Never-fail popovers: fact or fiction?

Is there anything so majestic, so amazing, as a popover?

Just five simple ingredients – flour, salt, milk, butter, and eggs – create a steam-filled wonder that magically bakes up to nearly triple its original size.

POP. You can actually see it happening before your eyes – if your oven has a window and you’re patient enough to stand and watch for 5 minutes or so.

Now, you may think something as simple-looking as a popover would be simple to prepare. A straightforward process. 1, 2, 3, Bob’s your uncle – popovers!

Not so fast. Popovers are sneaky-simple; they LOOK like there’s nothing to them, but oh, the side paths you can go down…

Make the batter in a blender; make it with a whisk. Beat till smooth and frothy; leave some lumps.

Everything should be at room temperature. Everything should be lukewarm. C’mon, it really doesn’t matter what temperature the ingredients are.

Butter the pan. Grease the pan with shortening. Grease with vegetable oil. Or bacon grease. Non-stick spray is fine.

Put the pan in a cold oven. Put it in a hot oven.

DON’T PEEK!

And that, my friends, is probably the only hard-and-fast rule for popovers – once you put them into the oven, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR until they’re nearly done; it lets in deflating drafts.

Over the years, I’ve made popovers using all the techniques above in various combinations. And, maybe I’m just lucky, but my popovers always seem to come out pretty well. They pop; they’re light/crisp outside, nicely eggy inside.

Sometimes they’re darker than I like, but in this latest go-around I found a solution to that – baking towards the bottom of the oven, and sliding a cookie sheet onto the highest oven shelf to shield their vulnerable tops.

So I’m convinced. This simple creation is, indeed, simple at heart – despite the way we try to complicate it.

Popovers are a wonderful vehicle for carrying other flavors, be it strawberry jam, lemon curd, or butter. Speaking of, let’s start by making some flavored butters.

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Maple  butter is wonderful with plain popovers. Nothing rivals the pure, strong flavor of Vermont Grade B maple syrup, a.k.a. “cooking maple.”

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Mix 1/2 cup softened butter (1 standard stick) with 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. If you use salted butter, you can omit the added salt.

How about honey butter? Substitute honey for the maple syrup.

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Scoop the soft butter into a serving bowl.

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The folks at our retail store mix Vermont cheese powder with butter to make an incredibly easy, delicious spread.

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Mix 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter with 2 tablespoons Vermont cheese powder.

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Stir till smooth; place in a serving bowl.

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One more thing before we get started: all of your ingredients should be at warm room temperature. To warm ice-cold eggs from the fridge, place them in a cup of hot tap water for about 10 minutes.

At last – let’s get this show on the road.

First, start preheating your oven to 450°F. Position a rack on a lower shelf. The top of the fully risen popovers should be about midway up the oven. What you don’t want is for the tops of the popping popovers to be too close to the top of the oven, as they’ll burn.

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To make a dozen popovers, use a standard 12-cup metal muffin tin, one whose cups are close to 2 1/2” wide x 1 1/2” deep. Grease the pan thoroughly, covering the area between the cups as well as the cups themselves; Everbake pan spray is easy to use, and won’t leave any dark/sticky film on your pan.

Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you begin to make the popover batter.

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Put the following in a bowl:

4 large eggs; if they’re straight from the fridge, warm them in a cup of hot tap water for 10 minutes before cracking
1 ½ cups skim or low-fat milk
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (6 ¼ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup Vermont Cheese Powder, optional, for cheese popovers
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Whisk to combine.

Note: Our online recipe calls for you to whisk together the eggs and milk, then add the flour, then the butter. When making the popovers for this blog, I simply whisked everything together. Either way is fine.

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Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl…

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…and whisk at high speed till frothy, about 30 seconds using an electric mixer.

Can you do this in a blender? Yes. Can you do this by hand? Yes. Just make sure the batter is light and bubbly, as pictured above.

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Want to make herbed popovers, or herbed cheese popovers? Add 1 ½ teaspoons Pizza Seasoning or your favorite dried herbs.


