Daily Archives: October 7, 2007

The problem with popovers

Single plain popover

The Jordan Pond Tea House makes what I presume to be the world’s best popover. The problem with popovers is that they don’t last; they must be consumed quickly, before the steam inside weighs down the network of airy holes and forces them to collapse. At Jordon Pond, they seem to have little men churning popovers out in a consistent stream, so every time one lands on your plate, it’s still hot, huge, and gorgeous. It carries a tinge of sweetness, and welcomes a good dose of butter and blueberry jam.

My friend Amy recently sent me her mother’s popover recipe. She said they didn’t have to be made in a popover pan, that they could simply be baked in a muffin pan. But the more I thought about popovers, about their shape at Jordan Pond, and remembered my maternal grandmother making them (never from a recipe), the more I began to lean toward buying the proper pan. By definition, a popover has a narrow bottom and a top that puffs up and falls over to the side a bit, and I just didn’t imagine getting that same romantic shape out of a muffin tin.

So I bought one, justifying shelling out $20 by promising myself I’d find other uses for it, and tried her recipe.

I had visions of bacon- and chive-studded popovers, like bacon-chive biscuits, only airier. The first batch gave me five runty popovers – there wasn’t enough batter in each cup; they didn’t even make it above the top of the pan. The egg flavor didn’t pop, either. For the second batch, I filled just three of the six tins (one wasn’t as full as the other two), increased the salt, and got two gigantic, puffy popovers, and one runt. Then I doubled the batter, used bacon grease instead of butter, and sprinkled bacon and chives in at the last minute. Result: heavy-bottomed popovers, lined with bacon bits at the bottom, and not nearly as light as they should have been. I ditched the bacon idea. Then I remembered the orange honey-glazed brioche I nibbled on for breakfast at Salish last week, and made the larger batch, with increased salt and a smidge of orange oil, and served them with a cinnamon- and orange-spiked honey for drizzling.

Much better.

Popovers in the pan

Orange-Scented Popovers with Cinnamon-Orange Honey (PDF)
Recipe 280 of 365

Popovers can be picky: they like to go into a hot pan, so put yours into the oven when you start to mix the batter. Also, don’t be tempted to open the oven door when you turn the temperature down, as directed below.

My friend Amy’s mother, whose recipe this is based on, says the secret to high popovers is starting with room-temperature (or slightly warm) eggs and milk.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 6 popovers

1 1/2 cups warm (but not hot) milk
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon orange oil (or 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest)
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When hot, put a 6-cup popover pan in to heat.

In a small bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together until just blended. Whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl, and set both aside.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. When melted, mix the batter: add the milk and eggs to the flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and half orange oil to the batter, and whisk again. Working quickly, take the pan out of the oven, brush the tins generously with the remaining butter (even if the pan is nonstick – you might not use it all), and divide the batter between the six cups, filling each almost to the brim.

Popover batter

Bake the popovers for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake another 20 to 25 minutes. (The popovers will appear done after the first 20 minutes or so; the second part of the baking process dries out their insides and gives them their characteristically holey interior.)

While the popovers bake, mix the remaining oil, honey, and cinnamon in a small bowl – the mixture will be thick. Serve popovers piping hot, with the honey for drizzling and an extra schmear of butter, if you’d like.

Popover with Cinnamon-Orange honey


Filed under Breakfast, kitchen adventure, recipe