This weekend, Kevin and I made popovers for Sunday breakfast. There's always a bit of nail-biting involved with popovers, but these rose obediently, emerging from the pan crusty and light, pillowy within. As we tore them open to fill with honey and berries, I looked up from my plate and realized that we were eating from a table full of memories. Orange-and-lavender marmalade from our trip to France, comb honey that my friend Sara brought from Virginia when she came to our wedding, strawberry-rhubarb jam that our friend Christine's sister made, and finally, a plate full of berries that we'd picked the day before under a hot July sun with our friends and neighbours Bub and Michele. (And, truth be told, there was also some expired low-sugar raspberry jam that went completely ignored amidst the rest of the bounty.)
As someone who longs for community yet struggles in the making of it, seeing a table full of food that connected me and Kevin to those who love us was hugely encouraging, though I'm still not certain what the moral is: Make friends who like good food? Good food reminds you of good friends? Good food creates good friends? Food and community -- it's a topic I circle around endlessly, and have yet to put my finger on what makes it so compelling.
Now a few words about popovers. Given their simplicity (fewer ingredients than pancakes!), popovers can generate rather outsize anxiety: What if this time they don't pop?
Over a few years of intermittent popover baking and my share of high-rises and eggy pucks, I've come to realize that most recipes out there have the exact same list of ingredients. The difference is in the details. Here's what's worked for me:
1. Have your liquid ingredients room temperature, or even gently warmed. This helps them rise high. Often, I'll briefly zap my milk in the microwave to help it along.
2. Fill the tins at least halfway or even slightly more. If you put too little batter in the tins, you won't have enough volume to get a truly impressive "pop."
3. Muffin tins work just fine. As do little ramekins. Proper popover pans are fun, not crucial.
4. Start off the baking at a truly blazing temperature. I bake mine at 425F to jump start the rise, then lower the temperature to 375 to let them cook through and crisp without over browning.
5. On pain of death, do not open the oven door to peek. It's tempting, yes, but if you open the oven door -- especially within the first 15 minutes -- you'll lower the oven temperature and disturb the steam-building that causes the popovers to rise high and mighty.
Using a regular old muffin tin, this recipe makes nine popovers. An awkward amount, I know, but it results in a perfect amount of batter in each tin. You could also make six popovers using a jumbo muffin pan, 6-ounce ramekins, or a popover pan.
1 cup all-purpose flour (for this recipe, spoon your flour into the measuring cup, then level it)
1/2 teaspoon salt (I use fine sea salt for this -- use a bit more if you're using kosher)
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon butter or more, for greasing pans
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Heat milk in microwave for 20-30 seconds, until lukewarm but not at all hot – the popovers will puff more if the liquid is not too cold. Combine milk and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Gradually add flour, whisking until smooth, then stir in salt and melted butter, mixing well.
3. Generously grease 9 muffin cups with the remaining tablespoon of butter. For a standard 12-cup muffin pan, you'll have 3 "empties". Place the muffin tin in the oven for one minute, until pan is hot and butter is melted -- this step is super boring, but set a timer and don't try to multitask, as the butter can burn if left in even a minute too long.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the heated, buttered muffin cups. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 375° and continue baking for 20 minutes or until darkly golden.