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A popover worth the wait

So, have you ever had one of those days when you do or learn or eat something so fantastic that you can’t wait to tell the whole world, and then by some cruel twist of fate, the whole world seems to conspire to shut you up? First, let’s say, you get a wretched sore throat, followed by a snotty, now-stuffed, now-dribbly nose. And then the hard drive of your computer up and dies, just like that, with nary a warning or whimper. And then you feel sorry for yourself and slouch around for a few days, sans computer, sneezing all over your old, beloved gray sweatshirt. Ever had that happen? Yeah? Me too. It’s been a bad week. The last truly good thing I remember was the popover I ate on Sunday morning - and oh, what a popover it was. I would have told you about it a few days ago, were it not for, well, all this. Please pardon my delay, and my cold, and my computer.

What I’ve been meaning to tell you is this: popovers, I’ve decided, are my ideal breakfast food. Don’t get me wrong – I do love my usual plain yogurt and granola, but I’m talking ideal here. Popovers are about as close as you can get to eating clouds without leaving the kitchen.

An American adaptation of Britain’s Yorkshire pudding, a popover is a light, hollow roll made from an eggy batter, so named because it “pops” up and out of its pan as it bakes. Popovers enter the oven as mere puddles of batter but bake up, an hour or so later, into billowing, buttery, ethereal poufs. Lighter but no less special than a croissant or cinnamon roll, they boast golden, crisp crusts and a soft, custardy inner lining, perfect for a smear of jam or honey – or for eating plain, in big, greedy bites.

Some people might serve them as part of a big spread, but to me, what makes popovers so lovely is that they fill the belly just enough, but never too much. Last Sunday, Brandon and I sat down at the breakfast table with a basket of these, two pots of jam, and orange juice, and, between bites and slurps, agreed that anything more would have spoiled the charm. A couple of popovers, steamy and butter-scented, is all a girl needs on the average morning. In cases of severe hunger, a bowl of tart yogurt might be nice alongside, but for those of us who like to leave room for lunch, it’s entirely optional. And should you have a popover or two left over – lucky you! – come noontime, they rewarm nicely in a moderate oven and go swimmingly with a bowl of soup.

Speaking of which, a cauldron of chicken noodle sounds pretty good right now – both for soothing my throat and for submerging my entire body. That may be in order for the weekend. But one thing is certain: Sunday morning will find us again in front of the oven, waiting for our popovers to pouf and pop, signaling the close of a very sub-par week and the start of a new one.

P.S. A big, huge, sloppy thank you to Brandon for letting me borrow his beautiful new MacBook Pro, and for spending hours on the phone with Dell, and for making me a piña colada in a fancy glass. I owe him something very nice, as soon as I stop snorting and sneezing.
P.P.S. And a warm thank you to dear mav, who gave me the beautiful linen dish towel pictured above.

Butter Popovers
Adapted from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Not only does this recipe produce a delicious popover – crispy on the outside, airy and spongy on the inside – but it also is a real snap. Whereas some popover batters require a rest before baking, this one can go straight into the oven, thanks to the wonder of Wondra. In the words of Rose Levy Beranbaum, Wondra flour is

a granular form of flour developed by General Mills. It dissolves instantly in liquid because it has been subjected to a process called agglomeration. It is produced essentially by misting flour with water and then spray-drying it with compressed air, which separates the flour into particles of even size and shape that will not clump when mixed with liquid.

It may sound sort of fancy, but Wondra can be found in most American grocery stores. We found it on the flour aisle of our usual store, in a blue cylindrical cardboard can. Aside from that, you need nothing else unusual, except the popover pan. For this recipe, you’ll want a standard-size popover pan with six wells, or a 12-well mini popover pan, or a standard 12-well muffin pan. Note that if your pan is made of black metal, you will need to lower the initial temperature to 400 degrees, rather than 425. I missed that little hint the first time I made these, and my popovers were finished in about 45 minutes total, rather than an hour. Their rise was also a little stunted, if you ask me.

1 cup plus 3 Tbs Wondra flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid, divided - plus a little more for greasing the pan

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a rack on the second level from the bottom of the oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously. Using handheld beaters or a whisk, add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, and then until the batter is smooth. Beat in 2 tablespoons of the butter. Don’t worry if the butter seizes a bit into little clumps. (If you don’t plan to use the batter immediately, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Beat it lightly with a whisk before using.)

Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the inside of each well of the pan with some of the remaining melted butter. [Do not skimp, or the popovers might stick!] Then spoon about 1 teaspoon of additional butter into each well of the popover pan. If you’re using a mini popover pan or a muffin pan, use only ½ teaspoon per well.

