Popovers

Yorkshire Pudding RecipeA Popover is a puffy bread product that looks like an over-sized muffin, with very thin, moist walls, somewhat hollow interior and a crispy brown crust. Popovers are made from the thinnest of all quick-bread batters with a liquid to flour ratio of 1:1. They are leavened by eggs and steam in a batter of flour, milk and salt, mixed by the Muffin Method, followed by beating to make it smooth and free of lumps, giving popovers their characteristic chewy texture. Sometimes a very small amount of melted butter is added. Popovers can be plain or flavored with herbs, spices, or cheese.

The Popover batter is poured into the cavities of a preheated special popover pan, meant to be twice the depth as those used to make muffins, and placed in a very hot oven(about 450 degrees F), where it quickly puffs up. The oven temperature in quickly lowered to around 375 to 350 degrees F, where its proteins coagulate, its structure sets and the final browning takes place. The name of this quick-bread is derived from its behavior as it expands to such a degree that it "pops over" the sides of its container. Egg proteins and starch from the flour provide structural strength. while fat from the eggs yolks(and, sometimes added butter), helps to make the popovers tender. When done baking, sogginess is prevented by making a small slit in the top so steam can escape, and they are served immediately; they are meant to be eaten hot and steaming when they are at their best.   

The high liquid concentration of the popover's batter allows them to be leavened by steam generated from the liquid ingredients in the recipe and the heat from the preheated pan and hot oven. When the batter is placed in the hot oven, steam from the liquid ingredients pushes and balloons the popovers into nearly hollow shells. The large amount of liquid in the popover flour also allows gelatinization of the starch during baking, evidenced in part by the soft, gel-like texture in their inside walls. Eggs and their proteins are critical in popover recipes which make the shell puff and set, but makes them trickier to make. The fat from plenty of egg yolks helps it cook through on the inside while they puff and brown.

Some additonal popover making tips:

  • The batter should be at room temperature and the popovers will rise higher than if cold or cool.
  • Measure with care. Too much fat or water added will weaken the popover structure, allowing steam to escape and hindering the formation of the cavity. 
  • Mix the ingredients only until smooth otherwise popovers can fail to rise. 
  • Thoroughly preheat the oven. Place pans in oven beforehand to heat. Be sure popover pan and oven are piping hot when you start to bake popovers - this produces a sudden burst of steam and air, causing the popovers to "puff up" quickly. Not letting the oven get hot before baking is the chief reason popovers fail to rise. 
  • Muffin tins or custard cups can be used, but special popover pans work best. The individual cups should be heavily greased and preheated.
  • Popovers need 2 temperatures for baking -- a hot oven (sometimes 450 degrees F) for the first 15 - 20 minutes to make them "pop" and then a lower setting, usually 350 degrees F to set the batter and allow them to bake golden brown. 
  • NEVER open the oven door during baking. The rush of cool air will cause them to collapse. 

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