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what's wrong with my popovers?

  • f

i've been making popovers, using the bittman how to cook everything recipe. the first time, they were awesome, puffy, soft inside, delicious. and simple to make. i was delighted.

in my subsequent three failures, i haven't really done anything differently. they've been dense, flat, unpuffy.

what am i doing wrong?

(the recipe is essentially 2 eggs, 1 tbsp melted butter, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, some salt, some sugar, with no baking powder or baking soda. mix the flour in slowly, keep the batter smooth. preheat buttered pan while mixing everything, bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then 350 for 15 minutes)

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  1. j
    JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

    My first guess is that the batter was overmixed. Mixing too much will develop the gluten in the batter, and the recipe just won't work right. It's the same reason muffins and pancakes come out tough and chewy instead of light and fluffy. Cook's Illustrated mixes all the wet ingredients except the melted butter together, mixes the dry ingredients together, then whisks the two together until lumpy. Then they add the melted butter and mix it until it's smooth. The other thing to do is make sure you don't dally around once you take the preheated pan out of the oven, as it can quickly lose the heat it has retained. Pour the batter into a large liquid measuring cup, take the preheated pan out of the oven, then quickly pur the batter into the popover cups and get that pan back into the oven.

    1. I make my popovers in the blender, everything in, zap, done. Preheating the popover pan is essential.

      1. Are you peaking at any time during the baking? Opening the oven door could cause that dense, flat result.

        Also, I brush the insides of the popover pan with a bit of butter before it goes in for preheating (which is brown and wonderfully nutty when it's time to put the batter in. This is a wild guess, but could it be that your popover batter isn't releasing well from the sides while baking and can't rise enough?

        5 Replies
        1. re: Dev

          nope, bittman writes specifically not to peek until 30 minutes in, and i listened.

          and i buttered the popover pan too. it stressed me out the first time because it browns and almost burns but the results on the popover were delightful

          not releasing from the sides is an interesting thought, but for my first successful batch, it seemed more that the popping came from the bottom or the insides more. so i'm not convinced i buy your theory...

          but maybe it's how buttered the pan is?

          1. re: freddie

            Sorry, I tried.

            So maybe it is overmixing? I read an article that said Wondra is the best flour to use b/c it dissolves into the mix more easily, so that's what I use. If you were using an AP flour, maybe it had to be mixed more (too much) to make it smooth?

            1. re: Dev

              There's no better comfort food than warm popovers just from the oven. I hope your next batch turns out well!

              1. re: Dev

                i agree entirely. hence my persistence. i hope they'll be better next time too, in deference to the accumulated wisdom of a bunch of great cooking hounds.

            2. re: freddie

              If your baking containers are really glossy, the batter may not be able to "climb" the sides. Try dusting the inside of the buttered container with flour or grated parmesan. The cheese is a nice addition to a savory popover. I've never added sugar to my batter.

          2. I agree with the poster who said you might be overmixing. I make popovers often and have found that it's perfectly fine to leave small lumps in the batter. What works for me is mixing the wet ingredients, including the melted butter (even though it will form clumps when it hits the cool milk), adding the flour and salt (I don't add sugar), and pouring the batter into a non-preheated popover pan. Bake at the higher temp for 15-20 minutes, then lower the temp for another 15 minutes or so. And don't open the oven until they're done!

            1. Could this be a weather=related problem (humidity, air pressure)? Sounds strange, but it can happen with delicate recipes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MommaJ

                Is the butter here only for greasing the tin or also for mixing in the recipe?