I’m drawing up my grocery shopping list for my family’s Christmas dinner (it’s not much more than a week away—eek!) We always have a roast beef at Christmas, served with the traditional horseradish sauce. And because I live in New England, not the old one, our roast beef is eaten with those lovely bubbles of bready goodness, popovers.
For those who haven’t had the good fortune to be acquainted with popovers, they are muffin-shaped, mostly hollow rolls made from a thin, eggy batter; they are baked in either muffin cups or in special high-sided popover pans. Cooked in a very hot oven, the thin, liquid batter releases lots of steam, which creates the hollow effect, rather like a soufflé. When done, you slather popovers with butter and enjoy…honestly, given the choice I’d rather skip dessert on Christmas and just eat more popovers.
The origin of the popover is in Yorkshire pudding, the traditional accompaniment to a beef roast, which follows a similar recipe but is cooked in a pan (originally set under the spit on which a roast was cooking, so that the dripping juices from the roast fell into the pan of batter, enriching it.) For some reason, cooks in the new world came up with the idea of cooking the batter in individual, small servings and using butter rather than meat drippings…and the rest is delicious culinary history.
Being huge popover fans in my family, we have special silicone popover pans. But 5 oz. Pyrex custard cups will work as well.
Set your oven rack to the middle of the oven, because these babies rise.
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
Generously butter a dozen or so small Pyrex custard cups; set them in a baking pan, which makes the whole thing easier to handle. Whisk together all the above ingredients, preferably in a mixing bowl with a spout. The batter should be thin—rather the consistency of heavy cream—and don’t worry if it’s a bit lumpy. Pour the batter into the prepared cups till they’re about half to two-thirds full—don’t fill them completely or they won’t puff. Put them in a cold oven and turn it on, setting the temperature to 425°. Set the timer for 45 minutes, and go do something else to take your mind off them, because you can’t peek—if you open the door, kittens will sob, puppies will turn their backs on you, flowers will fail to bloom…and your lovely popovers might collapse. Only after 45 minutes can you check on them, to make sure they’re deliciously golden brown; depending on your oven, a few more minutes might be necessary. When done, remove them immediately from their cups, and serve at once with butter.
If you feel like gilding the lily, finely grated Parmesan cheese and/or herbs can be added to the batter. Or you can serve them with herbed garlic butter—but I digress… 😋
Enjoy…and I hope your year-end celebrations are warm and wonderful.