I was always hard on myself about popovers because I wanted them to be perfect, with sides straight up to the mushroom-shaped tops towering over the cups, deep brown but not burned, and crisp. Then I went to a wedding in a very posh hotel, where there were various stations offering cuisines from several countries. In the room where roast beef was being served, it was accompanied by popovers. To my delight, they were kattywhompus things, the tops at an angle, and the sides were of different heights. So I can say with surety: Enjoy popovers, crisp outsides and airy insides, no matter how they look.
Although muffin tins may be used, proper popover tins are heavier and designed to give a nicer rise and shape.
Popovers are made from Yorkshire pudding batter. I imagine it was probably once a leftover batter a cook frantically added to a pan that had been put under the beef to catch the fat and juices from the roast beef as it cooked, rather than letting the fat burn. Be sure to use a fat that will take a high heat; either beef drippings or an oil such as peanut or canola oil. Olive oil does not get to sufficiently high temperature.
The batter should be thick as cream, not runny.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 14 cookbooks, including the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.
Makes 8 popovers
11/3 cups bread flour
Scant teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk, divided
11/3 cups water, divided
8 teaspoons beef drippings or oil (not olive oil)
Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl. Whisk together the eggs, 1⁄3 cup milk, and 2/3 cup of the water. Stir the egg mixture into the flour and whisk until the batter is smooth. Combine the remaining 1⁄3 cup milk and remaining 2/3 cup water together. Add half to the batter, and whisk several minutes with a wire whisk or electric hand mixer. (If you feel the flour was damp, remove 2 tablespoons of the remaining liquid and set aside.) Whisk the rest of the liquid into the batter, cover, and let rest at least 1 hour or as long as overnight. Refrigerate if needed. Bring the batter to room temperature before using. (If thicker than cream, whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of the liquid.)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide drippings or oil among the cups of an 8-cup popover pan. Carefully move the pan to the oven to heat.
When the pan is very hot, remove from the oven and carefully fill each cup halfway full with batter. Return the pan to the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake until puffed, very firm to the touch, and brown on both the top and bottom, about 20 to 25 minutes. To test for doneness, check the area above the lip of the pan and below the risen top. A white area indicates that the popover is not fully dry and may collapse. Return to the oven and cook until brown and sturdy. Turn out on a serving platter and serve hot. (They may be made in advance and reheated.)
Note: If using a smaller popover tin than standard, or muffin tins, reduce the temperature to 400 degrees to heat oil, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees after the half-filled pans are put in the oven.
Variations: Add cheese, herbs, or finely chopped nuts to the batter.