What is a popover and why are Americans so fascinated with them? I know that I am and I have many friends who drool over the thought of a hot popover, fresh from the oven, slathered with butter and jam.
Popovers have even been the inspiration for Dr. Suess prose and his witty advice for children (and adults.)
“My uncle ordered popovers from the restaurant's bill of fare.
And, when they were served, he regarded them with a penetrating stare.
Then he spoke great words of wisdom as he sat there on that chair:
"To eat these things," said my uncle, "You must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what's solid, but you must spit out the air!"
And as you partake of the world's bill of fare, that's darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air. And be careful what you swallow.” ~Dr. Suess
Some food historians believe that the popover is an American invention, fashioned after England’s famous Yorkshire Pudding. It is named a “popover” because when it rises, filled with air, it pops over on its side.
The popover has been the signature item for many eateries like the once popular Popover Café in upper Manhattan where New Yorkers and visitors alike (many world-famous) lined the sidewalk for over 30 years to enjoy the famous, hollow muffin served with strawberry butter.
At the legendary old seafood restaurant, Anthony’s Pier 4, that for many years overlooked Boston’s historic harbor, trays of popovers made their way around the restaurant to anticipating diners.
If you had brunch at Neiman’s Zodiac Room (a Christmas tradition in our area) you started the gastronomical experience with a popover and a cup of broth. As delicious and varied as the buffet, for me, the popover and broth was the highlight of the meal.
You will find popovers on the menu at local Dream Cafes. One of my favorites is the quick lunch of a popover filled with tuna or chicken salad which proves the versatility of a popover.
Let’s make the light, airy roll today at home and not wait for a special occasion or eating out at a restaurant that serves them.
Many people are intimidated by the thought—probably because the “over the top” high rise of the roll makes one think immediately of “failure.” This is not true— popovers are really easy when it comes to the bread family. They require very limited ingredients and time, two pluses in today’s busy world.
Special equipment is not even a must (some people bake them in a muffin tin or custard cups) but I do prefer a popover pan. Mine is a non-stick designated popover pan that I purchased at Sur La Table. You can buy a popover pan at many kitchen supply stores and on-line.
There are varying recipes for popovers, but the ingredients are all very similar. One controversy is the cooking method of starting the popover in a hot or cold oven. I follow Food Network chef, Ina Garten’s advice— “There are three secrets to great popovers: Make sure the pan is hot before you pour in the batter, fill each section not more than half full and no peeking while they're in the oven!”
Always a must when baking is to have your ingredients measured and ready. Milk and eggs should be at room temperature, butter melted, additional butter for greasing the tins softened and the oven pre-heated. As Ina would ask, “How easy is that?”
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for greasing pans
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Generously grease two popover pans with softened butter. You'll need enough pans to make 12 popovers. Place the pans in the oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat. Whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be thin. Fill the popover pans half full and bake for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door before the end of cooking time.
- When done, pierce with an ice pick or similar tool to let the steam escape. Remove the popovers from pan. The popovers should easily slip out.
- Recipe makes 12 popovers, but I have successfully halved the recipe and made one pan of six.
Serve hot with butter and jam, or cool and fill with tuna or chicken salad. There are many ways to enjoy a popover. If you are making Sunday roast or a special occasion beef tenderloin, add a tad of meat drippings to the pan before adding the batter and you will have the traditional Yorkshire Pudding to serve with your dinner.
I think that I will fill one with a scrambled egg for breakfast.