Popovers are another one of those mystic foods that seems impossibly tricky until you give them a go for yourself. I tried out this recipe a few afternoons ago; I had a bit of time on my hands and was looking for something to bake with my less-than-impressive grocery supply (a trip to the store is very much needed. Ooph). With three eggs, a half stick of butter, flour, salt and milk, I had just enough ingredients for a half batch of popovers from the NYT cookbook. You’ve got to love a recipe that sticks with the essentials.
Here’s the truly wonderful thing about popovers: Despite their humble beginnings as a light-colored mixture that’s about as exciting as pancake batter, they rise to the occasion like royalty, fluffing up over the pan in an impressive feat of gravity, with a beautiful golden airiness that seems far more fitting to a lovely bakery miles and miles away than your own modest kitchen. Yet there they are, popped to perfection and flaky to boot, just waiting to be slathered with jam or drizzled with honey. And eaten with love. Mmm…
Maida Heatter’s Preheated-Oven Popovers
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Amanda Hesser, p. 657)
• 6 large eggs
• 2 cups whole milk [Note: I didn’t have whole milk, so I made a heavy-cream-and-skim-milk combo instead: To substitute 1 cup whole milk, I put 1 ½ tablespoons of heavy cream in 1-cup measuring cup and filled the rest with skim milk.]
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter 10 4-ounce custard cups and place on a baking sheet. (I used a muffin pan instead; this recipe will make about 12 muffin-pan-sized popovers.)
Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl, and add the milk and butter. Gradually stir in the flour and salt. Beat just until mixture is smooth (don’t overbeat). If the mixture isn’t smooth, strain it. Pour the mixture into a pitcher, and then pour into the custard cups, filling cups almost to the top.
Bake for 50 minutes (or about 40 minutes if using muffin pan). Do not open the oven while the popovers are baking. After 50 (or 40) minutes, cut several slits in the top of each popover, and return to the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes. Immediately remove the popovers from the cups.
These popovers are so buttery delicious, they really only need a dot of jam or honey to turn them into a perfect treat. It might also be good to take a savory spin with them. Maybe by adding a sharp cheese like Gruyere? Or fresh herbs like thyme or chives? Back to the drawing board!
What do you whip up in your kitchens when the cabinets are nearly bare? Any super basic recipes that are your tried-and-true fallbacks that use the basic ingredients you always have on hand? Any simple recipes that look and taste far more complicated than they actually are? Let’s hear it!