About three minutes before baking, place the pan on a baking sheet and slide it into the oven to warm. The butter should get very hot and begin to brown, but do not allow it to burn. Remove the pan from the oven, and divide the batter among the wells. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 35 minutes for standard popovers or about 20 minutes for smaller or muffin-size ones, or, most importantly, until the popovers are puffed, golden brown, and crisp to the touch. About five minutes before the end of the baking time, open the oven door and – carefully! – make a small slit in the side of each popover to release steam and allow the insides to dry a little. Do not open the oven until this point, or the popovers might deflate.

When the popovers are ready, remove the pan from the oven. With a pot holder, gently lift them from the pan one at a time, holding onto them from the top. [You might need to loosen them a tad around the edges with a knife.] Serve immediately, with jam, honey, or – for the extra indulgent – butter. I liked them best plain, but jam was nice too.

Yield: 6 standard popovers, or 12 smaller popovers


Blogger hannah said...

oh my gosh molly, my mom has been making popovers for us for years. i will email you the recipe to try out. it too is a snap and you bake them in a cold oven. uh, that is to say you dont preheat but turn on the heat after you put in your pan. yum yum yum. yours look lovely as is that towel. sweet mav. love that girl...

11:18 AM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Carol said...

i just made popovers, for the first time, just a few weeks ago! from the perfect popover recipe in the sf chronicle. whilst eating them, i had a revelation...german pancakes, dutch babies, pate a choux...they seem to me variations of the same thing, in different forms. and all so delicious...

feel better soon!

11:25 AM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger stitchwitch said...

These sound delicious, and I plan to try them on Sunday. I have one question, though. Do you use 1 tsp. butter to coat each muffin well, or do you coat the muffin well, and then add 1 tsp of butter?

I love your blog. It always makes me hungry!

12:34 PM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous Laura said...

I am so making these on the weekend for breakfast. I've recently been getting bored with the same old breakfast every day and have been looking for something new to try - this seems like just the ticket!

Feel better Molly, that cold sounds awful. Here's to a speedy recovery, for you and your computer.

12:52 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Hannah, I would love to see your mom's popover recipe! Send it on over. [Oh, and the cinnamon roll recipe is on my still-to-do list; one of these days, I swear!] And as for the cold oven bit, my mom and her sister used to make them that way years ago, when they lived together in San Francisco, but when I tried it, it didn't really work out. I'm game to give it another go, though...

Carol, I just looked up that "perfect popover" recipe, and it does sound good! It's a Flo Braker recipe, right? One of the reasons I love Rose Levy Beranbaum's formula is its pronounced buttery flavor. Flo's method has much less butter, but I'll have to give it a go anyway, just for the sake of comparison. What a hardship, huh - taste-testing popovers!

Good question, stitchwitch. You coat each well, and then you add the teaspoon of butter. That added butter gives the popovers a hint of brown butter flavor, and makes the bottoms nice and crisp and delicious. I hope you like them as much as we do!

1:02 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Shari said...

molly! oh i do hope you feel better. so sorry to hear about your cold and your computer. darn it all! those popovers look so yummy, though. so glad you finally got the chance to share them.

"puddles of batter"-how i love your descriptions.

xo shari

1:16 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Shauna said...

Oh love, that snotty sweatshirt will recover, and so will you. Even with the wretched cold -- which prevented me from seeing last night, so yaboo sucks to the wretched cold -- you make us laugh and hungry. Brava, my dear, as always.

1:40 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

That's the spirit, Laura! Hope you enjoy your new breakfast.

And Shari, thank you for the sweet wishes. Brandon had this very same cold for TEN days, so I'm trying to be patient and ride it out. My broken computer isn't helping things, though. Dell sent me a new hard drive in under 24 hours, but they sent the wrong driver disk, among other things, and bleh bleh BLEH! Brandon, my superhero, spent two hours on the phone with them last night, and the darn thing still isn't working. We're both pretty fed up - but it's nothing that a batch of popovers can't make better.

Shauna, you're wonderful, my friend. And by Tuesday, dag nabbit, I'd better be able to see you without sneezing!

1:43 PM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Oh no, I'm sorry the computer and your health have both failed you. But luckily you've got Brandon to keep the computer goblins at bay, and hopefully some soup and a weekend to make you all better. Happy Friday! Get well soon.

1:58 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger AnnieKNodes said...

These look great. I love Yorkshire pudding so I'll bet I'll love these too. They sound like a luxurious answer to dinner rolls.

I hope your nose and computer heal quickly. Just be careful when borrowing Brandon's computer. Once you go Mac, you never go back.

2:08 PM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum! Yay! I hope it provides some succor to you that your heroic posting-through-the-snot lifts your readers' moods. (insert gratuitous comment about how macs rule and PCs drool here).

