Until I made these fragrant parmesan, herb, and garlic popovers a few days ago, I'd only experienced one other kind before. Those were the popovers of my childhood. They were richly brown and very crisp, with a bright yellow interior. Egginess abounded, one might say. We poked holes in the tops as soon as they were done, and ate them just after they stopped steaming. With soft salted butter and strawberry jam, those were classic storybook popovers.
I don't remember anyone except my mother and I liking them, so we were typically the only ones around when we baked them. Because I hated eggs as a kid, and anything that obviously contained them, I wasn't crazy about the moist innards. I'd sort of peel away that doughy membrane and concentrate on crunching the shiny shell.
My fascination with popovers likely had more to do with their form than anything else. The way they'd inflate in the oven, like hot air balloons preparing for take off, astounded me. Our huge white stove--the kind with an oven that required holding a lit match above the flow of gas--didn't have a window, and I recall my mom explaining the necessity to refrain from peeking while the popovers baked. Emerging from the heat, they were wondrous oddities, quite unlike any food I'd ever seen.
Now that decades have passed and time has modified my negative opinion of eggs, I figured it was time to take on a new and different popover recipe. This one, which I adapted from chef Kevin Garvin's beautiful book Neiman Marcus Taste: Timeless American Recipes, produces a startling contrast to the popover I'd known before.
Besides the inclusion of grated parmesan cheese, dried herbs, and garlic, this popover is by comparison positively "bready" inside. The hint of egginess is still there, but it's only a hint. There is none of that overly moist, stretchy stuff to contend with once you break one of these open. The outside of the popover is just as crisp and burnished as one could want. Oh, and these smell magnificent while they're baking.
Probably not something you'd necessarily want to serve with breakfast, these are a perfect partner to a hearty salad or a bowl of soup at lunch. Or, they can accompany dinner if you like. I served them for supper, warm in a basket, alongside tri-color tortelloni in marinara sauce, with a tossed salad.
I have only one bona fide popover pan (got it from Williams Sonoma--these babies aren't very easy to find, nor are they cheap!), with six cups, but the recipe makes twelve good-sized popovers, so I decided to bake half of the batter in jumbo size muffin cups. Those didn't rise as high as their brothers in the official pans, but they were equally delicious. (Though traditional popovers don't freeze well, I froze the leftovers, and I've reheated these in the oven with great success. They crisp up again very nicely.)
These are really, really good. Give 'em a whirl, if you're so inclined.
3 and 1/2 cups milk (I used 3 and 1/4 cups of 2% milk, and 1/4 cup of half and half, since I didn't have any whole milk)
4 cups All-Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. dried mixed herbs (I used 1 Tbsp. parsley and 1 Tbsp. thyme, along with one quick grinding of black pepper. Fyi, the original recipe called for dried rosemary as well, which I chose to omit. The original also called for a total of 1/4 cup dried herbs--I thought that sounded like far too much so I cut the amount in half, and I'm glad I did!)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed garlic (depending on how much you love the stuff!)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 12 equal chunks
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Generously grease 12 popover cups or jumbo muffin cups; grease the top of the pan(s) as well. Place each pan on a baking sheet.
In a saucepan, heat the milk until it's just lukewarm, about 110 degrees, then take it off the heat.
Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
In the large bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the wire whisk, beat the eggs on low speed for about 3 minutes, until they look pale and foamy, then add in the warm milk. Add the flour in gradually, still mixing at low speed, then raise the speed to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.
Let the batter rest in its bowl, unrefrigerated, for one hour. While the batter is resting, mix together the parsley, thyme, and pepper in a small bowl, then mix the garlic into the herbs. Grate the cheese and mix that into the bowl as well.
After the batter is done resting, fill each well-greased cup with batter, almost to the top.
Sprinkle at least one tablespoon of the cheese-herb mixture on top of each one. Plop a chunk of butter on top of that.
With the pans on baking sheets, place the popovers into the oven and bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees. Then, turn the oven down to 375 degrees. Bake 30 to 35 minutes longer, or until the popovers look very crispy and are a deep golden brown on the outside. Don't peek at them while they're first baking if you can help it; wait until they've been in there a while. As soon as you take them out, puncture the tops carefully with the tip of a knife; this will allow excess steam to escape and help prevent the insides from becoming soggy.
Best served warm, right after they're made. You can freeze any extras after they're cooled. Reheat them easily, even if frozen, in a warm oven. They'll be almost as good as new.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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