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Unpopped Popovers . . . HELP!

CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 09:02 AM

I've been making popovers for a good long time, always with varied results. Most often, they pop but they end up looking like misshapen accidents instead of the nicely-rounded, firm-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside specimens I always see in the recipe photos. Still, they're usually delicious and get gobbled up quickly.

But yesterday I had another kind of popover disaster -- they never popped! They ended up looking like dense little hand grenades. I have a new popover pan -- one of those giant-cup, never-stick pans that makes six huge popovers. My recipe called for 1 cup of all-purpose flour sifted, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1/2 tsp. salt. The ONLY thing I did yesterday that I've never done before is to mix the ingredients with a wire whisk rather than a hand mixer. Could it be that I hadn't incorporated enough air into the mixture? The recipe said to "mix until just blended" so I didn't think I'd have a problem using the whisk. I preheated the pan in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes, brushed the inside of the sections with melted butter and poured in the batter. I baked them at 450 for 25 minutes then lowered the heat to 375 and baked for about 20 minutes more. If there's a silver lining here, it's that the little buggers did slide out of the pan quite nicely.

So, what did I do wrong? More importantly, does anyone have a no-fail recipe for plain popovers (no cheese or other added ingredients, please)?

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  1. m
    moh RE: CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 09:27 AM

    Did you mix everything at once? I think the air is probably the issue. I have a recipe that seems to work well and I only use a hand whisk. Same ingredients. Gently warm 1 cup of milk over low heat, then leave off heat while you prepare everything else (don't boil). Whisk 2 eggs until really frothy, then slowly whisk in warm milk (to avoid cooking eggs). Sift in the salt and flour. Gently combine until mostly smooth (don't over combine or you lose the air). Prepare pan as you already did, fill 3/4 full, my recipe calls for 350 degrees for 50 minute, turning the pan half a turn after 15 minutes of baking. I think the key is frothing the eggs and milk well before combining the dry ingredients. Hope that helps!

    1 Reply
    1. re: moh
      CindyJ RE: moh Apr 9, 2007 09:43 AM

      The milk and eggs were at room temperature. I sifted the salt with the flour. I whisked the eggs then added the milk and whisked some more. Then I added the flour mixture to the egg mixture, whisking in a little at a time. My recipe made a point of saying to NOT open the oven until the baking time was finished. My oven door has a window, so I was able to watch the (non) progress. I'm beginning to believe there just wasn't enough air incorporated into the batter.

    2. rose water RE: CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 09:42 AM

      I feel your pain! Here are threads in which I explored the possible causes of non-poppy popovers: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/28232... and http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33801...

      I use the Bittman recipe, but leave them at high heat for 20-25 minutes instead of 15 for crisper outsides. There have been a couple popover threads on the home cooking board in the past couple months where you might find other recipes.

      After *lots* of popover making, my conclusion was the same as yours--that you need to get a lot of air in the batter for proper popover popping. I find that using a food processor results in hockey pucks, and that using a whisk and hand mixing consistently does the trick.

      Dusting the pan with grated parmesan is tasty and helps, but I know that you don't want cheese in yours. Using toxic baking spray with flour mixed in also helps, despite my qualms about whether that stuff is meant for human consumption.

      1. r
        renov8r RE: CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 09:56 AM

        I don't think air in the batter is vital to the "popover" effect -- it is a result of the steam.

        Your recipe looks fine, the preheat is good. I would guess the biggest recipe variables are the fat content of the milk, the size and freshness of the eggs, frankly none of which is all that critical.

        Assuming you got the correct amount of batter into each cup of the pan I think the biggest "whoops" is the temperature of the mixture. If you start with warmer than room temp eggs, butter and milk the batter should be fine -- if any of those is cold you are going to need to let the mixture sit out until it is truly room temp.

        I have found that "rest time" is good for pancakes & waffles too -- I am not sure it just a temperature thing either, the batter probably develops some better glutten that helps to trap steam in and give a nicer rise. There is probably something going on with the "hydration" of the flour particles too -- rest times allows them to swell on a microscope level instead of being in suspension....

        More tips: http://home.insightbb.com/~bonnett/po...