2:59 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Tea said...

So sorry to hear about the cold/flu thing Molly, but you brought back some sweet popover memories for me. My brother and I used to make them when we were kids, impatiently waiting for them to puff up so we could tear into them and slather on the butter.

Feel better, my dear.

4:29 PM, November 03, 2006  
Anonymous maryeats said...

I never understood what a popover was. Thanks for the photos and description. Now that I know, I can't think what I thought they were, just something from a nursery rhyme I guess.

5:27 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger christianne said...

Feel better, Molly!

My good friend Bri has a great hot toddy recipe, if you're interested. It has bourbon in it!


5:55 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger Scorpio said...

We learned to make these in 8th grade home ec -- go go with the unit on making pineapple-apricot jam. If you have never had homemade pineapple-apricot jam, you have missed heaven!

7:27 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Eggy, stretchy deliciousness. I always make a Yorkshire pudding for Christmas, and I save a dab of beef fat so I can make another one the next day.
Never done a popover, though. Heck, I've never used Wondra, ever. Thanks for the good report.
(So that's why you weren't at Shauna's gathering! Get well.)

7:37 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

I saw this post and all I could think of was:


Feel better cool kid...this song always makes me feel groovay ;)

7:44 PM, November 03, 2006  
Blogger traveller one said...

Those look so delicious I think I'll try making them!
Love your site and have linked to it from my own little cooking blog!

2:40 AM, November 04, 2006  
Anonymous Julie said...

Popovers are the best! They're a little miracle of baking.

Hope you and your computer return to health. Bless Brandon's heart for staying on the phone with Dell customer support -- dealing with them is a sort of test of endurance.

5:46 AM, November 04, 2006  
Blogger Janice said...

I'm a big fan of Yorkshire puddings/popovers...and his and her Macs!

6:26 AM, November 04, 2006  
Anonymous Jen said...

Hi Molly, I love reading your blog. I recently made Jimmy's shortbread waffles--they were fabulously rich. I halved the recipe, expecting to get 4-6 waffles (Jimmy's recipe yielded 12), but could only scrape by with 3 waffles. Each waffle is a 1/3 of a stick of butter! Thanks for the inspiration and keep on posting those decadent Jimmy-recipes =)

12:32 PM, November 04, 2006  
Blogger Lia said...

I've only had popovers a few times (once at the Popover Cafe, a popular Upper West Side brunch spot and in Cold Spring, NY at a bed and breakfast. I never thought to make them myself and since I'm always looking for some new breakfast ideas, I think it's about time I give them a try.

Hope you're feeling better!

3:35 PM, November 05, 2006  
Anonymous Julie said...

Mmmm. Not only do I absolutely love popovers, but it sometimes seems that you and Brandon are G's & my evil twins, separated at birth. But maybe we're your evil twins. In any case, I say that because we have long though† popovers the absolute perfect weekend breakfast: they're special, they're a treat, but they never give us that bleary, I-ate-too-much-brunch feeling. I have a tried and true recipe from the old Tassajara Bread book, but I'd love to try yours...and I'm flirting with the idea of a recipe for cheese popovers, served by Laurent Tourondel at his restaurant BLT Steak -- which is renowned for the popovers as well as the steak...

6:59 PM, November 05, 2006  
Blogger Beccy said...

As an English girl I find it very amusing to read about you eating what amounts to Yorkshire pudding for breakfast with butter and jam! I prefer them served with beef and gravy.

12:48 AM, November 06, 2006  
Blogger The Overworked Barista said...

why must everything with loads of butter has to look so gorram delicious.


8:08 AM, November 06, 2006  
Blogger cindym said...

Molly! I'm cracking up right now. I just posted about popovers too...

Did they put something in our water? Why are we all in love with them right now?

HA! :)

3:56 PM, November 06, 2006  
Anonymous Amber said...

Molly, I'm also a big fan of these popovers, and The Bread Bible in general. If you haven't made the Potato-Buttermilk bread yet, I hope you try it. It it magically nuanced and satisfying, and fun to make.

5:18 PM, November 08, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Wow, friends - I fell woefully behind in replying to your comments. That cold really slowed me down. So sorry! It's a bit late now, but thank you for all the well wishes. I'm all better now, thank heavens. Phew. And as for my computer woes, suffice it to say that I'm convinced: next time, I'm going Mac. Brandon managed to get my computer going again, with a new hard drive and four hours on the phone with Dell, but it was a real mess, with all sorts of obsolete drivers to contend with, etc. What a man!

9:58 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Nathan said...

