Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Possiblity of Popovers

It was only a matter of time. 
Now, I’m asking, “Why did I wait so long?”
We are talking about popovers. I think my resistance to the possibility of popovers had a lot to do with their quirky and mysterious do's and don'ts that in my mind translated into too much work and too much risk for too little reward. Cooking them in a greasy hot pan only to watch them rapidly deflate seemed neither productive nor exciting.

On the other hand, I am deeply intrigued by anything that's mostly egg, milk, flour, and a little butter. There’s something utterly basic and perfectly satisfying about this combination that places me immediately in my comfort zone.

When Cook’s Country aired a recent PBS program on No Fail Make Ahead Popovers, they had my attention and yet I didn’t want to wait around for my next roast beef to make it happen, so I set the recipe aside.

It took a big pot of Black-Eyed Pea Soup on the heels of the popover program that would create the right conditions for the possibility of popovers to finally register. I had planned to bake a pan of cornbread but was short on cornmeal; in a fit of inspiration I pulled out the popover recipe and gave it another look.

Very much along the lines of crepes the batter is whisked together, and then it rests a bit before baking. Of course by now, the prerequisite popover pans that I held onto for years are long gone, but I’m assured that my muffin pan will work just fine. The batter is poured into the greased and floured tins, baked in a hot oven until the popover structure is set, then the heat is reduced and they bake in a slow oven until firm, crispy and brown. They are then poked with a skewer, returned to the oven to remove any persisting moisture, poked again, and allowed to cool slightly. Beyond an investment of about 2½ hours I had nothing to loose.

Actually, the 2½ hours passes quickly--because the popovers become their own entertainment. One of the rules in popover baking is not to open the oven or they may collapse; another rule. This is one of those times when an oven window and light are just about essential. In very short order the popovers begin to brown lightly and the edges set inward. As if watching flowers unfurl and blossom, they begin to balloon out and expand upward. Mesmerized, all eyes are glued to the oven door. It’s an amazing sight from which I could hardly pry myself away.

As the popovers rise and begin to set, an egg-y pancake-like aroma ebbs over the kitchen. I’m imagining how great these would be for breakfast: make the batter ahead… in the morning slide them into a hot oven… get my day organized… and return for the popover climax. The smell alone would surely draw the most unconscious out of bed.

Every word of Cook’s recipe turns out to be true. They do not collapse, and they heat up beautifully. Beyond that, the interiors have a warm eye-rolling custardy texture and outside they are lovely, crisp and tender. I pulled out the black cherry preserves--but apple butter, marmalade, strawberry or any other favorite jam would be worthy of these delights. Suddenly, the possibilities appear endless.  Bet you can’t eat just one.

Perfect Popovers
Courtesy of Cookscountry.com

3 eggs, room temperature
2 cups milk, warmed
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled a bit
2 cups bread flour, or all purpose
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

In large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar.

In separate bowl, whisk eggs until foamy; whisk in butter, then the milk.

Whisk 3/4 of milk mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain; then whisk in remaining liquid. Transfer the batter to a large measuring cup for easy pouring and let stand 1 hour. Can be refrigerated and brought to room temperature.

Adjust rack to lower 1/3 of oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Grease 6 popover tins or 10 muffin cups with vegetable shortening, dust with flour. Whisk batter lightly to recombine then pour into tins, filling almost to rims.

- Bake until they begin to brown, about 20 minutes; this is important because they can fall if not firm at this point.

- Without opening oven door, lower heat to 300 degrees and bake additional 35-40 minutes, until golden brown all over. Remove from oven and poke small hole in top of each with a skewer.

- Bake about 10 minutes longer, until deep golden brown. Remove to wire rack and poke again; cool 2 minutes and turn out. Serves 6-10, depending on size.

Note: once completely cooled, they can be stored at room temperature in zip lock bag for 2 days. To serve, reheat for 5-8 minutes in 400 degree oven. (I've microwaved individual servings about 1 min., they puffed up nd were excellent.)

1 comments:

ChyAnn said...

You crack me up! LOL xoxo

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