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Tips for Making Perfect Popovers

In honor of Valentine’s Day I thought I’d share the recipe for the most loved breakfast dish we make – popovers! We make popovers on a regular basis here at our Inn as part of our three course candlelight farm-to-table breakfast. I used to worry about repeating breakfast items for return guests, but as it turns out popovers are also our most frequently requested breakfast item, especially by return guests.

What is a popover you ask? Similar to England’s famed Yorkshire pudding, but typically lighter and less dense. Although muffin pans can be used to make popovers, a popover pan is much deeper than a traditional muffin pan and creates a much more spectacular result. Bottom heat from your oven creates steam within the egg batter causing it to “pop” up and over the top of the pan creating a thin, hollow custardy “bread”. If you’ve never had a popover they really are worth seeking out and trying – piping hot, fresh from the oven, try them sweet as in slathered with sweet cream butter and homemade jam, maple syrup or honey or savory stuffed with herbed scrambled eggs and sausage (my favorite version of a breakfast sandwich).

History of our popover recipe: I did not grow up eating popovers, but many years ago before we opened our bed and breakfast some friends we were visiting made them for us for breakfast and I was immediately smitten. The recipe Amy shared with me came from a 1996 issue of Gourmet Magazine. I’ve tried recipes too numerous to count since then, but have returned time and time again to this simple version and no longer bother to look for anything different.

Contrary to popular belief, popovers are truly easy to make they just happen to be susceptible to failure at certain points which popover recipes never seem to point out or explain. As you’ll see on Epicurious, this recipe does not get the highest reviews as written, but I’ve learned a few things in the hundreds of times I’ve made this recipe that I think make all the difference.

My slightly tweaked version of Classic Popovers:

  1. 2 extra large (or 3 large) farm fresh eggs

  2. ¾ cup 2% milk

  3. ¼ cup water

  4. 1 Tbsp. butter, melted

  5. 1 cup minus 2Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour

  6. ½ tsp. kosher salt

This recipe makes 6 popovers.

My tweaks that make this recipe stand out: First of all, in my opinion, farm fresh pasture-raised eggs are a world apart from their supermarket cousins especially when it comes to taste. I feel very fortunate to live in a place where we can raise our own eggs so I have a steady supply on hand, but if you don’t they’re well worth seeking out.

I always choose the largest eggs I have available to make my popovers and if I don’t have any extra large eggs on hand I add an extra egg to each batch.

Make sure your oven rack is in the lower third of the oven – typically not the lowest rack but the next one up. This will give you the bottom heat the popovers need to create the steam to make them rise without so much heat that the bottom half of your popovers over cook.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a small amount of cooking oil (@ 1/2 tsp.) in each well of the popover pan and preheat in the oven while you prepare the batter. It’s nearly impossible to find a non-stick popover pan and the use of cooking spray will literally eat the non-stick coating off of your pan (trust me on this one).

Keep your oven temperature consistent. Many recipes I see tell you to preheat your oven and cook the popovers at a higher temperature for the first ½ of cooking time and then reduce the temperature for the second half. This really isn’t necessary and I strongly believe the simpler the recipe is the easier it will be for you to be successful. Do however keep your oven door closed to maintain temperature and increase the chances of high-rise popovers.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and water then add melted butter. Add the flour and salt and mix until well combined. Small lumps are ok. Pour batter into hot pan dividing equally among wells. Bake 40 minutes or until tops are evenly golden brown. Enjoy immediately.

That’s all there is to it – no reason to ever buy a mix!

Some thoughts and reasons I made changes to the original recipe: Most popover recipes call for whole milk. The highest rising popover I’ve made comes when using 2% milk. I’ve even used 1% and skim milk with better results than whole. My theory is that the fat in whole milk weighs the batter down and keeps the popover from rising to its full potential.

One of the big differences between this recipe and others I’ve found is that in this recipe for every cup of liquid you use ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup water instead of 1 cup milk (again lightening the batter for greater rise?).

Similarly, this recipe calls for removing 2 Tbsp. of flour from each cup when other recipes call for a full cup of flour. Popovers made with more flour will create a denser muffin-like popover without as much hollow space to fill with yummy goodness.

The last place I stray from the original recipe is when it instructs you to take the popovers out of the oven after 45 minutes, slit the tops and return to the oven to cook for an additional 10 minutes. Slitting the top will allow the steam to escape from the popover and the additional cook time in the oven will “dry” out the popover so it doesn’t collapse when it cools, but in my opinion this extra cook time also takes with it much of the flavor. I cook my popovers @ 40 minutes until the tops are evenly golden brown and then remove them from the oven, slit the tops and serve immediately. Yes, they’re more likely to collapse, but then again they usually aren’t around long enough to do so and taste infinitely better when not dried out.

We love the simplicity of this popover recipe and prefer adding our favorite flavors and additions to the finished popover rather than making “flavored” popovers. In my experience, popovers made with cheese in the batter never rise the same as plain popovers and my family loves popovers that rise super high so they have an extra large cavity for filling (a higher rising popover, in my opinion, also has a better crispy shell to eggy interior ratio as opposed to a denser popovers). Our one exception to this “plain is better” rule is when we add a handful of chocolate chips to the center of the batter just before placing in the oven (do not stir). This results in a version similar to a chocolate filled croissant as the popover rises as usual and the chocolate stays melted in the middle.

Popovers are never as good as when they first come out of the oven so go ahead and indulge while they’re steaming hot! The record of popovers eaten at one sitting (along with a full breakfast) here at the Inn is 5½! I dare you to try and break it! Should you have any leftover popovers they’re also good as a substitute for bread in your favorite sandwich, served filled with a stew or creamed chicken and on my list to try is a guests’ suggestion of filling them with ice cream and hot fudge sauce!

Of course, if you’d rather not try your hand at making your own you’re always welcome to request popovers when you visit our New Hampshire farm stay where we’re more than happy to take breakfast requests, especially for popovers! Enjoy!

Jackie, Innkeeper at the Inn at Valley Farms

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