Try adding about a half a cup of grated cheese (parmesian, cheddar, romano... whatever tickles your dairy fancy) to the batter once it is done. Lightly stir the cheese through and delight at the veins of hot stringy cheese that ripple through each doughy mouthful.


If you aren't showing me new culinary delights to try Molly you are reminding me of old favourites I've not cooked in ages.

Thank you once more for your wonderful blog.

5:20 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Oooh, Nathan, great idea! "Veins of hot stringy cheese that ripple through each doughy mouthful"? Wow. Thank you.

8:41 PM, November 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

speaking of popovers....


4:05 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger C(h)ristine said...

I.LOVE.POPOVERS! I especially love them with some strawberry butter and jam (yes, it sounds redundant but it really isn't). Your post brings back so many happy popover memories! (I love eating the ones at Neiman Marcus Rotunda Restaurant in San Francisco--they give you endless popovers with your meal).

And you have inspired me to make some myself! Hope you are well.

8:23 PM, November 19, 2006  
Blogger Molly said...

Oh MY, Anonymous. Those look dreamy. Thank you.

C(h)ristine, tell me more about this Neiman Marcus Rotunda Restaurant! Is it on top of Neiman Marcus in Union Square, perhaps? I don't think I've ever heard of it. But endless popovers? I MUST HAVE THEM. And what is this strawberry butter stuff? Do tell...

3:53 PM, November 22, 2006  
Anonymous Diane Watkins said...

I love popovers. I used to make them years ago, but somehow its been a while. Thanks for reminding me of this truly noble bread. Gotta go bake some....

6:44 PM, November 25, 2006  
Blogger Seattle Tall Poppy said...

How funny is this? Totally inspired by your man and his fab finds at Goodwill...I finally made the trek over there today. Rummaging through their stuff, I managed to find a heavy gage stock pot AND a popover pan ($2.99, thank you very much!). Cruising through your blog, I was trying to find the post about Brandon's amazing finds at Goodwill...and then I found this post with a popover recipe. It's destiny, I tell you! Thanks to both you & Brandon for the inspiration!

5:54 PM, January 10, 2007  
Anonymous Henry said...

These popovers look great! At first I was hesitate to try them because of the cost of buying the pan, but I'll look at my Good Will store next time I'm there. Great tip!

2:54 PM, August 29, 2009  
Blogger DiamondsandTulle said...

Just wanted to leave a post that I used your recipe [found via Cupcakes & Cashmere] and made my first ever popover! Very yummy! Thanks!

10:25 PM, January 13, 2010  
Blogger donna said...

i just made the batch of 6. i'm typing and can't wait o stop and continue enjoying my last 2 i have. haha.
thnx for sharing!

12:49 PM, January 14, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First let me start by saying Molly your popovers look delicious!!!

I tried this recipe today but mine did not rise at all. I have made yorkshire pudding in the past without any trouble. I live in Canada and we do not have wondra flour here. I looked it up on the internet, which informed me that the same product is made by robin hood, called blending flour. Maybe they are not equivalent? Can anyone help?

4:47 PM, March 20, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

YOU definitely made a believer out of me -- popover's are the BEST, I can't stop making them!!

One thing, is there an alternative to Wondra flour? I like it but run out of it a lot. I've seen other brands of flour, like Best for Baking, etc. Could I use that?

Any suggestions?

Thanks for a GREAT RECIPE

1:21 PM, November 02, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Mary, I haven't tried this recipe with anything but Wondra, so sadly, I don't have any good information for you. But if you try it with one of those other flours, please do let me know!

8:17 PM, November 03, 2010  
Blogger Mary said...

Molly -- That flour, Better for Bread by Gold Medal works perfectly for making popovers. Just as good as Wondra. Now I can make them a lot more without running out. Another thing, to make them even better I added some chopped onions to the mix. They taste like onion rolls.


8:02 PM, November 07, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trying your recipe as we speak. Getting popover tins in Sweden is impossible, so it's been a bit hit and miss with the muffin tins, but I never give up. I like to add a tsp or so of dijon to give them a savory flavor. We have them with dinner most often. My question is though does anyone know how The Cliff House in SF make their popovers? Been searching and searching for their recipe.

4:39 AM, July 04, 2011  
Blogger donkey and the carrot said...

Ηello! Can i use bake flour or all purpose because in Greece we don't have Wondra flour. Thank you so much! Love, Foivi

6:48 AM, December 08, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

Foivi, if you don't have Wondra, I think I would use a different recipe. You could certainly try all-purpose here, but I worry that it wouldn't be very good! If I were you, I would try the Cook's Illustrated popover recipe. I found a version of it online here. Hope you enjoy them!

10:54 AM, December 08, 2011  

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