I am relatively new to the world of homemade popovers (hollow, puffy, eggy, crispy-edged “muffins,” of a sort) if you must know. In fact, I only started making them a few years back when I was developing recipes for my cookbook, The Vintage Baker. The book is chock full of vintage recipes that I have twisted and tweaked for the 21st-century baker, and I decided to include a popover recipe in the book due to their popularity back in the day. In short, I stumbled upon so many old-fashioned recipes for popovers when rifling through my collection of vintage recipe booklets, that taking a stab at them seemed nothing short of mandatory. I was shocked and oh, so pleased, at how easy they were to make and decided on a cacio e pepe one (Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper) for The Vintage Baker.
Now, I am a bit of a popover aficionado, if I do say so myself, and I make them pretty regularly in all sorts of flavors, including cranberry cheddar, which is a new fave for the fall/winter. But here I am sharing another cheese and pepper version, this one with Gruyere instead of Pecorino Romano. Gruyere is a sweet, salty, and nutty cheese and I love it in these light-as-air popovers with a little pepper, for kick. But if Gruyere is not your cup of tea, by all means substitute any kind of grated cheese that floats your boat. Moreover, I would be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you that a plain popover – with no add-ins whatsoever – simply cannot be beat. And, in fact, while in college, I frequented a restaurant not far from my dorm that specialized in popovers and I ate more than my fair share of (delicious) plain popovers over the four years that I lived there, but I digress.
A few thoughts about popover making, which could not be easier, FYI: first, if you think you might make popovers more than once – even twice! – and you have a kitchen that can accommodate a new baking pan, might I suggest you invest in a popover pan? You can get one for less than $20, and although you can 100% make popovers in a muffin tin, you will never get the gorgeous, dramatic rise of one made in the proper pan. Moreover, if you own the pan, I am thinking you might make them more regularly, and invite me over for popover-night, so there is that, too.
Second, do not skip the step of pre-heating the empty pan before filling it with your batter. The hot pan contributes to the making of the tallest of popovers. Please be careful, though, when removing it from the oven, greasing it and filling it with batter, as the pan is, well, hot.
Third, a blender is an excellent tool for mixing up your batter, but a food processer will work as well, as will a bowl and a whisk. I just love using the blender as I believe the batter made in the blender rises the tallest, and if it has not yet become obvious, I am very fond of tall popovers.
Fourth, do not be tempted to open the oven while the popovers bake/rise. Again, they will rise the tallest if they are uninterrupted by a whoosh of room temp air entering the oven when the door is opened for a little peek.
Fifth, remove them from the pan as soon as you remove them from the oven. Popovers are filled with steam and can get soggy the longer they sit in the metal pan. To remove said steam – and reduce further chances of sogginess – gently poke a paring knife in the side of each popover once it is removed.
And, finally, eat them immediately! Popovers are best within seconds (okay, minutes) of their departure from the oven, when they are at their fluffiest and crispiest. You do not want to miss your ideal popover moment, I’m sure.
Yield: 6 large popovers
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups whole milk, at room temperature
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 450°F and place a 6-cup popover pan inside.
Combine the eggs, milk, and butter in a blender and blend for 15 seconds to combine. Add the flour and salt and blend for another 15 seconds, scraping down the sides of the blender, if necessary. Add the cheese and fold in with a flexible spatula.
Remove the hot pan from the oven. Grease it with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter.
Evenly pour the batter into the cups; each one will be about 2/3 full. Do not overfill.
Bake for 15 minutes and reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 15 minutes. Do not open the oven for the entire baking period.
Remove the popovers from the pan and transfer to a wire rack as soon as you take them from the oven. They should slip out easily, but if they do not, run a small paring knife around the edges of each popover. Jab each one with said knife, to release steam.
Popovers are best eaten the day they are made and ideally within minutes of being pulled from the oven. •
Jessie is a baker and cookbook author; you can learn more about her through her website jessiesheehanbakes.com.