Popovers are one of my favourite foods to make and serve, especially as the first course in an afternoon tea, with butter and fruit preserves. The first time I recall having them at tea was outdoors on the lawn at Jordan Pond House, on a trip to Maine in 1993, though we may have had them in England earlier than that. I remember scones in the UK, which I don’t like nearly as well, though they do go down a treat with clotted cream.
I have most often made popovers, on request, when a friend and her family (also friends) come to visit, because the daughter in particular likes popovers and/or perhaps the ritual of eating them.
Kim O’Donnel at WaPo tackles popovers today in her column. She mentions that there are many different popover recipes and philosophies, which I have also found to be true. Joy of Cooking mentions the same thing: “Everyone enthusiastically gives us a favorite popover recipe, and all are equally enthusiastic, but contradictory, about baking advice.”
The recipe I use — which is Susan Branch’s, in Notes From a Vineyard Kitchen — is almost identical to O’Donnel’s, except that for Branch’s recipe the oven temperature is lower, the cooking time is longer — and Branch’s recipe serves 12 while O’Donnel’s serves 6; the difference is whether you use a regular muffin pan or a dedicated popover tin, with deeper cups. (They work fine in a regular muffin tin.)
Other variances I’ve noted in reading popover recipes over the years include whether to preheat the oven or to start cold, how high the oven temperature should be set to start and whether to reduce it at some point in the process, and how long to bake the popovers: suggested times range from a total of 25 minutes to 50. To wit:
- Joy of Cooking starts at with a temp of 450F and after 15 minutes reduces to 350F for another 20 minutes; Martha Stewart does the same.
- Cinnamon Mornings by Lanier starts at 450F for 15 mins, then reduces to 375F for 30 mins.
- Great Food Without Fuss by McCullough and Witt (which has a number of good bread recipes) emphatically says not to preheat the oven and to bake at 400F for 40 minutes, or, for drier popovers — why? — at 375F for 50 mins; I found that 400F at 30 minutes works best for their recipe.
- Fifty Ways to Cook Most Everything by Schloss (which I rely on for cooking rather than baking) recommends 450F for 15 mins, then 375F for 10 mins more, the briefest cooking time I’ve found.
- Paula Deen (at Food Network) bakes for 30 minutes at 450F.
- Beard on Bread doesn’t include popovers. Can’t find them in any of the five Moosewood cookbooks I have, either.
Two things everyone agrees on: don’t overmix the batter, and serve them right away.
I’m baking chocolate chip cookies as I type this and it’s confusing my brain to smell one delicacy while thinking about another…
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