        2 Replies
        1. re: renov8r
          CindyJ RE: renov8r Apr 9, 2007 10:33 AM

          Thanks! That's a helpful web page. I DID go to the fridge to check on the eggs I used (which were just purchased on Saturday) and noticed that they're extra-large. The recipe called for large eggs. According to the "helpful hints," Too much egg yolk can keep the popovers from rising." I wonder if that might have been the problem. The hints also say not to overmix the batter. I'd been thinking that perhaps mine were undermixed.

          BTW, how long is "rest time"?

          1. re: CindyJ
            l
            lazer RE: CindyJ Sep 21, 2009 10:55 AM

            Actually too much egg yoke only changes the taste to a more eggy flavor.

        2. s
          Seldomsated RE: CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 10:13 AM

          I'm thinking your new pan with the larger cup has something to do with the lack of rise. That's not a lot of batter, if it only takes a cup of flour with an equivalent amount of milk. There probably is some physics major out there who could work out the formula for rise ratio - adhesion to sides of cup varies with amount of material and leavening effect of eggs? I'd go back to using the smaller cup size, and use the larger cups for megamuffins.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Seldomsated
            CindyJ RE: Seldomsated Apr 9, 2007 10:26 AM

            The recipe is supposed to make 12 regular-sized popovers, so I thought that filling the cups half-full with the larger size would be fine. And, it's actually a "popover pan" that's designed to allow air to circulate around the cups while baking, as opposed to a super-size muffin tin. While I can't say for sure, I'm inclined to not blame the pan.

            1. re: CindyJ
              m
              moh RE: CindyJ Apr 9, 2007 10:40 AM

              I did make a bunch of popovers this weekend, and on one batch I ran out of batter. so instead of filling all of them 3/4 full, I filled 2 of them only half full. The half full ones still popped up, but they were not as crazy as the 3/4 full ones. So I think it helps to fill them 3/4 full, but that should not prevent them from popping up at all. I also used a "popover pan", but also made one batch in a regular muffin tin. The muffin pan popovers still popped up, but they definitely pop up less than the ones in the popover pan.
              Needless to say, I'm still groaning from overeating popovers. They seem so light, and yet are so deceivingly filling...

              1. re: moh
                Ora RE: moh Apr 9, 2007 10:47 AM

                BLT Steak restaurant in NYC serves the most amazing popovers I've ever eaten. These popovers are truly special, I tell you. They actually give out the recipe with the popvers too! I've been meaning to try it--but here it is. Maybe its fail safe???
                This blog has the recipe as given out at BLT Steak: http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-3QNB2p...
                This seems to be a "halved" recipe for home cooks:
                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...

                1. re: moh
                  CindyJ RE: moh Apr 9, 2007 10:54 AM

                  I know what you mean about them being "deceivingly filling." And you ought to see my family attack a basket full -- you'd think they hadn't eaten for a month! But yesterday, given the comments and jokes about these little food bombs, I feared they'd end up as ammunition for a "food fight". However, they were all eaten, because despite their bizarre appearance, they still tasted like popovers.

            2. paulj RE: CindyJ Apr 16, 2007 06:14 PM

              I made a quick batch of popovers this evening, my first in some time. In a sense I did everything wrong, but they popped just fine.

              The batter was just like yours, with just a bit of sugar as well. The eggs were straight out of the fridge. I just dumped everything in the bowl and mixed till smooth, which didn't take very long with a wire wisk. Oh, my recipe also includes 1T of oil.

              I greased a 12 hole muffin tin, and preheated it. The pan was smoking a bit when I filled it. After filling all the holes half full, I still had batter left over (small muffin size). So I put that pan in the oven and greased another 6 hole tin, and filled 4 of those - without preheating the tin. After about 10 minutes they were well risen, so I lowered the temperature to 350. My oven runs a bit hot. At 15 they were looking pretty brown, so I took them out.

              Using small muffin tins, these were not the glorious high hats, but they were every bit as hollow. Mixing certainly didn't incorporate any air into the batter. Preheating the tins didn't make much of a difference. And I peeked.

              While there were my first popovers in some time, I have made Dutch Baby pancakes in a 10 inch skillet, and toad-in-the-hole (Yorkshire pudding with sausages), both of use a similar batter. The Dutch Baby tends to rise most around the rim of the pan, and unevenly in the middle. It collapses immediately out of the oven, since I don't want it to be too hard and crusty. The sausages keep the toad-in-the-hole from rising very much, though this could be improved with a careful balance of sausage and batter.

              paulj

              1 Reply
              1. re: paulj
                k
                Kagey RE: paulj Apr 17, 2007 03:24 AM

                Popovers (or Yorkshire puddings--they're basically the same) are so forgiving. I've never seen the same recipe twice, and everyone disagrees about what makes them pop. Some say lots of egg, some say not so much. Some say mix a lot, some say mix as little as possible. Most say rest the batter at least 15 minutes before baking. You make the very important point that the pan should be extremely hot when the batter goes in.

