I’d never eaten a popover in my life until a couple years ago when I decided to make them myself. The recipe looked easy enough, pretty much the same as crepes but baked. At the time, I was blissfully unaware that people view popovers as finicky and often lacking that “pop”.
Not to be deterred by the fact that we don’t have an oven in our house, I opted to use our gas barbecue, and it totally worked. They came out lofty and custardy and delicious. I’ve been doing it the same way ever since, and I honestly have never had a failed batch. Even last week when mid-bake, the barbecue ran out of propane and the half-cooked pastries had a 20 minute refilling intermission, they still came out pretty puffy. Not perfect but not bad at all.
My go-to popover recipe comes from The Book of Bread by Judith and Evan Jones, which is an all-around useful and informative cookbook. I follow their ingredient list but add a few tweaks to the technique.1 cup white flour 3 good eggs 1 cup milk (I use fresh, whole goat milk because that’s what I have on hand.) 2 tablespoons melted butter (I usually use olive oil.) 1/2 teaspoon table salt
The eggs are really key in this recipe. The end result is a pastry that’s distinctly eggy, so starting with quality base ingredients is important. Eggs are kinda scarce around the homestead at this time of year, so I literally had to go steal one out of the chicken coop to fill out the trio.
Crack your eggs into a bowl, and whisk.
Slowly whisk in the flour.
It will be very thick and glopy. That’s okay.
Gradually whisk in the milk until you have a smooth batter. Also whisk in butter (or oil) and salt.
Making popovers gives me a good excuse to use my new-to-me cast-iron pan that I got at the Coburg Antiques Fair. I’ve also used my cast-iron muffin pan (seen here) for popovers, or I make one giant popover in a cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have an excessive cast iron collection like me, you can use regular muffin tins or pyrex cups. Unless your pans are really well-seasoned (mine isn’t yet), you’ll want to lightly grease each cup.
Fill them about 2/3 full with batter.
DON’T preheat the barbecue. At least, I never do, and I don’t seem to have trouble with popovers. I do use three fire bricks to insulate the pan from the direct heat of the flame (similar to my bread baking in the barbecue technique).
Set the gril to medium high heat and close the lid. Check for doneness after about 40 minutes, and they should look something like…
…this! If they’re not done, shut the lid and check again five minutes later. As you can see above, the outer ones are a little more crusty-popped while the interior ones remain a bit dense/custardy. I like them both ways, so I don’t think this is a problem that needs solving.
Good popovers will puff up like crazy, but they’re mostly just full of air. It’s best to serve them fresh off the grill (or out of the oven) because they don’t hold their shape for very long. Some will have big voids or craters like the one above, but they still taste delicious.
Serve hot popovers slathered in butter, honey, or plum-fig-lemon-cardamom-honey jam (something I made during the summer, loosely inspired by this recipe).
Popover batter takes less than 10 minutes to whip up, so they’re easy to pull together for a fun breakfast, or they’ll fill in as a bready side at dinnertime. Enjoy!