alton brown's painless popovers

Back in the good old days of DINKdom (double income, no kids), we would occasionally think nothing of having lunch at Neiman Marcus, the shopping playground for the Main Line philly wealthy consumer class out at the famous King of Prussia Mall. Actually the lunches were reasonable even for low feeding DINKS on the food chain like us, and so we were hooked by the Neiman custom of offering a free giant popover with strawberry butter and a little sip of chicken consommé as appetizers. We were so enamored of the popovers that we were moved to actually buy the Neiman Marcus Cookbook. We were probably not the only ones motivated by this dish, since the book jacket has a full color enticing photo of one of their trademark popovers with a big hunk of strawberry butter sitting on top, pitching itself on the basis of this addictive pastry. Buying this not inexpensive book was an extravagance considering we only made the popover recipe, which was a long involved process requiring the batter to rest for an hour before baking. Also unnecessary years later now that a web search will turn up the recipe anyway. But the early adoption allowed by the book purchase prior to web access was worth it.

After years of loyalty to the Neiman Marcus recipe, Ani reached out to the internet to find Alton Brown's "basic popover" recipe. Very simple, no waiting, a long list of rave reviews in user feedback. Although the Food Network has churned out a lot of high profile food personalities, Alton was one of the originals and still unique with his infectious blend of nerdy food science, humor and useful straight talk about "Good Eats." We remain dedicated fans, and this recipe confirms our faith in Alton. A quick and painless preparation and the results seem indistinguishable from the Neiman Marcus version. One on-line recipe reviewer suggested using a Vitamix for increasing the air intake of the batter, so we used our very old Vitamix to whip up the batter.

Standard popover pans come with 4 large or 6 medium cups to bake the batter. We have two of the 4 large cup pans. For some reason Ani had both out and put batter in two of each. No matter, just a bit more stuff to wash afterwards. This basic recipe will make 4 large or 6 medium popovers. We were usually doing the 2/3 Neiman Marcus batch (8 large popovers) to fit our pans, but for fewer people without leftovers, compare the minimal 1/3 Neiman recipe with Alton Brown's. Since eggs are not easily divided (as opposed to separating the yolk and white), the recipes do not allow a one-to-one comparison. Fractional amounts are provided since as is well know, Americans are a bit weak on fractions...okay, it's also convenient for those who want to actually try the Neiman Marcus recipe in our preferred batch size. From now on we'll be doing Alton's recipe though.

ingredients

alton brown: 1/3 1/2 2/3 Neiman Marcus:
1 c all purpose flour 1 1/3 c 2 c 2 2/3 c 4 c all purpose flour
1 c whole milk, room temp (we used fat free) 1 1/6 c 1 3/4 c 2 2/3 c 3 1/2 c warm milk
2 large eggs, room temp 2 3 4 6 large eggs, room temp
1 1/2 t kosher salt (1 t is enough!) 1/2 t 3/4 t 1 t 1 1/2 t salt
  1/3 t 1/2 t 2/3 t 1 t baking powder
1 T unsalted butter, melted, cooled        
1 t unsalted butter, room temp (we used cooking spray)       cooking spray
         
makes 4 large (6 medium) popovers 4 large 6 large 8 large 12 large popovers

instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Grease the popover pan with 1 t butter or just use cooking spray like we did.
  3. Blend the other ingredients together for about 30 seconds in a food processor or blender or a Vitamix (for an extra boost).
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the cups in the pan, each from 1/3 to 1/2 full.
  5. Bake in the middle rack of the oven 40 minutes.
  6. Remove to cooling rack and pierce each in the top with a knife to allow steam to escape.
  7. Serve warm.

notes

  1. Neiman Marcus Cookbook by Kevin Garvin with John Harrison, 2003. Oops, Amazon remembered our discounted purchase in February, 2005: 30 bucks including shipping instead of the full price of 45 dollars. DINK or not, bob tries to be a smart shopper.
    For the recipe: search the internet. Basically you whip up the eggs with (medium) electric beaters for a few minutes, then (low) beat in the microwave warmed milk (2 minutes on high) and (medium) beat together the added sifted flour, salt and baking powder mixture, let sit an hour at room temp, then fill cooking sprayed cups almost to the top and bake 15 minutes at 450°, then 30 to 35 minutes at 375° until they look right, deep golden brown. Serve hot.
  2. Alton Brown, basic popover, 2008.
  3. Illustrations available.
abezpopovers.htm: 22-jan-2012 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]