Lost in the drone of a blender during a day of recipe testing recently, I realized that the technique I was using to make batch after batch of crêpes could easily be applied to popovers. Long a favorite of mine, popovers were always a little too messy and time consuming to attempt on a busy weeknight—they seemed a better fit with a slow weekend brunch or an elegant roast beef dinner.
While I realize that making popovers in a blender isn’t a big deal, it did change my whole attitude about baking them. Using a blender means my prep time is thinned to less than five minutes, with cleanup all but complete by the time the oven is heated. The blender allows me to whiz in a few flavor variations to jazz up the traditional popover. And now popovers work for me as a refreshing change of pace from rolls or bread for the weeknight dinner plate.
With no straining, making popover batter couldn’t be easier
I have a difficult time deciding which part of the popover is my favorite: the crisp, buttery exterior or the webbed, custard-like interior. The one thing of which I’m certain is how incredibly easy they are to make. The ingredients (milk, eggs, flour, butter, mustard) are already staples in nearly everyone’s pantries, and the master recipe takes only about twenty seconds to combine in a blender. Just slide your empty popover (or muffin) tins into the oven, crank up the heat, blend the batter, pour it into the hot tins, and bake. It’s really that simple. The blender makes the batter silky smooth and free of lumps, so there’s no need for straining.
For a big puff, start with room-temperature ingredients
As far as I can tell, there are as many different methods for baking popovers as there are cooks with unique taste buds. I’ve monkeyed around with everything from fluctuating oven temperatures to using all sorts of pans and all sorts of preparations. After all the experimentation, I’m thrilled with my results and steadfast in my method.
Early on in my testing, I did incorporate the advice of a friend into my method. She told me her secret to the puffiest popovers is room temperature ingredients—and I absolutely agree. In fact, I’d go so far as to say your ingredients must be at room temperature before blending. This way, the batter receives that important initial burst of oven heat, which ensures the biggest pop. If the batter is cold when it goes into the oven, the heat value is lost on warming it up, and your pop will flop.
Of course, on a busy weeknight, few people have the time or foresight to allow milk or eggs to come to room temperature. Try this: use a microwave oven to melt the butter and to warm the milk. Also, putting the eggs in a bowl of warm water is a good way to warm them up.
Blend, pour, and pop in the oven
A hot and steady oven temperature means crisp, strong popovers
My baking technique, while not unique, delivers terrific puff, a crisp browned exterior, and that lovely custardy interior that I adore. I always begin by putting the pans in the oven and cranking up the heat—to 450°F, to be exact. I leave it this hot for the whole baking time. I know that sounds really high for such delicate creatures as popovers, but they must have that quick blast of heat for their lofty puff. Maintaining this high heat creates crisp shells and helps keep the popovers tall and strong once they’re out of the oven. Whatever you do, don’t peek. Once the batter has been poured into the hot pans, pop them back into the oven immediately and close the door. As with a soufflé, keep the oven door closed; there can be absolutely no peeking or the popovers might collapse. The popovers also need to bake long enough to set sufficiently. You might be tempted to pull them out of the oven when they reach that golden brown stage, but let them go for just a minute or two longer, until they darken to a more uniform brown. At this point, they’re cooked, but if you like popovers with a dry center, you can turn off the oven and let them sit there for a few more minutes.
No popover pan? Try a muffin tin.
I like deep, nonstick popover pans for spectacular puff— they create towering, highrise affairs with crusty, wellbrowned exteriors. As these pans are relatively inexpensive (www.kitchenemporium.com sells Chicago Metallic 6-cup popover pans for $16.95) and produce great results, they’re a good investment. But if you don’t have popover pans, use nonstick muffin tins. Popovers made in them will still be buttery and crisp, but just a bit smaller. Just be sure the muffin tins are nonstick, as popovers will stick to aluminum tins no matter how much you grease them.
Add herbs or cheese for variety
Once I had the popover basics down pat, I discovered that it’s easy to riff off the original recipe. Depending on my mood and what I’m serving, I’ll blend some chopped herbs or a bit of soft or grated cheese (such as goat cheese or Parmesan) into the popover batter. The herb popovers spice up a plain meal; you can match the selection of herbs to what you’re eating. Cheese popovers don’t puff quite as high as those made from the master recipe, but their intense flavor is a worthwhile tradeoff.
After blending all the ingredients in the master recipe, add 1/3 cup lightly packed chopped fresh herbs (any combination will do, but my favorite is half chives and half basil), pulse the blender, and continue with the directions.
Add 2 oz. (about 2/3 cup) finely grated fresh Parmesan and 3/4 to 1 tsp. coarsely ground fresh black pepper to the batter along with the flour and proceed according to the directions.
Start the recipe by putting 4 oz. room-temperature goat cheese in the blender along with about 1/2 cup of the milk. Blend until smooth and then proceed with the recipe, using the remaining milk.