Thursday, September 19, 2013

Popovers on a rainy day

I have seen popover pans in Williams Sonoma since forever.  The picture on the front of them looked scrumptious and pillowy.  (In reality, they are hollow and almost crepe like on the outside.  They remind me a little of sopapillas, yet a little crunchier.)  I can't believe I have gone my whole life without eating them!

It's been a few years before I have thought about making them, but the other day a friend stopped by and asked me if I ever made them because hers were suddenly not rising.  We both blamed the altitude, and I suggested that maybe it was her oven temperature, and then she offered to lend me her pans to try them out myself.  Um, yes!  Of course that sounded like an excellent idea!

My favorite thing about these is their simplicity.  There is a beauty of something that only takes a handful of ingredients and hardly any steps yet turns out so perfectly.

From what I have read, room temperature ingredients are very important.  To bring your milk up to the right temperature, just microwave it for about 30 seconds.  For the eggs, soak them in a warm bowl of water for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425.

Take all of your ingredients-flour, eggs, milk, melted butter, and salt-and put them in a blender.  Blend briefly until everything is combined.

This is what mine looked like.  As you can see, there were some tiny lumps still in the batter.  

Don't try to mix or blend these out because it will make the batter tough.  Instead, pour the batter through a strainer.   

And then, just pour 1/3 cup of the batter into each cup in the popover pan.

Put the pan on the lowest rack in the oven and bake at 425 for 25 minutes.  Then lower the temperature down to 350 for an additional 15 minutes.  Now this is very important:  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.  It messes with the circulation of air that makes the popovers airy and puffy.  Opening the door with make them deflate.

Follow these simple steps and this is what you will get.

Everywhere I have read says that you need to eat them immediately.

Which really shouldn't be a problem.  Crack one open, and see how all the steam escapes from their hollow insides.

And then let some butter melt on it,

or if you want, honey too.

The book says these need to be eaten immediately.  Or they can be wrapped and frozen, then reheated for 15 minutes.  But they will never taste as good as they do right out of the oven.

Problems with Leavening

Back to my friend's original problem of her popovers not rising.  This recipe turned out beautifully.  They rose just like they should and were tender and hollow and delicious.  

Out of curiosity, my husband tried a recipe out of The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.  Beranbaum is THE reason I became a baker.  I have all her books, and she is who sparked my interested in baking almost ten years ago.  Her recipes are sometimes unbearably fussy and precise.   They are almost always worth it.

Anyway, my husband tried her recipe and it didn't work as well.  The popovers didn't rise as fully and were more dense.  There were a couple of differences:

1.  The ingredients are to be put together cold.
2.  There are only two eggs.  

Could that be the reason for the failure to rise?  I do think that without any other leavening ingredients in the recipe, that the three eggs do all the heavy lifting in that department.  I also suspect that the extra egg is why my popovers were light and airy while my husband's were more dense.

Regardless, they were both pretty tasty.  Nice experiment for a rainy day, in any case!

Popover Pan VS Muffin Tin

Does it really make a difference?  Yes, it does!  Popover pans have the cups farther apart from each other, which allows for more air circulation around each popover.  Muffin tins are all close and crowded together, so you won't get the same result.  I have read that if you need to you can fill a muffin tin, but only fill every other one for a total of six in each tin.  

Julia Child's Popovers
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole milk (room temperature)
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs melted butter

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