Popovers aren’t really that difficult, but they take some time to get right. Using the recipe that came with out popover pan produced OK results, but nothing good enough for company. Well, Marlene Sorosky Gray tried out recipes and variations and published them in the Hearst papers last week.
In the spirit of making sure that her experiments could be replicated, we tried her recipe and two variations, carefully photographing them so you could see how they differed.
Probably the single most important finding in her experiments was that the batter needs to sit overnight to allow the gluten in the flour to relax. This can be depressing if you are in a hurry, but we try out two short cuts as well. Here is our take on the basic recipe, which will make 6 giant popovers, or perhaps 8-10 in smaller muffin pans.
We had always mixed our popover batter in a blender, but we found that whisking it together in a bowl is more efficient. It mixes more uniformly and is generally easier to handle.
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups milk (we used 1%)
- 3 Tb butter, unsalted if available
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- Nonstick spray
- Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and set aside
- Melt the butter in the microwave. We used 1 minute at 50% power.
- Heat the milk in the microwave until just starting to bubble. For us, that was 75 seconds.
- Break the 3 eggs into a bowl and beat with a whisk. Then whisk in the warm milk.
- Add the butter and whisk until smooth.
- Put the batter in a covered container and refrigerate overnight.
- An hour or more before serving, preheat the oven to 375º F.
- Then, just before baking, heat the popover pan or muffin tin in the oven for 3 minutes.
- Spray each cup of the pan thoroughly with nonstick spray.
- Divide the batter among the cups, so they are each about 3/4 full. For our popover pan, we put about 1/3 cup of batter in each cup and then went around adding half of the 1/3 cup measure more, so the total was about 1/2 cup each.
- Bake the popovers for about 45 minutes. You want them to be pretty dark on the outside, so that they are firm enough that you can rewarm them if you need to without their collapsing.
Serve with butter and jam. You can also cut them open and fill them with chicken salad, but this seems an awful waste of a good popover. We prefer our chicken salad alongside the popover.
If you don’t have the time for batter to relax overnight, you can try a couple of other approaches. We tried two ways to speed this up to compare the results.
First, we reduce the batter rest time to one hour, and used the same recipe in every respect. As you can see in the slideshow, the popovers are tall, but many of them have holes in the top or the side. They tasted the same, though.
A second common variation is to use granular Gold Medal Wondra Flour instead of conventional flour. Wondra Flour is designed to be quick dissolving, and thus suitable for thickening sauces and the like. It is made by heating flour with steam and then drying it out and grinding finely. The gluten has thus already been partially “cooked.”
A number of popover recipes suggest using Wondra as a shortcut, so we made a batch of popovers using Wondra, and letting the batter rest only one hour. As you can see from the photos, these popovers rose a bit less and tended to have holes in the tops, too, but in general seemed a bit better than the one hour popovers.
Both the one hour conventional and the one hour Wondra versions were less well formed: instead of being a tall cylinder with a round puffy top, the tops were much more random in shape.
For a group photo, we took a typical 24 hour popover and compared it with one of the most uniform looking 1 hour and Wondra versions. Then we cut them open to see they looked inside for another group photo. From the cut open photo, it is clear that the 24 hour version is the best formed, and that the Wondra version looks a little better than the 1 hour version.
Our conclusion is that the best popovers come from resting the batter overnight, up to 24 hours, the second best from the Wondra flour and the third choice is the one hour resting batter. But honestly, all of them are pretty good.
You can actually make popovers ahead of time and reheat them pretty effectively. To push this to the extreme, we put all our leftover popovers in zip lock bags overnight. We tried reheating them in the microwave, but this gives you somewhat soggy popovers. Instead, reheat them on a baking sheet in a 450 F oven for 3 minutes. This works very well.