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Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Notice I added Pizza Seasoning to only half the batter; testing, testing…

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Make absolutely certain your oven is at 450°F. Place the pan on a lower shelf of the oven .

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Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown.

If your popovers seem to be browning too quickly consistently, place a rack with a cookie sheet above the rack where you’ll place your popover pan, leaving plenty of room between the two racks. The cookie sheet will shield popovers’ tops from direct heat.

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If you plan on serving the popovers immediately, remove them from the oven, and stick the tip of a knife into the top of each, to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Slip them out of the pan, and serve.

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Ah, perfectly browned.

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VERY nice!

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Notice how the popovers will start to deflate fairly quickly.  this isn’t an issue, if you’re bringing them right from the oven to the table.

But if you want the popovers to hold their shape longer without deflating and settling quite as much, bake them for an additional 5 minutes (for a total of 40 minutes) IF you can do so without them becoming too dark. This will make them a bit sturdier, and able to hold their “popped” shape a bit longer.

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Notice the soft, eggy interior…

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…perfect for melting butter. Or cheese butter. Or honey butter, or maple butter.

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Here’s one of the herbed popovers.

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Here’s our mini popover pan; it’ll make about 18 popovers from this recipe. Our standard popover pan will make six big popovers, using this recipe.

Why use a popover pan?

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Note the open spaces between the wells; this allows each popover to expand without crowding into its neighbor. The result? Slightly greater “pop,” and a more uniform shape.

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Like this. Now THAT’S one good-looking popover!

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Popovers.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Alan Patrick

    Hi: My mother made what she called Yorkshire Puddings that would come out with open tops (German Pancake like) which we would fill with her rich brown gravy! My wife attemps the same but can’t get the batter to climb the muffin tin walls. The product comes out as poorly shaped pop overs!
    Could our modern (many coated) muffin pans have any influence?
    Is there any difference in the batter mix between popovers and German pancake batter?
    Have a good day and a very enjoyable Thanks Giving
    Sincerely Alan Patrick

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Alan! Well, I couldn’t say if the batters are different from German pancake batter since there about probably many recipes for German pancakes, BUT, having made a lot of popovers, I’ve found that the “pop” and the ideally even rising happens in the first 20 to 25 minutes of baking. If mine haven’t popped enough for my liking at 20 minutes, I leave the temperature as is until I’m happy and then lower it and shorten the total bake time. Since they’re popping unevenly, there may be some hot spots in your oven. On the flip side, the oven may not be as hot as it’s telling you it is (they lie) so it’s good to check with a digital thermometer to make sure it’s reading true for best results. Annabelle@KAF

  2. Janelle Hubeny

    My popovers are hit or miss. My daughter said her receipe calls for some baking powder. What would that do? Also I have never pierced the tops when they came out of the oven, won’t they deflate?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Janelle, our popover recipe gets its airy texture from the very enthusiastic whisking it requires. Some folks do add baking powder for extra fluffiness — feel free to give it a try! Piercing the tops shouldn’t deflate the popovers at all, just allow the steam to escape. As a matter of fact, it might actually prevent sagging caused by excess moisture. We hope this helps with your popover experiments, because there’s nothing like fresh, fluffy popovers right out of the oven! Kat@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Penni. Because this batter gets its “puff” from the eggs, the batter should be mixed up just before baking for best results. You’re welcome to experiment mixing it up earlier, but you can expect them to not rise as much. Annabelle@KAF

  3. Mary Morelli

    I’ve made these popovers many times and they always come out fantastic! Making them again tonight and will try and remember to post pictures this time!

    Reply
  4. Gail

    If you are not going to eat some of your popovers right away, do they have to be refrigerated, or are they OK out on the counter? How long are they food-safe sitting out on the counter? Thanks

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Gail. Popovers can pretty much be treated as muffins or bread. They’ll keep on the counter for a couple of days or in the fridge for about a week. Annabelle@KAF

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