I am always amazed at those things in life that seem so simple yet tend to take on a life of their own. I’m thinking about an article on popovers I wrote in June, 2013, for the San Francisco Chronicle. Ordinarily when I finish writing an article, I am so tired of the subject that I don’t make the recipes in it for years. But I continue to receive so much mail about that popover article that I am continually reminded of it.
Last week I received an email from an 84 year old woman who has been making popovers for most of her life. She had never seen a recipe that heated the milk before adding it to the batter. I found that adding hot milk to the eggs stabilizes them and adds support to the popover batter. She also had never seen a recipe that bakes the popovers at 375°F. for the entire time. (Many people believe that you need to start baking popovers at a high temperature and then reduce the oven temperature.) She wanted to let me know that the eighty popovers she made for her church group supper were a huge hit.
In researching that article, I discovered that the culinary world is full of popover mavens. I can’t remember ever writing about a food subject that has more “wive’s tales” associated with it than popovers. Here are a few:
Popovers must be started in a hot oven; They must be started in a cold oven.
The empty pan must be heated before filling; The filled pan must be started in a cold oven.
The cups should not be filled more than half full; The cups should be filled almost to the top.
You must not open the oven door or it will cause them to collapse. (I not only open the door, I move them around so they brown evenly.)
The good news is that whichever directions you follow, you will be rewarded with regal popovers. Every maven’s popover recipe will gloriously rise, but some of them will be loftier than others. (Fortunately, unless you are having a popover contest, no one else's popovers will be there for comparison.)
When writing that article, I tested over 25 batches of popovers. I am convinced that I have come up with the ultimate, never-fail, over-the-top popovers. But here is the best news of all: Popovers are even better reheated. Yes! Bake your popovers several hours before serving and then reheat them at 450 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. They will crisp up on the outside, be soft and tender within and look every bit as impressive as when you first made the
OVER THE TOP POPOVERS
This recipe makes 6 large popovers in a standard popover pan or 10 smaller ones in a mini popover pan, a standard muffin tin, or 10 (1/2 cup) custard cups.
1½ cups whole, low-fat or nonfat milk
3 large eggs
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, optional
Heat the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edges of the pan. Or, heat in a microwave until hot, but not boiling.
Mix the eggs in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, by hand with a whisk, in a blender or a food processor, until frothy. While mixing, gradually pour in the hot milk. Add the flour, salt and sugar; mix on low until thoroughly incorporated, scraping down the sides as needed. Mix in the melted butter, if using. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Position a rack in the middle or lower third of the oven. Preheat a conventional oven to 375° or convection oven to 350°. Place the popover pan, standard muffin tin or custard cups in the oven for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven and spray the sides and top edges of cups with pan spray.
Whisk the batter well and divide among the cups, filling almost to the top. Bake until puffed and deeply browned, 35 to 40 minutes for small popovers, 45 to 50 minutes for large ones. The longer they bake, the less they will deflate when you take them out. If they are browning unevenly the last 10 minutes, rotate the pan.
Remove the popovers from the pan and serve immediately.
Or, for crisper popovers, remove them to a rimmed baking sheet where they can be held uncovered for up to 4 hours. Before serving, preheat the oven to 450° and reheat for 3-5 minutes or until hot and crispy.
Makes 6 large or 10 small popovers.