers is temperature. Pre-heat the pan, make sure the ingredients are at room temperature (I put the milk in the microwave for 15 seconds and the eggs in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.) And do not, no matter how much you're tempted, open the oven while they're baking!

Teatime Perfect Popovers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces

2 large eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Place 1 piece of butter in the bottom of each cup of a six-cup popover tin (or six 1/2-cup custard cups). Place the popover pan on a baking sheet.

In a smaller bowl, lightly whisk the eggs until they change color. Whisk in the milk.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until well blended. Gently whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until only small lumps are left, and set aside.

Place the popover tin and baking sheet in the oven for 4 minutes. At 3 minutes, give the batter a light whisk. Using an oven mitt, remove the hot tin from the oven and immediately divide the batter among the prepared cups. Bake for 25 minutes without opening the oven door. The popovers will be puffy, with crisp brown crusts and hollow, moist interiors. Serve immediately.

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Alison said...

I love, love, love popovers! You've made me very hungry for some but it's much too late to bake now. Maybe tomorrow....

Tartrazina said...

niiice! i've been a bit cup-cake obsessed this month! not to eat them, jus the baking! but now i shall try popovers - never heard of them till here! but i do like Yorkshire pud, so looking fwd to these :-D