                I think the key is to find one recipe that works for you, and stick to it. I recommend the Moosewood cookbook's popover recipe, if that's any help.

              2. Olivia RE: CindyJ Apr 17, 2007 02:17 PM

                What comes to my mind is that maybe the pan was too non-stick, and the batter couldn't "climb" up the sides of the tin.

                Given what you ended up with, do you think that could be it?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Olivia
                  CindyJ RE: Olivia Apr 17, 2007 07:05 PM

                  No, I don't think so. I've used the pan before, with success. The thing I should have done was to make a note of the recipe I used that time. No, the pan works fine -- really well, and there's no problem with the non-stick surface.

                2. l
                  LoN RE: CindyJ Apr 17, 2007 05:07 PM

                  Here are my 2 cents! We actually had a Yorkie pudding cooking contest here between friends. I came in dead last, BUT I also had to "transport" my puddings so had a very good excuse! Normally I make good puddings. So...the theory....the batter makes no never mind...the winner used a package mix off the shelf! I do believe that letting the batter rest makes a difference - according to Jamie Oliver it's critical. I have used both mixer and whisk - doesn't make a difference. Making sure your pan is smokin' hot is key. I have just purchased the popover pans but have had good success with muffin pans. My usual recipe is 3-1-1.....which is 3 eggs, 1 cup flour and 1 cup milk. Hope you have better luck next time!!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: LoN
                    paulj RE: LoN Apr 17, 2007 06:07 PM

                    Crepe recipes, which use a similar mix of eggs, milk, and flour (though a bit thinner), stress letting the batter rest. Thorough hydration of the flour is given as the reason.

                    paulj

                  2. d
                    dkret RE: CindyJ Aug 18, 2007 11:02 PM

                    I spend my summers on Mount Desert Island in Maine, where the Jordan Pond House is famous for its popovers. I bought one of their pans (the same type you have), followed the recipe in the package, and the results were terrible. Here's what I ended up doing, and it's worked every time:

                    Combine 3 large eggs beaten with a whisk until blended and light with 10 oz. of milk. If the milk and eggs are not at room temperature, give the mixture a quick trip to the microwave (30 - 45 seconds) to take the chill off.

                    Sift flour AND THEN measure out 10 oz. by volume (1.25 cups). Add this to the liquid along with a half tsp. of salt. Whisk until blended.

                    Let the batter stand while you bring the oven to 425 degrees. Do NOT preheat the pan or put it on a baking sheet.

                    When the oven is hot, pour the batter into well-greased tins. Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for 30 minutes more. Do not open the door at any time during baking.

                    I suspect that you had too much flour in your batter: mine didn't work until I caught on to the trick of sifting the flour before I measured it. A really precise recipe would have you weigh the flour, because this would account for the moisture in it, which varies. But too much flour will definitely prevent the popovers from popping.

                    This has proven to be a never-fail method, and my family insists that my popovers are now better--larger and lighter--than those at the Jordan Pond House. See if this works for you.

                    My only problem is that after the pan was washed in the dishwasher, the popovers have tended to stick--no matter what I use to grease it. I suspect the dishwasher soap damaged the non-stick surface.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: dkret
                      b
                      briedemeaux RE: dkret Aug 19, 2007 12:28 PM

                      Jordan Pond House...do you know the lobster stew recipe, too?!!

                    2. l
                      lazer RE: CindyJ Sep 21, 2009 10:53 AM

                      Hi, here is a link you may want to read:

                      http://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/sylt...

                      Also extra large eggs help, spray or a butter greased pan may not work a little oil in the bottom of the pan causes more heat to rise the batter. You may have to make some popovers like two in the pan mixed one way then mix another way in the other pan remaining spots not used, and try some other ways the remaining other open pan spots. I know the flower type is important, make sure you oven does reach the temp needed possible and maybe something is wrong and it does not reach that real temp. The link I gave you should help. Do some google searches and read up. Good luck.

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