Popovers – when they work – are one of the easiest and most impressive quick breads. When they don’t work they often wind up as a doughy lump that no one wants to eat.
There has been a lot written about what it takes to make a successful popover.
Some insist that the oven needs to be hot. Others say it works just as well to start the popovers in a cold oven. Still others say that the batter needs to be poured into a hot pan before it is put in the oven. I have not done an exhaustive study of the issue, but for me pouring room-temperature batter into a pan that has been heated in the oven as the oven gets to baking temperature has always worked.
Some say that you should only use a special popover pan, usually with six cups. Others say a 12-place muffin pan works better and you wind up with twice as many popovers. Again, I haven’t done a scientific study, but either seems to work just fine.
Some say that the pans must be heavily buttered with at least a tablespoon of butter in each cup. Others say that a little salad oil in each cup works just fine. I have tried both, and while I don’t know the real food chemistry, I believe that a good coat of a solid fat like butter is important to let the batter creep up the sides of the cup. I have had successes and failures with oil, but a good coating of butter (although not the mega dose that some recipes call for) always seems to work.
Some say that a lower constant baking temperature works just as well as a beginning hot temperature reduced to a lower temperature. I favor the latter. I’ve watched through an oven window with the light on many times, and the popping seems to be over at the end of 15-20 minutes of high temperature baking. The lower temperature crisps the popovers without burning them.
Some say you should pierce the popover half way through the baking to make sure the inside loses its “eggy” consistency and flavor. I think that can be dealt with by just baking the popovers a little longer.
You can use different flours or add a teaspoon of grated cheese or other flavoring, but the popovers will probably not rise as impressively.
Finally, I also believe that a well-mixed smooth batter at room temperature is key to success.
Here are some popovers Carol and I made during our recent visit in her home.
- unsalted butter to coat the baking cups generously (6-space popover pan or 12-space muffin pan)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup milk (whole, 2%, 1%, or skim will all work)
- 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
- Generously coat the cups of the preferred baking tin with butter. Place in the middle of the oven and turn the oven on to 450°F to heat the pan and the oven.
- In the meantime, Combine the four and salt in a 4-cup measuring cup or a large mixing bowl with a pouring spout.
- Beat the eggs until light and well-mixed. Stir in the milk and butter. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.
- With a whisk or mixer beat the batter for a minute or two until well-blended and smooth.
- When the oven has reached temperature, remove the heated baking pan to a trivet or heat-proof surface.
- Fill each baking cup 1/3 to 1/2 full, distributing the batter evenly to all cups. If you misjudge and run out of batter, you can use a large spoon, moving quickly to redistribute the batter more evenly. Return the filled baking pan to the middle of the oven
- Bake undisturbed for 20 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven. Loosen each popover by running a thin knife around the edge, and transfer to a serving basket. Serve immediately while still warm, with lots of butter and/or jam.
- Yields 6 popovers baked in a popover pan or 12 popovers baked in a muffin pan.