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Unpopped Popovers . . . HELP!

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. 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

      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. 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. 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

          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

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

        2. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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. 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

                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.