I interrupt the steady stream of sugary treats coming out of my kitchen to bring you these massive sourdough popovers. Seriously, LOOK AT HOW BIG THEY ARE.
My track record with popovers (and their served-with-roast-beef-and-gravy cousin, the Yorkshire pudding) has been iffy at best. I successfully made cinnamon sugar popovers à la doughnut almost two years ago, but my most recent attempt at Yorkshire puddings with roast beef (last New Year’s Eve, actually) was a spectacular flop and I ended up with Yorkshire hockey pucks:
This was more what I was hoping for:
These light-as-air bad boys, made with sourdough starter for Sourdough Surprises this month, exceeded my expectations and then some. I almost did a happy dance (similar to the macaron happy dance) when they rose up so much they practically leaped out of their tins. A popover is very similar to (but more rustic than) choux pastry: crunchy on the outside with a mostly hollow, custardy center full of big, airy holes. However, a popover is much simpler to make than choux paste: just a batter of flour, milk, eggs, and in this case sourdough starter for flavour (and probably a little leavening power too), baked in a very hot oven until it puffs up gloriously and becomes golden brown and crisp. That’s the goal, anyway.
Now that I have achieved resounding success at least once with popovers, I have a few pointers that I think will help if you, too, have experienced popover/Yorkshire pudding failure (sourdough or otherwise):
1) Use warm milk and room temperature eggs in the batter. My theory is that a warm batter will puff up more readily than a cold batter.
2) Use tall, narrow baking tins if possible. A muffin pan will do fine, but the narrower the better – it will force the batter to rise UP and OUT, resulting in taller, puffier popovers. I used tall metal ramekins, which worked quite well. Also, a heavier-duty pan will hold the heat better than a flimsy one.
3) Make sure the baking tins and the oil/butter/fat are sizzling hot when you pour the batter in. This ensures a crust forms almost immediately, giving the rest of the batter something to “pop” against. After brushing the inside of each little tin with butter, I put them back in the oven for a minute to make sure they were very hot before adding the batter.
4) Bake in a HOT oven (450˚F) until they POP completely. This might take 15 – 20 minutes, so don’t rush them. At 15 minutes, I looked through the oven window and my popovers were only slightly risen and had big craters in the middle – I was sure they were going to be failures. Five minutes later, they were gigantic. Just have patience, and DON’T open the door to check on them – you’ll just let the hot air and steam out.
5) Once they have popped, reduce the oven temperature and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes longer. This will dry out the center a bit and crisp them up so they don’t collapse as soon as you take them out of the oven.
Popovers are best eaten hot and fresh but can be re-heated in a moderate oven for a few minutes, until crisp. I made these for breakfast and was envisioning them stuffed with scrambled eggs and bacon (yum, right?) but settled for butter and jam when I got behind schedule. There are about a million other ways I want to try serving these – plus a lot of things I want to try adding to the batter (cheese? chocolate? herbs?) – and I can’t wait to redeem myself with roast beef and Yorkshire puds!
Click the link below to check out the sourdough popovers made by the rest of the group.
From King Arthur Flour. Makes 5 – 6 popovers, depending on pan size.
In a medium bowl, whisk together:
1 cup milk, warm to the touch
3 room temperature eggs
1/2 cup sourdough starter (doesn’t have to be recently fed – discard is fine)
3/4 tsp salt
Add 1 cup of all purpose flour and whisk to combine. Don’t over-mix – a few lumps are fine. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Transfer the batter into a vessel with a pouring spout, such as a jug or large liquid measuring cup. Set aside.
Place a popover pan or muffin tin in the oven while it is preheating to 450˚F. When the oven reaches temperature, remove the pan and place about 1/2 tsp butter, oil, or fat of your choice in 6 of the cups. Use a pastry brush to spread the butter/oil/fat up the sides of each cup. Return to the oven for a minute to heat up again, then as quickly as you can, pour the batter evenly into the 6 cups (mine were slightly larger so I ended up with 5). Fill popover pans to just below full; fill muffin pans to the top. Return to the oven and bake at 450˚F for 15 – 20 minutes, until they have popped completely and are gigantic. Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚F and bake 15 – 20 minutes, until the popovers are golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the tin (they should “pop” right out – get it?) and eat immediately, or cool on a rack and re-heat later in a moderate oven until crisp.