At the risk of waxing overly rhapsodic, popovers might just be the ideal winter food. In spite of their reputation as fickle and disaster-prone, these quick breads couldn't be simpler to make - and the reward of a piping hot, crusty bun will be worth 10 times the effort.
A variation of Yorkshire pudding, popovers are hollow, eggy, muffin-size breads. They "pop over" the sides of the pan as they bake, forming tall crowns with airy yet slightly custardy insides.
In the morning, whisk together a short list of ingredients, pop the pan in to bake, and finish getting dressed. Before you step out into the cold winter air, pull the steamy buns from the oven and spoon a dollop of good jam on top, or just eat them as is. They're also great dipped in a bowl of comforting winter soup. We pull the layers apart slowly, starting with the flaky and crispy outside, and finishing with the moist middle.
Still worried about popovers' bad reputation? Here's some advice to ease your mind:
You don't need a special pan - While a popover pan does make an extra tall base, you can also use a regular muffin pan easily.
To avoid fallen popovers, pierce their sides with a knife as soon as you take them out of the oven. The steam will escape and the airy crowns will stay proud and puffy.
Don't worry too much about rushing them to the table. After you've pierced their sides, return the popovers to the turned-off oven. They'll be reasonably hot for another 20-30 minutes, and even better, the outsides will get crispier.
Check out how easy the recipe is:
Easy Ethereal Popovers
Makes 6 large or 12 small popovers
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan 2 large eggs 1 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 450°F, and thoroughly grease the pan.
Melt the tablespoon of butter and set it aside to cool slightly.
Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk gently. Then stir in the flour, salt, milk and melted butter until just barely blended; a few lumps are fine.
Fill the cups 2/3 to 3/4 full, and bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350 and bake an additional 20 minutes. (No peeking! Opening the oven door in the first 20 minutes can cause them to collapse.)
When they are brown and crusty, remove them from the oven, and make a small slit in their sides with a sharp knife. Serve immediately, or return to turned-off oven. Makes 6 to 10 popovers.
Extra points: Inspired by this post on Bakingsheet, we've started experimenting with flavoring our popovers. Try adding fresh citrus zest, minced herbs, or even a bit of grated cheese.