Until last night…
By now, most of you who are reading this know that I have a tendency toward the obsessive when it comes to certain things. Most of the time it shows up when I’m troubleshooting some tech problem — I simply must find a solution. But this trait can rear its head in other areas as well.
I don’t like to fail.
And I was a popover failure.
It has been eating me to the core. Oh, I have read every @#$%# damn thing there is to read about popovers and still mine refused to “pop.” I googled: “I am doing everything right and popovers won’t pop.”
For those less industrious than I who want to know what those “everything right” things are, here is a brief rundown to “guarantee” popover success:
- Preheat your popover pan
- NEVER open the oven door while baking
- Use room temperature ingredients
- Use the freshest eggs possible
I did all those things every single time. My eggs were laid the same day for crying out loud. Still, my popovers refused to rise.
Until last night…
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Why this sudden popover angst, you ask?
Because I asked for (and received) popover pans for my birthday. Years ago, I made popovers in my muffin pans, which are a larger size than most. I made them with no problems. This was pre-internet and I had no idea popovers were even considered temperamental. I might have had one or two issues, but I don’t remember it being a huge deal. The last several times I made them, using the same recipe, in the same pans they didn’t work. I gave up on popovers.
Fast forward to one month ago. I saw a picture of some insane popovers on food52.com right at the time my family was asking me for birthday ideas. Popover pans. The key to popover success. Done.
As soon as I got them, and with the help of my new chicken friends, I set about to blow Charlie’s mind with some wicked good popovers.
Nope. Middle age. Popover paunch. Popover pucks. “What changed from my younger years,” I asked myself. “Why won’t they rise?” …I googled until my fingers were raw.
“No. I am doing everything right, dammit!” I exclaimed. (Why can I not remember how to punctuate dialogue? I really don’t care enough to google that, mind you. My obsessive tendencies are apparently very narrow….)
I conducted various unscientific experiments. (my German Pancake is a lot like a popover and IT rises… this flour from Costco is strange… when I make bread I always need more water than recipes call for…) I thought long and hard about this…
Before I progress, I’d like to comment on a couple of the aforementioned items:
Strange flour from Costco. About a year ago, I was delighted to find Unbleached All Purpose flour at Costco that was not in 25 pound bags. I bought it and immediately found it to be strange. I talked to a couple friends who had also bought it and they, too, had issues with it. It was more like whole wheat than white, and yet the bag said nothing other than “All Purpose Unbleached White Flour.” This past week, my mom picked a few things up at Costco for me while she was there, flour being one of them. I assumed the flour I bought last year must have been a fluke. However, this new flour says “All Purpose Unbleached White with ‘Ultragrain‘.” Well at least they are now labeling it correctly. Turns out that this white flour contains 30% whole wheat. Which explains a lot. Not that whole wheat is bad — of course not. But it definitely does not behave the same way.
I need more water in my bread recipes. Over the years I’ve learned that when making bread using volume measurements vs weight, I need more water in my bread. I’m not food scientist, but I would venture to guess that our Minnesota flour is more dry due to our winters. I have always compensated by adding more water. Can anyone verify this? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
My German Pancake rises. The recipe for German Pancakes is very, very similar to popovers. It gets baked in a cast iron pan. I do nothing special for this recipe; I do not worry about room temp ingredients, I don’t preheat the pan… and it works. Why? Why why WHY? But I did notice that the batter is much runnier than all the popover recipes I have tried. Could this be the answer to my popover problem??
Which brings us to last night.
Finally. I had REAL All Purpose flour and not some hippy-ass ultra grain blend. I had four fresh eggs. I had a husband and son who were home to prevent me from eating all the popovers — for it seems to make no difference to my palate whether they rise or not…
I looked at my German Pancake recipe and three other recipes. The discrepancy in egg/milk/flour ratios across different recipes is pretty incredible. I sort of made my own up, trying hard to mimic the pancake recipe while making just the right amount for six popovers. And when I finished the math I realized my recipe was identical to the updated food52 recipe (did I mention that? oh, whoops! The first recipe that was posted was wrong and has been tweaked due to commenter complaints…). The only difference was that my recipe used 1/4 cup less flour. Here it is:
Jennie’s Popover Recipe for MINNESOTA Flour
- 1 cup flour
- 1 t salt
- 1 cup milk
- 4 medium (or 3 extra large) eggs
- 2 T melted butter
Put popover pan into oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
If possible, use room temperature ingredients. I never plan that far ahead, so I put the milk in the microwave for 1 minute on 50% power. If my eggs aren’t fresh out of the coop, I put them in hot water for about 10-15 min.
Whisk eggs and milk together in a large spouted measuring cup (I use an 8 cup pyrex). Measure 1 cup of flour and carefully stir salt into the flour which is still in the measuring cup (less things to wash people!). Gradually add the flour to the eggs & milk whisking constantly. Batter should be very runny and mostly smooth — think of the consistency of heavy cream. A few lumps are ok. Add melted butter and stir well.
When oven is heated, take pan out and spray with nonstick or grease with butter. (My popover pans are nonstick so I just used Pam. If yours are cast iron, use butter). Fill cups to just over halfway. Bake at 425 without opening the door for 20-25 minutes. Pray.
After they have popped and are done, slit the tops with a knife and either serve immediately or return to the oven for 5 minutes at 350 degrees to preserve the ‘pop.’
I am convinced that my failures were mostly due to the flour to egg to milk ratio. My batter was not runny enough. Nowhere online did I come across this as being a reason they did not pop. I read that the consistency should be “runny” and “like pancake batter,” but those descriptions are not very precise. I also believe that stupid Costco flour played a part, however I used that flour for the German Pancake and it worked just fine, so… If you are having problems with popovers not popping, try decreasing your flour or adding an egg if you have already tried all the other tricks and you are sure that, like me, you are doing everything right.